To be a single malt Scotch whisky, a spirit needs to follow a few rules. Obviously, first and foremost, it must be made in Scotland (hence the word “Scotch”). The term “single” is an important piece, as it references the fact the whisky comes from one single distillery. It can, however, come from different barrels from the same distillery. Single malt Scotch must also be pot still distilled using a mash exclusively made up of malted barley. While there are a few other rules and regulations, it also must be distilled and matured in white oak casks for a minimum of three years. And the right kind of cask can turn a single malt Scotch whisky into a sherry bomb.
What turns a single malt Scotch into a “sherry bomb”
No artificial flavorings can be added to single malt Scotch, but aging or finishing in other vessels adds depth and nuance. Maturing in white oak brings forth flavors of caramel, honey, vanilla, and candied orange peels, for example. The use of sherry casks adds flavors like dried fruits and candied nuts.
While sherry itself might not have the popularity it once did, the industry is thriving and it’s all thanks to Scotch whisky. For years, Scotch whisky producers have used former sherry casks, as well as sherry-seasoned casks for maturation and finishing.
This relationship between Spanish sherry producers and Scottish whisky distillers is great for the consumer because it gives us flavorful, fruity, decadent whiskies well-suited for fall and winter sipping. Below, you’ll find 10 of our favorites. Some are from big names and others are lesser-known expressions. All belong on your bar cart.
1. Tullibardine 500 Sherry Finish
Located at the edge of the Scottish Highlands, Tullibardine is one of those distilleries that seems to distill nothing but winners. Its 500 Sherry Finish is no different. Aging in first-fill, ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in Spanish sherry butts, it has flavors of sweet treacle, candied walnuts, caramel apples, vanilla beans, and dried fruit finish that leaves you wanting more.
2. The Dalmore 12 Year Sherry Cask Select
The Dalmore is well-regarded in the single malt whisky world for good reason. Its award-winning 12-year-old sherry casked expression is rich and bold, finished in both European and American oak casks that were seasoned with both Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherries. This results in a spicy, fruity whiskey with notes of dried cherries, ripe berries, dark chocolate, clover honey, and a slightly spicy, sweet finish.
3. Auchentoshan Three Wood
Auchentoshan might be difficult to pronounce, but it’s definitely easy to drink. One of its best fruity, sherry-centric expressions is its Three Wood. It gets its name from being aged in three different wood types: bourbon casks, Pedro Ximénez, and Oloroso sherry butts. This creates a complex whisky with hints of stone fruits, dried cherries, fudge, sweet caramel, and sticky toffee pudding. The finish is warming, sweet, and perfectly fruity.
4. The GlenAllachie 15 Year Old
Launched in 2019, this sherry bomb was aged for 15 years before being finished in barrels that once held Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry. The result is a complex, well-balanced expression loaded with hints of candied walnuts, dried cherries, baking spice, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s the kind of whisky you’ll want to sip after a heavy meal.
5. Tamdhu 12 Year Old
Tamdhu might not have the name recognition the likes of Macallan and Balvenie, but it should. Its entry-level 12-year-old is a great example of using sherry as a complementary flavor. Aged in first-fill as well as refill Oloroso sherry butts for 12 years, it has flavors like dried cherries, raisins, dates, ripe berries, wood char, and buttery caramel.
6. Kilchoman Sanaig
Named for a watery inlet along the coast of Islay, Kilchoman Sinaig matures in a combination of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks. The result is a slightly smoky, sweet, fruity whisky they guarantee will warm your bones on the coldest fall (and winter) day. It’s loaded with notes of candied orange peel, dried cherries, raisins, sticky toffee, butterscotch, chocolate, fudge, and pleasing peat smoke.
7. GlenDronach 15 Year Revival
Back in 2015, the whisky world was saddened when GlenDronach discontinued this beloved 15-year-old expression. Luckily, it came back. Matured in both Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks, it has a palate of butterscotch, baking spice, ripe berries, caramel, and a gentle, nutty sweetness throughout. It finishes with a warming kick of caramel and dried fruit.
8. Glen Scotia Double Cask
Campbeltown isn’t as well-known as the other whisky-producing regions of Scotland, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find great whiskies there. Glen Scotia Double Cask is a great example. Matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, it’s loaded with flavors like toasted vanilla beans, rich oak, dried fruits, and wintry spices.
9. Aberlour A’Bunadh
There are few sherried single malt Scotches more well-known (and beloved by drinkers and bartenders) than Aberlour A’Bunadh. Matured solely in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks, it’s bottled at cask strength to add to the bold, rich flavor. This results in a potent whisky with flavors of sweet sherry, baking spice, buttery caramel, raisins, and almond cookies.
10. Bowmore 15 Year Old
Islay is known for its peat-smoked whiskies with the likes of Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin grabbing most of the headlines. Sometimes Bowmore gets lost in the shuffle and that’s a shame. Its 15-year-old expression perfectly showcases how smoky peat and fruity sherry can work well together. It matures in ex-bourbon barrels as well as Oloroso sherry butts. The result is a smoky, sweet whisky with hints of dried fruits, caramel, honey, toffee candy, and gentle peat smoke.
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