Continuing a course set last year, The Epicurean releases two new finished expressions, a Ruby Port Finish and a Tawny Port Finish, the former of which we’ll review today. Brand owner Douglas Laing previously launched Côte-Rôtie, Rivesaltes and Cognac finished edition to varying degrees of succes.
Re-racking whisky and finishing it in an array of wine or brandy casks — or even just straight up full maturation — is a finicky business. It’s difficult and requires knowledge, patience and a lot of practice. Wine cask maturation has been done for a long time, but is still relatively new compared to bourbon and sherry cask maturation. Bruichladdich and Murray McDavid (who used to be owned by the same company) have plenty of experience, as does Billy Walker for instance, which he’s showing at GlenAllachie currently.
But Douglas Laing has never been known to experiment much. They’re masterful blenders and have had much success with the Remarkable Regional Malts range, but have only sparingly used exotic casks for maturation. There’s a Big Peat that comes to mind and the aforementioned The Epicurean from last year, but not much else. So, how did they fare with their latest experiment? Let’s find out.
The Epicurean Ruby Port Finish (48%, Douglas Laing, 2021)
Nose: Crème de cassis and some fresh blackberries and fig confit as well, followed by candied bananas and sweet oranges. Whiffs of milk chocolate. There’s the slightest veneer of sulphur and sourness. Taste: Some pickled oranges and cotton candy with a touch of kiwi, mint and breakfast tea. Finally a whiff of bitter walnut oil and burlap. Also some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, with some cracked black peppercorns. Finish: Lingering sweetness with a soft spiciness.
The ruby port isn’t entirely integrated with the whisky, which is always the biggest challenge with these types of finishes. It’s not a bad whisky by any means, though far from the better port finished or matured whiskies I’ve tried.