So last week I got the chance to participate in what was, at least to me, a pretty unique tasting. Jacob’s Creek has just released a pair of wines that have seen a second round of aging. After an initial aging in a blend of French and American barrels, the wines were subjected to a second round of aging (about 3 months) in whisky barrels.
The process was apparently begun four years ago and the reason they’re able to achieve results in such a short amount of time with the second aging is because of the difference in the barrels. Wine barrels are larger and have larger staves, resulting in a larger surface area to have to account for. Whisky barrels, on the other hand, are smaller and have smaller staves, meaning there’s less surface area and the wine can age quicker. I’ve seen a similar result in aging cocktails at my bar using very small barrels and achieving very quick results.
We got to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz, both after the second aging and before the second aging so we could see what, if any, difference the aging made, and whether or not it made the wine better.
So what did I think?
Jacobs’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon – $20
Before Whisky Aging
Garnet colored in the glass, the wine was bright and tart, with bright red fruit and a bit of white pepper on the nose. This wine ran hot, with a very pronounced alcohol note both on the nose and in the mouth. I have to be completely honest here – I didn’t particularly like this wine (which to be fair was sent in a smaller bottle just for this tasting – I wasn’t stuck with a large bottle), but then I was really only tasting it to compare it to the whisky-aged wine.
After Whisky Aging
The Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in Irish Whisky barrels. On the nose I picked up notes of mint and caramel and on the palate the wine still showed red fruit, but it was much smoother than before, without the “hotness” of the wine before the second aging. The wine also maintained its garnet color, but it was noticeably darker than before. In short, the whisky aging was a success and made this a much more palatable wine.
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz – $20
Before Whisky Aging
To be honest, this wine was really good before the second aging. The wine was smokey with dark fruit flavors of plum and black cherry. It was actually almost a shame that there was so little of it to taste, because I think it may have been the favorite thing we sipped that evening.
After Whisky Aging
The Shiraz was aged in Scotch Whisky barrels. I picked up some licorice on the nose, and in the mouth the wine still showed dark fruit, but it was much softer. The wine was quite dry on the finish, which I attributed to dark chocolate notes that jumped out, especially as the wine opened up. This was very much a food wine, and the general consensus seemed to be that it needed steak or lamb to balance it out.
I didn’t dislike this wine as much as the pair tasting with me, in part because I think I saw its potential as a food wine, but it’s certainly not one I’d recommend sipping on by itself, whereas the pre-whisky aged Shiraz was certainly something I could get behind by itself.
So, do I think the second aging process is worth it? I don’t think it’s not worth it. I’d be intrigued to see the long-term impact of aging the wine a second time, and whether aging them in bourbon barrels or rye barrels produces better results. That being said, I’m always a fan of winemakers trying to innovate and try new things, so in that regard alone, I’m a fan of what’s going on here.
A special thanks to Jacob’s Creek and the team at the Thomas Collective for putting together this tasting. If you’d like to see the video from the tasting, you can check it out here. It’s worth a look as the discussion about the wine and the decision to do the second aging is pretty interesting.