Every step in the production of whiskey - from grain selection to the distillation process - is crucial to its final taste. But there is one step that is often overlooked by the average consumer: the finish. This process can take an already remarkable whiskey and add additional layers of nuance and complexity.
What Is "Finish" in Whiskey?
"Finish" refers to the period when a whisky, after spending the majority of its maturation time in one cask, is transferred to another cask for a shorter period. This second cask has typically contained another type of spirit or wine, which can transfer some of its own characteristics to the whisky.
The main reason for using the finish technique is to add extra flavor nuances to the whisky. For example, a whiskey matured in a sherry cask may take on hints of dried fruit, nuts or caramel. A finish in a port cask, on the other hand, can add notes of red fruit, chocolate or spices.
Many distilleries have experimented with different types of finishes to create unique flavor profiles:
- Rum Finish: Whiskey often takes on a sweeter profile with notes of tropical fruit, brown sugar and spices.
- Madeira Finish: Often adds a variety of dried fruit notes, some sweetness and some spicy character.
- Cabernet Sauvignon Finish: Whiskey can acquire a deeper red fruit character, often with a tannin structure reminiscent of a red wine.
While finishing can add remarkable flavor nuances, it can also risk overshadowing the whiskey's original profile. It takes a skilled hand to decide when and how to finish a whiskey to ensure the result is harmonious and balanced.
Finishing in whiskey is the art of refining and expanding the flavor profile of an already complex spirit. Through careful selection of post-maturation fads, distilleries can create unique, layered experiences that enchant even the most seasoned whiskey enthusiast. As always, the key is balance, and when done right, the result is nothing short of sublime.