By Jake Emen
Dry Fly Distilling produces a wide line-up of whiskeys, spearheaded by its award-winning Washington Wheat Whiskey. They also offer a changing crop of specialty, small batch products as well, known as the Dry Fly Creel Collection. One of the latest examples was their Port Finish Wheat Whiskey, taking that highly regarded wheat whiskey off into an entirely new direction.
Dry Fly utilizes port barrels obtained from Townshend Cellar, a neighbor of theirs in Washington who produces Huckleberry Port. The port itself is billed as offering “aromas of dried black currant, huckleberry, fig and black cherry with a hint of licorice. Huckleberry, chocolate, coffee and black currant linger with a long satisfying finish.” The question, of course, is how much of those qualities transfer to the whiskey, and what kind of effect they have on the finished product.
The first thing you’ll notice with Dry Fly Port Finish Wheat Whiskey, bottled at 43% ABV, is the trademark purple tint you’d expect to see with a “port finished” anything. Raise a glass to your nose and there’s a burst of maple, as well as a distinct, deep, wine fruitiness, some wood, and a touch of spice.
Take your first sip and there’s certainly a sherry- or port-style mouthfeel, with flavors on the palate including dates and figs. The finish offers a long-lasting warmness, which smoothes away some of the sharper and acidic tones of the whiskey. There’s a bit of heat and oiliness there. On ice, that maple sweetness comes out even stronger, and there’s an overall smoother, sweet taste from start to finish.
All told, it’s a unique and intriguing offering, although it falls short of the high expectations I had for it considering how much I enjoyed the Washington Wheat on its own. Also, and likely to the chagrin of Dry Fly, Big Bottom’s Port Cask Finish Bourbon seems to have married its whiskey with its port finish a bit more successfully. Here though, two points must be made. First, Big Bottom does not do their own distilling, and second, the inherent sweetness of bourbon may even make it a better candidate for a port-finish than does wheat.
Dry Fly Port Finish Wheat Whiskey has only limited availability at select local and online retailers, and is sold for approximately $30 for a 375 ml bottle.
Port Finish Wheat Whiskey took home silver medals at the 2013 San Diego International Spirits Competition, and the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.