Madeira wine and Whisky
So you have finished your meal and after dessert what better than a whisky “nightcap”…..well a whisky that has been aged in Madeira casks is the most superlative whisky imaginable and the Scotch, Irish and Welsh whisky producers all agree as they all offer a wonderful whisky that has been aged in a cask that has been used for maturing Madeira wine.
The Madeira finish certainly does impart a new lexicon of flavours to one of the worlds most popular spirits. Madeira finishing takes the whisky beyond the regular Bourbon barrel vanilla flavours or the raisin and richness imparted by Sherry barrels, with Madeira adding subtle fruity notes, honey overtones and chocolate, caramel and cinnamon.
Madeira wine casks are highly sought after by whisky distillers in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Madeira cask finished Scotch Whisky.
Scotch Malt Whisky is aged in wooden barrels, the majority in barrels used for Bourbon in the USA and in Sherry barrels from Spain.
Differing distilleries have different wood policies for maturing their whisky, and in the 1990’s Glenmorangie released a range of wood finished whiskies, where Whisky was racked into barrels that had previously contained Sherry, Port or Madeira wines, and the new innovation of Wine finishes was launched.
Prior to this development Glenmorangie was aged principally in Bourbon wood.
These wood finishes proved hugely popular, and Madeira wine finished whiskies were born.
There are now numerous wine finishes on the market from a range of distilleries, though Glenmorangie no longer markets its Madeira wine finish which is a shame as it was excellent.
It is now left to BenRiach to market 2 styles of Madeira wood finished whiskies, a sublime 15 year old for about £40.00 and a more challenging Madeira aged whisky: Maderensis Fumosus’ (Latin for ‘smoky Madeira’) is a heavily peated BenRiach, aged 13 years old, originally matured in American oak, then finished in Madeira wine barrels.
This maturation is credited with giving the whisky some very interesting additional flavours including peaches, watermelon as well as vanilla spices and honey notes.
Other Malts from Scotland aged in Madeira are in quite short supply, A 1978 vintage whisky from Glenglassaugh. This whisky has been finished in a cask previously used for Madeira style wine. A beautifully sweet, fruity 33 year old now sells for over £300 a bottle.
Glenfiddich the worlds best selling single malt whisky no produces the Glenfiddich Discovery range of malts which includes a 19 year old finished in Madeira wine casks. This bottling achieved critical acclaim and was awarded an IWSC Gold medal in 2012.
Glenfiddich offer the following tasting notes for its Glenfiddich Discovery, on the nose: An earthy aroma, figs & orange marmalade, bright notes of fresh gooseberries & ripening grapes.Tasting of Cinnamon & crushed black pepper with caramelised fruits, crystallised ginger, raisins and hints of dry oak with a pleasingly dry with warmth that fades into a lingering sweet marmalade finish.
The Arran distillery, one of Scotland’s newer distilleries offers a Madeira finished whisky noting the flavours of Christmas confections being apparent in the flavour profile….it sounds wonderfully enticing….and probably reflects a Malmsey cask.
Edradour, one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries produces the heavily peated Madeira cask finished whisky Ballechin. The toffee of the Madeira clashes with the heavily peated whisky to produce an interesting and enjoyable whisky for the more educated whisky connoisseur looking for a challenge to the taste buds than for the wine lover.
Madeira cask finished Irish Whiskey
Bushmills – possibly the world’s oldest whisky distillery in Antrim Ireland offers 21 year old Madeira finished whisky which they describe as follows “This rare whiskey is in scarce supply with only a limited number of casks in our warehouses. It’s matured in bourbon and sherry barrels for 21 years‚ before being married together for two years in a madeira-infused cask. The result is dark chocolate and caramelised toffee aromas and a sip that clings to the palate before releasing a magical burst like mint.”
Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Finish is another Irish whisky which has seen the benefits that a Madeira wine cask finish can offer to the flavour profile.This whisky is smooth and flavoursome reflecting the depth of the Madeira wine previously in the barrel.
Madeira cask finished Welsh Whisky
The small Welsh whisky industry was quick to recognise the potential of Madeira wine cask finishes, and the wonderful Penderyn Whisky
finished in Madeira casks from the Welsh whisky company is described as follows:
“The Madeira finish single malt Penderyn Welsh whisky
defines our ‘house style of whiskies’. Distilled in our unique copper pot still, matured in bourbon barrels, finished in rich Madeira wine casks and bottled at premium strength, this single malt whisky is smooth, light in character and softly golden in colour” it is an award winning whisky.
Tasting notes : At a generous 46% ABV, it has a classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins. The palate is crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appertising dryness. Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist in the finish.
So whisky is another way to way to enjoy Madeira wines wonderful flavours!