Sherry bomb whiskies seem to be an ever-popular sub-category in the whisky realm.
Drinkers and enthusiasts rant and rave about the “Top 10 Best Sherry Bombs” or claim the best whisky in the world can be categorised as a “Sherry Bomb.” But what is a Sherry Bomb? Well I’ve seen them described as “whiskies that are matured either exclusively or for the majority of their maturation period in sherry casks (most often mostly first-fill).” An additional caveat would be that some are cask strength, but this is not always the case.
You think “Sherry Bomb” and concrete examples come to mind. Macallan releases, Abelour A’bunadh batch releases, Glengoyne tea pot dram and Glendronach 15 and 18 year old expressions. Some cask strength whiskies, some not. A mixture of different sherry cask maturations from Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Fino… the list is quite varied. Uniquely, they do offer a broad range of flavours when maturing whisky.
Sherry casks have always been a common cask maturation choice for distilleries in the whisky industry across the world, not just in Scotland. I can’t seem to find many expressions out there labelled a “Sherry Bomb” that don’t come from Scotland. Maybe something to investigate for a future contribution for Malt, perhaps? Although I think that might become costly very quickly, as I don’t have many whiskies outside of the British Isles at home. A few come to mind outside of Scotland such as the Redbreast Lustau, Mano A Lamh, or Dreamcask series. Or, you could look at the Kavalan Sherry Oak Single Malt. You can venture far and wide to investigate what sherry expressions are available today on the global whisky market.
The review today is an alternative Sherry Bomb, that won’t break the bank: Glenfarclas 105!
The expression started back in 1968 as a Christmas gift to family and friends from George S. Grant. It was eventually re-named “105,” referring to its alcohol content in Imperial/British Proof(not the American proof you would see on bourbons/ryes/American Single malts which is normally double the ABV).
You don’t see an awful lot of Imperial/British proof on bottlings. It comes from using the formula ‘4/7ths’ (four sevenths). 4/7th of 106 equals 60. You can thank the ole Imperial system for this simply non-sensical way to tell us the alcohol strength. A quick segue: the word proof comes from the sense of showing that something is true or correct. Back in the 16th century, the Parliament of England would test the amount of alcohol content in a liquor by soaking a gun pellet with it and attempting to light the wet pellet on fire. If the wet gunpowder could be lit, the alcohol was said to be a proof spirit and would therefore be taxed higher. There you go!
Nowadays the expression is bottled at 60% ABV. Glenfarclas 105 doesn’t carry an age statement; maybe the only non-age statement whisky within the Glenfarclas core range. However, it is suggested that it is matured for eight to 10 years in a combination of both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels. “Bourbon barrels!” I hear you shout. Those don’t make for the traditional sherry bomb whiskies. No mention on the label or packaging of no added colour, or non-chill filtered.
On paper, this is a good and cheaper alternative to some other popular cask strength Sherry Bombs out there that seem to be continually climbing in price with each new batch number… you all know which brand I speak of. You can find this at most online speciality drink retailers. When writing this piece, Amazon UK have this bottle priced at £58.35, Master of Malt for £47.90, and The Whisky Exchange for £55.95.
Glenfarclas 105 – Review
Colour: Golden syrup.
On the nose: Aggressive and intense on first smell. Quite loud, shouting at me. It’s rounded with some dense dark fruits. I’m getting some stewed fruit sweetness with a blast of alcohol in there too. The high ABV rings through. Trying quite hard to get past the intensity on the nose, but you can begin to pick out some green elements. A little mint and Granny Smith apples. Fresh sherry envelops the senses with fudge, toffee, and a little honey. It’s not the most complex nose and my guess is that it’s leaning towards quite a young spirit.
With this being a hefty 60% ABV, let’s add a little water to the mix and see what happens?
With about 5ml of water, the nose rounds off in a nice way. The initial intensity calms and more of that sherry freshness comes through. More brown sugar and toffee. I fear that this will be very quiet, very quickly if too much water is added, so be careful.
In the mouth: That intensity is right there on sipping. The tip of the tongue is prickly and the sherry freshness from the nose takes over in the mouth. Think of a blast of mushed peach. The entirety of the mouth is covered with fruit sweetness; it’s almost quite oily. Some astringency there, too, and a little sour once finished. That hot element on the nose lingers, with corn syrups, vanilla, and caramel. After sipping and taking a deep breath, you can just feel intense hit of alcohol rush around your mouth and into the lungs!
A little water and a second sip; you can calm your own senses down and not fear of the punch in the face from this dram. Like the nose, it’s quieter with a touch of water and a bit more rounded. Less of that alcohol blast. It’s sweet, but I can’t seem to get past or shake the youthful element of this whisky. Not a lot more to add to the taste when water is added.
A nice dram, one that would scratch the itch if you’re looking for a Sherry Bomb experience. Not overly complex, and decent enough for the money. It can fade away quite quickly with water added, and you do need some water because it’s quite intense on arrival and as it opens. I’ve had this dram alongside a cigar before and it was an enjoyable experience. Good pairing if you’re looking for something sweet alongside a cigar.
Photo courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.