The 3rd annual International Sherry Week began this week, to celebrate, here are eight of our favourite sherry cask whisky recommendations. 

Sherry Week, which takes place from the 7th until the 13th November, is an international festival celebrating this unique southern Spanish wine, which will see thousands of events happen all across the globe.

Sherry plays a massive part in the Scottish whisky industry with casks being used by Scotland’s distilleries for well over 200 years, and sherry itself being popular in the country since the 16th century.

Spanish oak casks, which were used to transport sherry, arrived in the ports of Glasgow and Leith in vast quantities, and were a favourite of Scotch whisky distillers, up until the growth of the Bourbon industry when the chearper, more available American oak became the cask of choice.

Nowadays, you’d be hard pushed to find a whisky fan who doesn’t have a favourite sherry cask whisky, such is their ubiquity and quality.

However, as the terribly indecisive people we are, we have only managed to narrow it down to eight recommendations and even then, these are only the tip of the iceberg – we’ve specifically chosen those widely available enough for everyone to have a fair chance at getting their hands on most, if not all, of them.

Aberlour A’Bunadh

(Distillery: Aberlour, Region: Speyside, RRP: £45-47)

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A true cult classic, Aberlour’s cask strength sherry monster is a great example of quality whisky at great value.

Translated from the Gaelic as ‘of the origin’ or ‘the original’, the producers say it has been made in homage to Aberlour’s founder, James Fleming.

The whisky itself is all spiced orange and dried fruits on the nose, with a lovely, rich finish filled with those spiced orange notes coupled with dark chocolate and cream.

The geekier among you will have noticed that it’s available in different batches, meaning that every bottle from each batch will offer some different.

Dalmore 15

(Distillery: Dalmore, Region: Highland, RRP: £55 )

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We are big fans of Richard Patterson’s work and could have chosen two other expressions from Dalmore for this list (the King Alexander III and the cigar malt) but in our heart of hearts we would have known we should have chosen the 15-year-old.

The perfect autumn and winter dram, the 15-year-old is a rich, no-nonsense blast of toffee and rich fruits.

Made using Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso sherry casks it’s a complex dram that will keep you warm on these long, dark nights and won’t break the bank.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

(Distillery: Ardbeg, Region: Islay, RRP: £52-55 )

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Sherry casks don’t all have to be sweetness and light in fact, some of the best examples happen to be sherry and peat monsters. Ask anyone what their favourite (reasonably priced) Ardbeg is and chances are – if it’s not the old 17-year-old – they’ll say this.

Pronounced ‘Oog-a-dal’, this expression is named after the loch from which all Ardbeg water flows, and is widely considered to be one of the best value drams in the distillery’s core range.

Those of you who think they don’t like peat don’t be put off, its bark (the nose, which is all smoke and brine) is worse than its bite (those sherried Christmas cake notes take precedence on the tongue and bring a real depth and complexity to the finish).

Tomatin 18-year-old

(Distillery: Tomatin, Region: Highland, RRP: £75 )

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For those looking for something a little more decadent, this 18-year-old from Tomatin, which we recently rediscovered, is a truly delightful dram and a perfect example of a far lighter style of sherry cask whisky that is the perfect balance between spirit and wood.

Recently repackaged to give their bottles a little more class and to delicately reflect the whisky inside, this is the perfect gift for any whisky fan particularly if you think they will share it with you.

Glendronach 12

(Distillery: Glendronach, Region: Highland, RRP: £35 )

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Move over Macallan, there’s a new challenger for the throne of the sherry malts, and this young upstart distillery has really grabbed people’s attentions over the past few years.  So much so, that they’ve even ran out of stock of their popular 15-year-old, received various awards for their various expressions, and have now been bought over by drinks giant Brown-Forman.

A breath of fresh air, this great value dram shows what is capable of being produced when smaller distilleries give the bigger guys a run for their money.

Tamdhu Batch Strength

(Distillery: Tamdhu, Region: Speyside, RRP: £52-55)

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The product of ‘can-dhu spirit’ (not our pun, but their’s) the Tamdhu batch strength is a surprising edition to Scotland’s sherried whisky stable. The revitalised distillery created this expression using a selection of sherry casks and the result is a punchy 58.8% abv that has been winning rave reviews and awards in competitions around the globe.

For us though, it’s just a fantastically uncomplicated dram, that is two parts orange marmalade and one part face slapping goodness. Drink it neat or add a few drops of water and see this little whisky really open up.

Balvenie 15-year-old Single Barrel Sherry Cask

(Distillery: Balvenie, Region: Speyside, RRP: £80-83)

 

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More famous for their excellent cask finishing techniques, the 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask was unveiled in 2014 and shows the Speyside distillery are just as capable of producing cracking whisky fully matured in Sherry casks.

Released in batches of no larger than 650 bottles from a single cask and each one hand numbered, the result is a crisp, clean and spicy variation of the sherry theme, that will have you reaching for the bottle again and again. Definitely one to enjoy on these long, dark, cold nights.

Bowmore Darkest

(Distillery: Bowmore, Region: Islay, Price: £55)

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We had to finish with another trip to Islay, and Bowmore, an underrated distillery that deserves a little more love. The Darkest is a luxurious dram that really manages to balance peat smoke with summer fruits in a way that is subtler, but no less enjoyable for it, than the Ardbeg Uigeadail, it’s the perfect pudding for any Christmas feast and great value at the perfectly reasonable price it’s available at.

 

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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