I am not a big fan of most barrel finished Bourbons or ryes, but there are a few distilleries that are doing them in a way that I like. The big thing for me is that the whiskey has to dominate the flavor and the finishing barrel only compliments the flavor, not dominate the whiskey. Charlie and Andy Nelson of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery have perfected this in my opinion.

The Belle Meade products are excellent Bourbons to start with and the finishing process compliments the Bourbons. I have two to review today. The first is the Belle Meade 9yo finished in Oloroso Sherry casks and the second is the Belle Meade NAS finished in Malmsey Madeira casks. They also do a Belle Meade Cognac finished Bourbon but I do not have a bottle at this time.

Belle Meade Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish

Proof: 90.4

Age: 9 years

Nose: Caramel and fruit – apricots and raisons with a hint of fine leather and spice.

Taste: Fruit and spice with caramel. The fruit is cherries and apricots and the spice is nutmeg and cinnamon. Tasted with a dried cranberry really brings out the fruit and spice, making it a little peppery. Tasted with the pecan brings the oak forward making it dry in a pleasant way with more nutmeg.

Finish: Starts very sweet with fruit but dries out with some nice oak flavor. The cranberry makes the finish very peppery and dry. The pecan makes the finish very oaky and dry.

Notes: This is a very good Bourbon that will also go with a good cigar such as Fuente Opus X. The smoke really brings out the fruit.

Belle Meade Malmsey Madeira Finish

Proof: 90.4

Age: NAS

Nose: Very nutty with walnuts, caramel and dates.

Taste: Caramel and fruit – ripe peaches and dates with a little walnut and oak. Just a hint of sweet baking spices. Tasted with a cranberry really brings forward the fruit – berries and peaches and also a hint of chocolate. Tasted with a pecan emphasizes the oak and spices bringing forward a bit of cinnamon.

Finish: Not complex. Starts a little fruity but quickly becomes a nice oak dryness. The cranberry makes the finish much sweeter and fruitier. The pecan makes the finish longer and drier with oak and spice.

Notes this also goes well with the Opus X with the smoke really bringing out the chocolate.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach