Scotch & Sherry

This year (2024) the SMWS have declared:

“2024 is going to be a year of celebrating The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s approach to sherry-cask maturation. If you’ve been exploring the world of whisky, you’ll be aware that the huge variety of styles, sometimes with completely different characteristics that can make the term ‘whisky’ feel a little inadequate.

Sherry casks are prized for the spicy, nutty and rich dried fruit notes that they can contribute to whisky, as well as a deep mahogany colour. There are notable variations depending on the type of sherry that was previously in the cask, from a dry oloroso to sweet Pedro Ximenez and beyond.”

Enjoy a recent Q&A between Euan Campbell and Richard Goslan concerning Sherry Matured Whisky.

When I visited the Glasgow Venue (Bath Street), the society’s newest members’ rooms, I enjoyed an in-depth browse or the newest of the Sherry-influenced single cask bottling.

One that stood out to me was…

Glazed with Marmalade (Cask 36.201) £92.00

A sweet-savoury treat, as rapeseed oil was applied to an old leather belt, alongside alum block, refried beans and lemon drizzle cake. The palate offered poppyseed bagels and charred steak glazed with marmalade and caramel. Water brought forward raisin, vanilla pods and a balsamic glaze on the nose, while the palate became chewy, with fudge, sultanas and fig syrup joining honey and hickory barbecue sauce. After 13 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, we transferred this to a first-fill Spanish oak oloroso hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.

To help celebrate the Societies focus on Sherry Casks new members can receive an exclusive 10% discount on the first year of membership and a bottle by using code SHERRY10

Why is Sherry so important to the Scotch Whisky Industry?

Sherry is a fortified wine that originates from the Jerez region of southern Spain. It’s made primarily from white grapes, typically Palomino, but other varieties like Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel are also used. Sherry gains its distinct character from the unique winemaking process known as the solera system, which involves fractional blending of different vintages over several years.

Sherry casks have historically been crucial to the Scotch whisky industry for several reasons:

  1. Flavour Influence: The porous wood of the sherry cask allows the whisky to interact with the remnants of the sherry, imparting distinct flavours and aromas such as dried fruits, nuts, and spices to the whisky during the ageing process.
  2. Maturation: Sherry casks provide an ideal environment for ageing Scotch whisky. The previous contents of the cask, the sherry, have already interacted with the wood, leaving behind a more subtle and complex profile compared to new oak casks. This maturation process helps develop the character and depth of the whisky.
  3. Tradition and Prestige: The historical use of sherry casks in Scotch whisky production adds to the tradition and prestige of certain Scotch whiskies. Many distilleries pride themselves on using sherry casks for ageing, as it adds a unique and distinguished character to their whisky.
  4. Market Demand: The popularity of sherried Scotch whiskies has led to a high demand for sherry casks in the industry. As a result, there’s a significant market for sourcing and using these casks for ageing whisky.

Overall, sherry casks play a vital role in shaping the flavour profile and character of many Scotch whiskies, making them an essential component of the industry.

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