- What is the influence of maturing in a “Sherry Butt” on a whisky?
- What is a “Sherry Butt”?
- What is “Sherry”?
- How is “Sherry” produced?
- Are there, like for “Whisky” any legal definitions and regulation that govern the product and the process?
- What is actually left over in the barrel of the “Sherry” that was ones in it?
- What chemical reactions, if any, take place after adding a Whisky to a “Sherry Butt”?
- How are these reactions different from “general” maturation like “first fill ex bourbon” cask maturational?
- What do the answers to all these questions teach me about “Sherry notes” in Whisky?
As with whisky there are European Unition Regulations that set the legal definitions for some wines produced in some member states.
- Jerez, Xérès or Sherry,
- Madeira or Madère,
- Port or Porto.
What would be more useful in the mind of a whisky drinker would be a description on a Oloroso Sherry like:
“15 yo Oloroso finished in a “Laproaig 10 yo first fill bourbon barrel”.
This really cannot get more detailed as a disciptor, but what would it say about the Sherry to a Sherry drinker that has limited working knowledge about whisky?
What is Oloroso Sherry?
Since Sherry is apparently a type of wine, this means that Oloroso is a
category witchin the kinds of Sherrys.
According to PART A — Traditional terms as referred to in Article 54(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) No 479/2008 the definition of a “Oloroso” is;
Liqueur wine (vino generoso) of ‘Jerez-Xérès-Sherry’ and ‘Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda’, ‘Montilla Moriles’ which possesses the following qualities:
- much body,
- plenty and velvety,
- dry or slightly led,
- of similar color to the mahogany,
- with acquired alcoholic strength between 16 and 22o.
- It has been aged during at least two years, by the system of ‘criaderas y soleras’, in oak container of maximum capacity of 1 000 l.
This definition is not an opinion, but the legal definition of a “Oloroso Sherry” Liqueur Wine. I have identified some parts that I find particularly interesting for finding the taste and nose influences on a “Olososo Sherry Matured” whisky.
Next to Oloroso multiple other ‘Jerez-Xérès-Sherry’ types are identified in the same appendix:
This video will tell you more about the different kinds of Sherry’s there are.
More information about Sherry can be found on many websites such:
The system is far better described on many sites that describe the Oloroso production.
In short the proces is explained in the picture below as found on this site: http://holafoodie.com/a-beginners-guide-to-sherry/
The process of Sherry’s mentions things like “Flor”, extracting 1/3 of the content of the “Bottom” barrel and adding from the layer of barrels above, etc, etc.
When are “Sherry” barrels sold to “Whisky” makers?
This is one interesting question to ask. While browsing websites I found a lot of of influences that make the term “Sherry Butt” seem totally unpredictable. Why do I say this?
At some point in time regulations changed from “Oloroso” Sherry being both Sweet (actual sugar content) and Dry, to only Dry. Dry meaning no to a very small sugar level allowed in a “Oloroso” Sherry.
At some point in time “Transport” barrels for transporting “Oloroso” Sherry were banned from use. Meaning that, these transport barrels could no longer be sold to Whisky makers as “Sherry” butts. See: https://www.quora.com/When-whiskey-is-aged-in-casks-previously-used-for-sherry-or-wine-what-effect-does-it-have-on-the-taste-of-the-whiskey
The time Oloroso barrels spend in the Solera system can be as little as 2 (legal minimum) to as much as 100 years depending on the economic choices made by the Sherry maker to replace or reuse the barrel.
Just like bourbon barrels Spannish Coopers tend to use more and more American Oak for the production of butts for the production of Oloroso, since American oak has grown more strait and therefore the level of waste material left at the cutting process of staves is less compared to more cutting losses seen in Europan Oak. The more level climat conditions in the USA areas of production also ensure a more stable wood production quality compared to the high climate differences all over Europe. These last statements are not based on Science studies, but on a combination of barrel makers technical documents and my own engineering know how of production processes.
This all add up to just about nothing you can conclude when whisky makers say they used “Oloroso Sherry” butts, unless you know:
- when the barrel was produced,
- Under which version of the “Sherry” laws production took place, (how old is the barrel)
- From what kind of wood the barrel was produced,
- How long it spend in the Soleras system (if at all in case of transport barrels, which are now no longer allowed),
- In what level of the criaderas system it spend its days. Meaning was is filled with new spirit at each step or was it on the last step constantly containing the oldest Oloroso,
- If the barrel contained “flor” or not. Meaning did it actually contain Oloroso, or one of the other legal versions of Sherry,
- What preparation the cooper use for charring, toasting before putting the barrel in the production of Oloroso.
- If the whisky maker re-toast the barrel after receiving is from the Sherry maker,
- If sugar was added to the barrel to produce the “United Kingdom” version of “Oloroso” that was ones legal,
- If the whisky maker buys custom sherried barrels just for whisky making.
To help understand the barrels used for whisky a Sherry site has given information which is insightful. See http://www.sherry.wine/media-trade/news/sherry-butts-and-scotch-whisky
I come to, as a personal insight, the observation that there is no one answer to “What is a Sherry But?” Since there seem to be to many variables to give only one answer! As a Whisky drinker we need to be informed by the distiller or blender which type of casks were used holding which content.
If I could make a shortlist of what I would want to know about the “Sherry” and the Cask used to finish or mature a whisky I would say:
- Type of oak,
- Type of charr / toast,
- Type of barrel,
- Type of “Sherry”,
- Length of time the “Sherry” was in the barrel,
- The way the barrel was cleaned before putting the Whisky in,
- The time the whisky spend in the barrel,
- How many times the barrel was refilled.
I have made the things that are “unique” for the Sherry influence Italic, since the other information is what whisky drinker are already interested in and are (to some level) aware of the influences on taste and smell. This also means that the first 3 bullets in the list are, or could have, the same influence on the final result of the taste and smell independent of the “Sherry” influences.
I will go into that last observation in a later blog by seeing if “first use” American Oak, which we normally associate with Bourbon, somehow could have simular effects on a “Sherry” matured Whisky.
What kind of tastes and smells are the result of “Sherry” maturation?
(Work in Progress more to come!)