Have you ever tasted a Sherry cask whisky? It is not always easy to find, but it’s worth seeking out. It’s becoming more and more popular in Scotland and Ireland, as well as further afield.
Ageing whisky in wine barrels or other wooden vessels is just one of the techniques used by the world’s top distilleries. Wineries in Bordeaux, California and elsewhere routinely sell their used barrels to be used in whisky production, and whisky producers love the new flavours and complexity that the vessels can bring.
How is Sherry cask whisky made?
It’ll vary from producer to producer, of course, but it’s pretty simple. The distiller makes the whisky as normal, and the difference comes at the end of the process, during maturation. The cask, barrel or other vessels in which a whisky is aged imparts a huge amount of flavour and colour upon the whisky itself.
Age your whisky in an old California Cabernet barrel from the Napa Valley, and you can expect certain characteristics to shine through – blackberry fruit, cedar, tobacco and coffee, for example.
Age your whisky in an old Sherry cask, and you can expect it to pick up flavours, aromas and characteristics reminiscent of the fortified wines from the Jerez region in Spain. Of course, there is not just one style of Sherry, so there’s not just one type of Sherry cask whisky. Let’s try to understand better with an example, shall we?
A Sherry cask whisky to try: Laphroaig PX Cask
Laphroaig is one of the finest names in Scotch whisky. It’s also one of the easiest to mispronounce. “La-froyg” is the correct pronunciation, if you weren’t sure. The distillery, located on the remote island of Islay, has been in operation since 1815.
Even long established players like Laphroaig experiment sometimes, and this Sherry cask whisky, Laphroaig PX Cask, is the result. This whisky is aged in three different vessels, starting with American oak, then quarter cask and, finally, Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks.
It is the Pedro Ximénez (PX) that makes the most impact here. The naturally sweet PX Sherry style has clearly left its mark on the wood, imparting a world of complex and inviting Sherry aromas and flavours upon the whisky.
Single Malt WhiskyProducer: LaphroaigZone: ScotlandCapacity: 100 Cl.
Alcohol content: 48%
Best served in Whisky Glass
Tasting a Sherry cask whisky: Laphroaig PX Cask
This a fine sipping whisky, no doubt about it. If you’re not sure whether a Sherry cask whisky is really your style, see our tasting notes and make up your own mind!
This is a deep, rich, gold. The producers call it “antique gold”, and they may have a point.
It’s a Sherry cask whisky, and the Sherry aromas come to the fore. Sweet notes of raisin, sultana and fig are readily apparent, and behind that there’s some tangy liquorice and some subtle peat character. Whisky tasters will frequently recommend diluting the whisky with a little water to unlock more aromas. Do that here, and you’ll pick up some almond, yeast, marzipan and nuts, reminiscent of many Sherries, and some fresher fruit aromas.
The moment of truth. Full-bodied and mouth-coating, there is an intensity of flavour with oak, peat and some PX Sherry sweetness. The finish is long and lingering, with smoky peat and sweet oak.