5 Sherry-Aged Scotch Whiskies Every Newbie Should Try
Felipe is an award-winning London-based whisky writer, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He is also a musician and co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo that fuses live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events and multimedia.
It's a well-known fact that almost all Scotch whisky is aged in used casks. While virgin oak casks are legally required for bourbon, most casks in Scotland were first used to age American bourbon whiskey before they were shipped over the Atlantic.
However, a considerable proportion of whiskies, especially single malts, are also aged in Spanish sherry casks - in high demand these days because not enough sherry is being produced to match the demand for sherry-aged whiskies.
So most sherry casks are actually built specifically for the whisky industry. Many single malts mix both bourbon and sherry matured casks together. However, whiskies entirely matured in sherry casks are bit harder to find.
These whiskies can be quite special. They're richer, fruitier, and often with more depth than their bourbon counterparts. But don’t take it from me. Here are five worth trying in order to become familiar with the flavors generally to be had in these whiskies.
- GlenDronach 12
I’m a huge GlenDronach fan. Its incredible 15-year-old Revival is among the best examples of sherry-matured whisky out there and was much mourned by us whisky geeks when it was discontinued. However, its 12-year-old is also lovely - gentler than most sherry whiskies, sweet and light on both nose and palate. Apples, honey, and fresh grapes all come through, versus the heavier flavors of caramel, toffee, and raisins more typical of sherry-matured whiskies.
I've written about Kilchoman before. It's one of the forerunners of the new wave of Scottish microdistilleries, and everything released so far is extremely enjoyable. Its latest release of Loch Gorm is no exception, and one of the few whiskies you can find that's both peated and entirely matured in sherry casks. As it’s a young whisky (around 5-6 years old), some of that sherry depth is there but not too strong. Smoke and citrus on the nose give way to a strange but excellent mix of ginger with a hint of smoked fish on the palate.
Released as one of Highland Park's core expressions about two years ago, the excellent Dark Origins is a great example of what sherry whiskies can do. Roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, raisins, cloves, and toffee are all involved here. Especially nice is the little nip of smoke at the end of it.
One of Scotland’s few remaining independent distilleries (run by the Grant family since 1865) all Glenfarclas whisky involves sherry casks to a degree. The Glenfarclas 17 is all sherry, and a regal drink indeed. Rich and full of depth, there’s plenty of good stuff to find here, including fruity sweetness reminiscent of blackberries and cherries, orange peel dryness, and chocolate.
The A'bunadh sets the standard for sherry whiskies. Photo: allthingswhisky,com
The A’bunadh sets the standard for excellent sherry whiskies and is beloved by whisky snobs worldwide. Not only is it one of the more budget-friendly whiskies on this list, it's also one of the best - far better than many whiskies quadruple the price. Released in batches, this is a cask-strength whisky, so it’s a bit of a beast, with most batches coming close, if not greater, than 60% ABV (alcohol by volume).
By Felipe Schrieberg
Felipe is a London-based whisky writer, musician, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He writes for internationally renowned publications such as Forbes, Whisky Magazine and The Whiskey Wash. He has been awarded the Icons of Whisky Communicator of the Year award at Whisky Magazine's 2022 World Whiskies Awards.
He is the co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo fusing live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events, and multimedia. His past projects encompass performances at the Edinburgh Fringe of the band's own show Two Guys, Three Drams which combined live blues with whisky tasting, and building the world's first bass drum made from an entire Scotch whisky cask with a barrel of Lagavulin.
He is also a judge for the World Whiskies Awards and The Independent Bottlers Challenge. Through his online tastings hosted at The Virtual Whisky Masterclass, he has welcomed over 3,000 guests across 250+ tasting events.
His first book, London Cocktails, is now available worldwide. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @schriebergfr, or at www.felipeschrieberg.com
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