View Full Version : Ported Bourbon

05-11-2004, 05:06
My experiment to make something similar to the Jim Beam bourbon "with port added" sold in Australia: I used 1987 Offley vintage port which is the only port I had at the moment. The port was particularly good, rich and fine in taste, so I knew I couldn't go far wrong adding it to good whiskey. I wasn't sure how much to add, I added enough to half a bottle of Van Winkle 13 year old rye to constitue 2-3% of the total. I got the color looking similar to what I saw in the picture of the Australian Beam bottle: lightly reddish, a rosy tint overlaying the deeper brown whiskey color. Well, it is very good. Interestingly, the port doesn't really change the whiskey. It enhances it but the profile of VW rye is still very much there. Some bottlings of VW rye have been fruity in taste anyway, plum or blackberry-like. This latest VW I used is perhaps less so with deep smoke and some oak dryness, so the port only complemented the whiskey.

I also added the port to a mingling of whiskeys I keep going in a jug based on Elmer Lee bourbon and again got good results. It is getting warmer (finally) in Toronto and I believe these flavored whiskeys will taste especially nice on the rocks after the sun goes down (maybe with a slice of orange or lemon, Old-Fashioned-style). They are a good change of pace. If the port lasts (this type tends not to keep well even if the opened bottle is fairly full), I may try this with other whiskies and use less port. I have read old blending formulas in which the blending agent was only 1% of the whiskey compounded. I used more than that in the VW rye because I wanted to emulate the Jim Beam product. I think the latter is intended as a flavoured whiskey; this, as opposed to creating a whiskey in which the addition is meant simply to marry the flavors already there. Adding a tablespoon of port to a full bottle of whiskey makes the port about 1% of the total. I may try this with a bottle of Wild Turkey I got the other day. It might work well with Woodford Reserve, too.

I did some reading on Geyser Peak over the weekend. It appears Jim Beam (Fortune Brands) owns the winery; hence no doubt the synergistic idea to combine two products of the same company. Geyser Peak makes a shiraz grape-derived, vintage-styled port that is 5 years old. Jim Beam Worldwide Brands may be using that in the whiskey. This is a line extension that makes sense in historical and taste terms, too. If it catches on "down under" maybe ported bourbon will be sold here some day.


05-11-2004, 11:37
Very interesting Gary. What would you have done with the VWRye if the results were not positive? Perhaps a manhattan.

05-11-2004, 11:46
Good point, if the result had been odd or unbalanced I could have used the mixture for Manhattans. I find almost any North American whiskey (or my blends compounded from same) makes a good Manhattan, it is a flexible drink that way. However I might also decide to blend the ported whiskey further, improve it by adding some bourbon, say. Seeing as the base materials (VW rye, matured vintage port) are so good to begin with, you can't really go wrong with such experiments and if you do, there is a way to fix them. Chuck once suggested to me that with a particularly unhappy mix of whiskeys one could add vodka, to dilute the flavours and re-arrange them as it were. I agree with that and in fact in Scotland the blenders say they add grain whiskies (relatively unflavorous) to the single malt whiskies because it "displays the malts". That always made sense to me, as proven also by my own practical experiments in that direction.

However my VW rye flavoured with '87 Offley port is very good, there is no reason to make any changes to it. Despite this, just out of curiosity, I blended one ounce of my ported VW rye with just slightly less of Buffalo Trace. The resulting blend of straight whiskies, only lightly flavoured now with the port, is extremely good. Does it not seem, save for such home experiments, that the "blend of straight whiskies" (formerly a respected category in the whiskey business, especially in Maryland) is a lost art?


05-11-2004, 11:49
It appears Jim Beam (Fortune Brands) owns the winery;

They also own Masterlock, some of us may see the need for their products too! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif