Smoky & Fruity: Peated Sherry Cask Whiskies Under $100By Stephanie Moreno
Peated whisky is quite a polarizing drink. You either love or hate that smoky, earthy goodness. Fortunately for those of us who love it, there are a wide range of options to choose—from Scottish single malts to Japanese blends. More notably en vogue at the moment are whiskies which have been aged in sherry casks. Typically these will be former oloroso or Pedro Ximénez casks made from European oak. These casks bring a fruity richness to the party. But what if you brought the two worlds together ala Reese’s Peanut Butter cups? Peated sherry cask whiskies—two great tastes that taste great together!
Again, there’s a whole world of peated sherry cask whiskies out there for you to try. You can begin your journey with any/all of these suggestions. Plus, each can be had for under $100.
First launched in 2003, Ardbeg Uigeadail [Oog-a-dal] is a marriage of some young and some very old oloroso sherry aged single malt along with Ardbeg aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The name Uigeadail means “a dark, mysterious place”. Fun to say and even more fun to drink. It is also the name of the loch from which Ardbeg gets its water. This expression is bottled at cask strength with no age statement.
Loch Gorm is the name of the series from Kilchoman which features single malts matured exclusively in sherry casks. The 2019 Release for Kilchoman Loch Gorm includes single malts distilled in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. All were matured fully in ex-oloroso sherry butts. Additionally, only 15,000 bottles were produced from the twenty sherry butts used for this release. This whisky is bottled at 46% ABV.
Fans of peated sherry cask whisky, step right up! Bowmore 15 Year is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks. However, it’s the portion of the whisky that ages the final 3 years in first fill sherry casks that really gives this whisky that deep rich color and fruity taste. Note: this expression was formerly called Bowmore Darkest 15 Year.
Compass Box’s Great King Street line of blended whiskies has a new addition with the Glasgow Blend. Created to highlight a more robust and smoky whisky as, according to some, historically Glaswegians preferred this style, the brand has succeeded in doing just that. A blend with a large (67%) malt base, Compass Box uses a combination of barrels for aging: first fill sherry, first and refill ex-bourbon, and a small amount of new French oak barrels.
Pedro Ximénez, or PX, is a style of sherry wine that is noted for its extreme sweetness. Without going into too much of the production details, PX grapes are dried in the sun prior to being pressed and fermented which concentrates the sugars. Lagavulin, with its bold peaty and salty profile takes on this wine finishing incredibly well and creates an enticing sweet and savory dram. There is a new Distillers Edition released each year with the distillation and bottle date displayed.
Benromach Peat Smoke Sherry Cask Matured was distilled in 2010 and made with heavily-peated malted barley. The single malt matured in first-fill sherry hogsheads until it was bottled in 2018 at 59.9% ABV. This bottling marks the first time the brand has released a peated sherry cask whisky. Only 6,500 bottles of this limited edition were created. It is available as of March 2019 in select markets.
Taketsuru Pure Malt, released in the summer of 2015 without an age statement, replace the now extinct aged Taketsuru expressions. It is a blend of malts averaging 10 years of age, with a high percentage of Miyagikyo malt, with some Yoichi added in. The whiskies were aged in different cask types, including ex-sherry barrels.
Highland Park is renowned for its usage of peat and for its exclusive use of ex-sherry casks. The climate on the Orkney Islands is quite windy and sea swept creating a dismal environment for trees. As such, the Orcadian peat bogs have more heather, grass and plants than those on Islay. Highland Park 12 Year got a name upgrade (Viking Honor) and package redesign in 2017, although the juice remains the same as the classic 12 Year release.
The sequel to Bunnahabhain Toiteach which means “smoky” in Gaelic, Toiteach A Dhà means “smoky two”. While Bunnahabhain isn’t necessarily known for creating peaty whiskies, the Toiteach release was so popular that this follow up was created. This takes the Bunnahabhain Mòine whisky and matures it in ex-bourbon and sherry casks in the brand’s coastal warehouses on Bunnahabhain Bay. This peated sherry cask whisky is bottled at 46.3% ABV without chill-filtration.