As to why a bottler named Malts of Scotland is releasing wine cask finished bourbons of America, I don’t know. They’ve also released a Heaven Hill 2001 from a sherry hogshead and a regulation Heaven Hill single barrel from 2005. All three were bottled this year. Other things I don’t know include: whether this means Malts of Scotland are getting into bourbon in a big way; if these are experiments conducted by Heaven Hill themselves that they got their hands on or if they took the bourbon and finished it in their own casks; why Minnesotans don’t know what to do at four-way stop signs. If you have the answers please don’t be shy. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the last port-bothered bourbon I drank. That was High West’s “A Midwinter Night’s Dram“, and I liked it so much I went out and purchased an expensive bottle. If this is as good I may have to look into whether it’s still available (it was only released in the EU, as you might expect).
Heaven Hill 2001-2015 (52.9% Malts of Scotland; port finish; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Quite a lot of rye notes off the top: pine, dill, cold black tea. After a minute there are sweeter, stickier notes (cherries), a bit of orange peel and quite a bit of wood. After a couple more minutes it all gets a bit cough syrupy, but in a good way. Water brings out a bit of vanilla/shortbread.
Palate: Not quite as bourbonny on the palate to begin, but it’s not terribly winey either. There’s more mellow citrus here than red fruit and the bite of the wood is gentler than I was expecting from the nose. The texture is odd: it coats the tongue but tastes thin anyway. With a bit more time it begins to taste more like the high-rye bourbon the nose promised at first with the port mostly just sawing the effect of the oak off and not contributing very much of its own in terms of flavour (which is not a bad thing really). Gets spicier as it goes and gets spicier still with water (and woodier too).
Finish: Medium. The wood is the top note here but it’s not overbearing; just a little drying with some spice (clove). As on the palate with water.
Comments: I expect someone to be along shortly to tell me that this was from a very low rye mashbill, but it certainly tasted rye-forward to me. I see that my notes for the High West port finish were rather similar—it makes me wonder if this was not in fact a rye as well. Anyway, it’s pleasant but not quite as good as High West’s version. Highly drinkable though, with or without water (water reduced the port influence on the palate further still).
Rating: 86 points.