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sherry casks

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sherry casks

Postby kildalton » Sun Oct 01, 2006 5:15 pm

It's known how much a cask is important for the maturation of the spirit inside.
Now I was thinking to this:
like every other spirit sherry as well will have different levels of quality,
(I'm not aware of the sherry brands) so I presume there would be great sherries and less good sherries.
So I'd like to know if the quality of the sherry influence consequently the quality of the whisky(the better the sherry the better the whisky)and of course also if the age of the sherry has an impact.
If I'm not wrong sherry have to mature for not less than 3 years (just like whisky) but there are barrels that have contained sherry for more and more years, so maybe this will change the impact on the whisky.
So I'd like to know if the best sherry casks are the ones that have contained the highest quality sherry and for more time (or if age has not great impact on subsequent whisky maturation) or if there are other factors to be considered to term a sherry cask a good sherry cask.

I'll be very grateful if someone could spare some light on these arguments and help me to understand better.

Many thanks
(hope this has not been discussed yet, in case sorry and please give me the link :) )
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:06 pm

It's a really good question, and I don't know if there are any answers! We tend to talk about sherry as if it was all the same, although quite obviously fino, oloroso, pedro ximenez, etc will all have different effects. We are fortunate when we are told just which of these is involved, never mind what brands or age. It's almost like the attitude some have toward cooking with whisky--it doesn't much matter which one you use, it'll get lost in the recipe anyway (and I know that none of us will agree with that, at least not for every recipe). You could ask the same about bourbon barrels, as well; for what little information we get, it's understandable if it seems to us that the industry thinks it's all the same. I believe it's Ardbeg that gets its "bourbon" barrels from Jack Daniel's, which is technically not even bourbon. I think the industry considers this a rather esoteric subject, so information may be hard to come by.
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Postby Bullie » Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:07 pm

I don't know if the quality of the xeres matters as much as the type. There are several kinds of xeres wines, from very dry ones to extremly sweet (such as the Pedro Xemenes, Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado), and they can be both white and red. Also the aging of the wine will have an impact. I suppose that a longer period of aging, the wood will get more soaked, and in that case deliver more taste to the whisky.

The biggest difference though is the quality of the wood, and what oak-species that have been used to create the casks. European oak will react more with the spirit than American. Thats why most sherrymatured whisky is darker than bourbonmatured. It's the oak giving colour to the whisky, not the spirit/wine. Most sherrycasks are made of European oak, but there are exeptions. American oak is used more frequently today.
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:36 am

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Postby kildalton » Mon Oct 02, 2006 10:46 am

Thanks for the links and opinions :)
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Tue Oct 10, 2006 11:58 am

There are 2 slightly different aspects to a Sherry cask as I would see it.

Firstly the Sheery does have an effect on the taste to some degree imparting some of it's sherry taste on the whiskey but not on the maturation of the actual whisky. Therefore the quality of the sherry would have a bearing on the taste in this scenario. However I would reckon that the casks would need to be fairly young as getting a 30-40 old cask before you put a whisky in it is to me quite pointless as I would imagine you'd never get a further good 30 years out of it. Frighteningly you can use a plain cask dump in a few bottles of sherry let it soak in and call it a sherry cask :shock: . A whisky needs only be in a cask for as little as 6months to get the influences of the finish.

In relation to Maturation of the whisky the quality of the wood used to build the cask is paramount. (I know in Jamesons case they have a contract with certian high quality sherry producers and have a very high quality control system in place to pick casks as it makes production more efficient in the long run) The quality of the cask dictates the quality of the whisky and how well it will mature over the years. Therefore the the maturation it solely down to the wood and how long it can be kept in the cask is more often than not down to the quality of the cask. That is not to say a 10yo is in a lesser cask as it's sleeping time has only been cut short just to supply you all with a 10yo whisky. This cask can then be reused affirming that the distillery thinks it's still of good quality.

In relation to the whisky maturing solely in a sherry cask as opposed to a finish. I personally think that you will get a more complex, rich and deeper sherry finish in taste and colour than say in finishing it for a year or 2 in a sherry cask or is that the wood doing that ???

All very interesting and maybe still a bit vague to even the experts.
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