Within certain circles of whisky nerdery (at least the sixth I’d say – possibly the seventh) admitting to partiality for a “sherry bomb” carries a stigma so big you could bury a Pharaoh in it. The malted equivalent of pining for Coldplay at a Mozart recital (or pining for Coldplay at an Infant Department’s Triangle free-for-all) or asking where the ketchup bottle is at a sushi restaurant or uttering the phrase “and if I could go back in time I’d vote for Nick Clegg all over again”.
Yes, the average sherry fiend is viewed by the whisky purist in much the same light as the average American is by the French. And so, for the most part, they sensibly keep shtum, at least within the digital bubble, and insist that what they’re absolutely in the market for is something elegant and refined and grown-up and as sans oak as possible; “if it’s not aged in fifth fill ex-bourbon or first-fill bin liner then I don’t want it, honest, guv – no A’Bunadhs round here”.
On which basis I ought to assume that the speed at which anything with a hint of dark colour sells out online is entirely down to the click rate of the ignorant mob?
Somehow I think not. With very, very few exceptions we all love a first fill sherry cask regardless of whether we admit it. Mark’s fondness for fruitcake (or plum jam and game jus, looking back through his notes – but neither were alliterative) is thoroughly documented, but he’s hardly a Malt Review anomalous point. Look through Phil’s digital portfolio and you’ll find ample evidence of less-grumpy attitudes towards more-sherried expressions. And then there’s our token Scot. Jason takes every opportunity to protest his disdain for the cast-off casks of Jerez, but take a look at what (I think?) is the only 10 out of 10 he’s ever awarded and you can’t but assume a case of the Irn Bru correspondent protesting too much. [Update: literally a day after I wrote that sentence he awarded another one. He’s anyone’s fool these days.] Beyond our little cadre of keyboard-wielding malcontents, we need look no further than the sale rate of the Re-charred Oloroso edition of Kilkerran 8 year old. You can’t tell me that was solely the handiwork of colour-led whisky neophites? No, I don’t believe you.
The disclaimer, of course, is that if you can’t tell where the distillate’s come from then there’s not much point in it being a single malt, however tasty the liquid might be. The point – and this is hardly a revolutionary point; not original at all really – is to ameliorate, not to swamp. As I said in my last whisky article on The Lakes Colheita, a diverse cask programme should be to the end of effectively talking about differing subjects in the same, recognisable tone of voice. Or else we might as well just drink a sherried-beyond-recognition vatted malt for a lot less money. Which, from time to time, I will cheerfully do.
As you’d expect, given the preamble, today’s glassful is of the sherried disposition. It’s the latest instalment in the core range which the Cotswolds are gradually and diligently compiling and which also includes, to date, their core malt, the Founder’s Choice (STR casks) and the Peated Cask. A bourbon cask edition, I believe, should follow at some point next year.
Sherry’s not a guise we’ve seen much Cotswolds in before. I tasted a distillery exclusive a year or so ago, but I didn’t buy a bottle or have my notepad handy, so my memories of it are cursory and unhelpful. Their flagship malt is a blend of ex-bourbon and ex-wine casks which have been shaved, toasted and recharred. And, without having yet tasted the new Sherry Cask (I write 90% of my pre-ambles before tasting a drink, which is why my conclusions occasionally have an egg-faced flavour) I can’t help but wonder whether the wine casks fit with the Cotswolds’ softly-summer-fruited base spirit a little more naturally than I’d imagine the darker, richer flavours of sherry to. Just idle postulation, obviously – always happy to be proven wrong.
On which note, let’s get stuck in. The Cotswolds Sherry Cask has been vatted from a blend of Spanish and American oak seasoned with dry Oloroso and sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry. (I like the detail and the transparency of admitting “seasoned with”, incidentally.) It has been bottled at a brawny 57.4% abv and a bottle will cost you £64.95 from their website.
Cotswolds Sherry Cask – review
Colour: Tiger’s Eye.
On the nose: Has the feel of being very sensitively sherried. There’s a roasty-toastiness, a little game jus (one for you there Mark) and the end of an enthusiastically baked Christmas cake in here, but it’s not too dark and murky – the rounder, softer Cotswolds fruits are very much in evidence. Baked apple. Pears poached in red wine. A little caramelised ginger.
In the mouth: Youth and proof lend a spikiness here, but it’s mainly enveloped by that typically plump, rich texture. There’s a nice marriage of sweetness and spice. Chocolate digestives and black pepper. Golden syrup, toast and burned orange rind. Walnut and bitter chocolate. Again the sherry’s influence doesn’t feel overblown, but neither is it an inconsequential half-brush. This still carries the clear Cotswolds stamp, being anchored by some juicy red berries and vanilla cream. Very good. Just a rough edge and maybe an extra layer away from the epic scores.
Another very tasty whisky from the Cotswolds. I’m not quite as in love with it as I am with the Founder’s Choice, but I like it very much nonetheless and will happily buy a bottle once the geophysicist’s birthday is safely in the rearview. Fans of The Cotswolds, of sherry-influenced malt and of distillate-driven spirits should find in this whisky a cheerful intersection of their venn diagram.
Images and sample kindly provided by Cotswolds.