Whiskey has become America’s most popular spirit, and the entire alcohol industry has taken notice—from craft breweries to vineyards. Introducing bourbon barrel-aged wine…
From Australia to America, whiskey and wine are finding romance in surprising places, and the love affair suggests more than a trend. The two industries have long been friends, as many distilleries use wine barrels to age whiskey. This movement is quite the opposite, and it’s not without its share of skeptics and critics. Some consider it to be sacrilegious, others just experimental or downright strange, but the unique appeal of bourbon-barrel aged wine is gaining traction among craft consumers, who’ve developed increasingly refined palates. Plus, it’s a pretty cool conversation starter.
Notwithstanding, there are a limited number of wineries willing to give bourbon barrel aging a chance. The technique is still considered an outlier in what remains a traditionally minded business compared to the daring attitude of craft beer and spirits. For those avant-garde winemakers bold enough to pursue it, they’re being rewarded by curious connoisseurs interested in trying something new. Interestingly, the wineries refuse to disclose the origins of their bourbon barrels, and the distilleries are equally secretive, adding to the mystique of the process.
So instead of asking more questions that don’t have clear answers, let’s just open our minds, crack open a few bottles and give this stuff a try. What do you say?
Our 5 Favorites:
- Cooper & Thief Red Blend – Luxuriating for a full three months in bourbon barrels, this rich wine is reminiscent of a Port or even a cocktail with its velvety tannins, thick texture, smoky heat and deep flavors. The bourbon influence is immediately evident, offering richness and depth that lingers far into the finish. Pairs well with salmon, chicken and salad.
- Buck Shack Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon – Produced in high elevation vineyards from their finest vineyard sites and then aged for 5 months in freshly emptied bourbon barrels, this intense red wine is dangerously delicious. Enjoy the rich, velvety flavors featuring smooth tones of black currant and tobacco.
Pairs well with mushroom risotto and grilled lamb chops.
- Robert Mondavi Bourbon Barrel Chardonnay – The first ever bourbon barrel-aged Chardonnay, offering an unexpected twist on a California classic. Grapes from Monterey County are aged in used bourbon barrels from Kentucky for two months. Sweet smokiness is detectable but subtle on the nose, becoming more evident on the palate—a perfect complement to the buttery undertones.
- 1000 Stories Zinfandel –Easy to drink and fairly acidic, this fruity wine sits in new and used bourbon barrels for 1-2 months. Featuring an opulent purple color, the influence of bourbon is subdued by the full flavors of dark berries, ripe tannins and spices. The touches of bourbon and oak are more apparent on the back end of the palate with lingering warmth on the round finish.
- Buck Shack Bourbon Barrel Petite Sirah – Dark, playful notes of fresh blueberry and plum flow seamlessly into the dynamic concentration of American oak and bourbon. Earthy and juicy from nose to finish, this delightfully complex wine is a decadent treat for the senses.