Whiskies can acquire sherry flavors by resting in casks that previously held sherry, a fortified wine from the Jerez region of Spain. While sherry comes in a variety of styles, including dry fino and sharp, salty manzanilla, these are only occasionally applied to whisky. The darker-hued and aromatic oloroso is the more traditional choice, with sweet, rich Pedro Ximenez a tantalizing option.
The influence of oloroso sherry casks is identifiable as red fruit, figs, dates, and raisins, with Macallan and Glenfarclas as perhaps the most famous examples. The oak of the cask also plays a role, as it can be either European oak, which delivers spicier notes of clove and dried fruits, or American oak, which supplies jammy fruit and chocolate character.
The dance between spirit and sherry wood is like an expressive tango. Intense, muscular spirits are better matched to the fancy footwork of sherry, which can outshine lighter, delicate whiskies. Sherry casks that are filled with whisky for the first time can inflict a powerful surge of chestnut and burnt red colors, and dark fruit flavors, making them a popular choice for finishing whisky—a brief stay in a secondary cask. On their second fill, sherry casks are more subdued and suitable for long-term maturation.
Taste The Sherry Spectrum
Sherry is applied to many whiskies, especially Scotch and Irish whiskies; tasting from lightest to boldest will help you single out sherry notes.
Touch of Sherry—Glenmorangie Lasanta: sultana, citrus, ginger
Some Sherry—Bushmills Black Bush: sweet malt, black fruit, cocoa
Very Sherry—Macallan Rare Cask: vanilla, raisin, chocolate
Sherry Bomb—Aberlour A’bunadh: dried fruit, candied orange, spice