Three’s the magic number for Traverse City Whiskey Co.’s latest Finishing Series, an experimental trifecta of whiskey, each aged in a unique wine barrel. We tasted all three to evaluate the outcomes.
“Starting with three of our award-winning whiskeys, we further aged them using various wine casks and captured fond memories of folks’ time here in Traverse City in a bottle,” says TCWC co-founder and president Chris Fredrickson. “Here in Northern Michigan, we don’t just distill whiskey; we distill the spirit of Traverse City itself.”
The Cab Franc barrel-aged rye is finished in a cask locally sourced from Leelanau in Northern Michigan’s prolific wine region. Coming in at 97.5 proof, the intriguing result offers a spicy-sweet nose, stinging the lips at first sip before lighting up the roof of the mouth and bouncing around the palate. Although the wine barrel aging does bring out some fruity notes, the final product is still very rye-forward with a long silky finish. Pepper, clover honey, and baking spice were the standout notes for me, with a splash of water introducing sweetness by way of dried fruit, chocolate, and candied apple.
Next up, TCWC’s straight bourbon cooled its heels in a Ruby Port barrel hailing from Portugal for 12 months before tapping. The subtle, almost floral nose segues into a fascinating flavor combination of peach and citrus with hints of marshmallow and — feel free to call me crazy here — grape soda. The finish doesn’t hang around as long as the Cab Franc, fading out with the suggestion of more fruit and crème brulee.
I must admit, I’m traditionally not a fan of sherry-aged bourbon, but in this case, the Pedro Ximenez barrel seems to temper the high-rye mash bill nicely. The 95-proof effect is heady with toffee, vanilla, and caramel at first sip. I detected a slightly sour/tangy effect from the sherry that’s not my favorite, but the toasty, nutty characteristics may be enough to offset that for folks like me. Of the three, I’d single out the Cab Franc as my favorite.