Last Month was Bourbon Heritage Month, but unbeknownst to many it was also Virginia Spirits Month. So to celebrate this (albeit a week after it ended) I thought I’d review a bottle of Virginian whiskey called Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky by the Virginia Distilling Co. “What in the name of Odin’s beard is a Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky?!” I hear you whisper, as you probably squint at your screen to ensure you’ve read that right and quickly google the term (Here I saved you the time http://www.vadistillery.com/our-whisky/the-whisky/ ). Truth be told I wasn’t even sure myself when I first heard of it a few weeks ago! Thus with some further digging, it turns out it’s the product of a craft distillery called the Virginia Distillery Company located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County, Virginia. Whilst waiting for their own American single malt whiskey to age, these guys are making a name for themselves by sourcing mature malt whisky from distilleries in the Highlands of Scotland and finishing this whiskey in wine barrels sourced from local Virginian wineries such as King Family Vineyards, Horton Vineyards and Virginia Wineworks. Also, to ensure their final product is of top quality they’ve recruited renowned spirits nosing expert Nancy Fraley to help put their whiskey together once the finishing is complete which greatly excites me to see how this product will turn out. The bottle being reviewed is from Batch #3.
Name: Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
Proof: 92 Proof (46% ABV)
Type: Malt Whisky
Mashbill: 100% malted Barley
Producer: Virginia Distillery Company
Source: Unknown (Scottish Highlands Distillery)
Appearance: Red Copper
Nose: On the nose the wine cask finishing is very present but not overpowering and the whisky is instantly recognizable as a malt. Primarily there are notes of dark raisins, dried fruit medley, maltiness and a faint hint of oak spice in the back.
Palate: On the palate there’s a thin mouthfeel with notes of sweet sticky toffee with dark fruit, faint oak spice and a hint of cocoa that dances across the tongue.
Finish: The finish opens with a slight kick of spice riding on a wave of deep dark and oak which fades to a mellow sweetness without losing the influence of port and wine finishing leaving a lovely, faintly tannic red-wine taste in mouth.
Like many before me, my whiskey journey started with Scottish malt whiskey. I started ambitiously with a mix of blends and single malts, and in its prime my collection had about 6 or 7 bottles. This all changed one day when I tried my first bourbon, and to be honest, I haven’t looked back since. Therefore, this bottle is the first bottle of Scottish whiskey to enter my collection in almost 3 years, and I have to say I’m glad it did! Making my way through the bourbon rabbit-hole I’ve come across several bourbons finished in either port or wine barrels (1792 Port Finish, Angel’s Envy, Jefferson’s Groth Cask Finish) and have always found them quite enjoyable and this whisky is no different. The wine barrel finishing really adds a lot to this whisky in my opinion. Those dark fruits and the added depth of flavours really balance what would otherwise be a light fruity Highland Malt and add a definite layer of flavour complexity. The combination of flavours in this whisky straight away makes me think of dessert and warm Christmas cake which would make it perfect for an after dinner tipple. It’s well balanced, and the combination of flavours really sing together in harmony – almost makes me miss my Scotch days!
Despite this essentially being a uniquely produced Indy bottling of Scottish whisky I really enjoyed it and I’m delighted it survived its perilous journey from VA to me and is definitely a whisky I’ll seek out as subsequent batches and different barrel finishes get released. Of course whisky like this does have an end date as in a few years (as clearly stated on their website in several places) these guys will be releasing their own-made Virginia Single Malt which is currently being made on site using malted barley from the UK, water from Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains and will be aged in a variety of casks including ex-bourbon, sherry and wine casks. Until then, I just hope I can stop myself from pouring dram after dram of this beauty!
Buy or try?
If exceptional Indie bottlings of Scotch are something you’re a fan of, or something you’re looking at trying, I would highly recommend this whisky! The VA Distillery Co. have truly outdone themselves with an outstanding product and have shown that they’re willing to bring anyone on board that they think can help them produce an exceptional product. I look forward to seeing what their own made whisky is like in the future but for now I’d be more than happy to buy a bottle of this when the opportunity presents itself again!