This time I take on one of the average whisky Swede’s favourite categories: the sherrybomb. Sure, we do love our peated drams here, up in the North, but we also love a completely different kind of whisky, namely the one that’s got a clear character from sherry cask maturation. I have chosen three well-known so-called sherrybombs which have all been matured in Oloroso-casks and have the same dark, ruby-like amber colour. Let’s do this!
Glendronach 15 yo revival
General facts: According to the label this fifteen-year-old whisky is neither coloured nor chill-filtered and has an ABV of 46%. The distillery is situated in the Eastern Highlands and has for now stopped the sales of this more or less cult-declared bottling. However, according to one source they will re-start bottling and selling it sometime during 2018.
Nose: Big sweetness, pastries and dried fruits: cinnamon buns, raisins, dried dates. A slight sense of glue at first which quickly disappears. Then a special kind of spicy sweetness with light, malty note – kind of like tomato marmalade! And salted butter. After a while it smells of homemade coconut cookies dipped in dark chocolate. Somewhat closed nose at first, but does open up with time and with water transforms into sherry syrup times fifteen. With even more time a sense of polished wood (church bench) appears.
Taste: Still lightly buttery and at the same time incredibly spicy, with loads of cinnamon and cardamom. Dark chocolate, dark roasted hazelnuts. Incredibly rounded in flavour already before adding water, but with water it becomes even more clear just how well-balanced this dram is. Is it a slight smoke puff I sense? Perhaps just my imagination. One thing that is sure however, is how sticky sweet this whisky becomes as time progresses.
Finish: At first some malty chocolate, kind of like chocolate wafers almost, then the long finish continues with a lot of spiciness without any dry or astringent mouthfeel, really. A general, malty note lingers in the end on the tongue, with a rather expected sherry taste.
Aberlour A’bunadh #47
General facts: Aberlour distillery is situated in the heart of Speyside, despite saying “Highland” on the bottle (the quick and simple explanation is that the region of Speyside was back in the days also called Highland). A’Bunadh is – not surprising anyone – Gaelic and means “the original”, and just like the previous sherrybomb this bottling is also a whisky obvious to mention when discussing quality sherrybombs in certain circles. This specific batch of this NAS-whisky is bottled with an ABV of 60,7 % and is neither coloured nor chill-filtered.
Nose: Syrup – date syrup – and a youthful kind of freshness. The nose prickles a bit at first, but then comes citrus in the shape of dried, sugar coated orange zest (like the bits you get in your marmalade) and fresh grapefruit. No stale sherry note at all and more yellow fruits appears with sea buckthorn and also raisins. White pepper and burnt, candied almonds. With water the nose calms down and becomes significantly sweeter. The orange also becomes more evident.
Taste: Cola candy!! Raisins and a evidently sweet sherry note together with black pepper. The taste becomes drier with time. The almonds from the nose returns, together with a clear sense of burnt sugar. The citrus is still there, and some baked apples too. With water the nuttiness grows and turns into something like marzipan.
Finish: Medium length finish with dry sherry and citrus mixed with some bitter coffee notes, and the bitter notes becomes a bit more prominent with some water added. Overall a pretty light and pleasant aftertaste.
Glen Garioch 15 yo Sherry Cask
General facts: This is a travel retail bottling which is for sale in for example different airports and in Bordershop. The whisky is fifteen years old, has just like the previous two sherrybombs been matured in oloroso casks and has an ABV of 53,7%.
Nose: A clear maltiness together with quite a lot of fruit like fresh figs and sweet wort bread (a Swedish thing – “vörtbröd”) with lots of raisins. There is also a pretty dry spiciness and heavy sherry note without turning too sweet. With time the nose does, however, become sweeter with a fair share of vanilla fudge and a lovely walnut note appears. After adding water I sense citrus – lemon – and some chocolate.
Taste: Big, bold and somewhat taut flavour with an apparent sherry note with toasted bread. Burnt caramel sauce, dried apricots, raisins and still quite some sweetened walnuts. Kind of like slightly burnt pecan pie! The spices are there too, with allspice, ginger and cardamom. The whisky turns sweeter after adding some water and the malty flavour becomes more prominent with marmalade toast. The body of the whisky is rich and flavourful with dark chocolate and some coffee at the end.
Finish: Quite long and a bit dry aftertaste with loads of dried fruits and something that reminds me of a wiff of smoke, but not like “regular” smokiness you often find in whisky. I have no bloody clue of how to describe it, really. Dark chocolate and still lots of dry sherry after adding water.
How about a conclusion, then? First and foremost, what a yummy flight! då? I thought I was my “sherrybomb phase” was a feature of my past but now I really don’t know… I clearly have a soft spot for when nose and taste offers more than “just” sherry, and I do think these three whiskies do just that. Generally speaking they all have their individual advantages: the Glendronach is a real shapeshifter with a lovely complexity, the Aberlour is youthfully fresh which is nice together with heavy sherry, and the Glen Garioch is both classic and hearty in both nose and taste. The hubbie (yep, he was forced to play the part as guinea pig yet again, poor thing) and I discussed the trio at length and concluded as follows: he prefered Glendronach, I prefered Glen Garioch and both of us felt guilty for not choosing the most mischievous bottling of the three. What we ended up with was really a bunch of questions. Did he like GD the most due to the fact that it is sold out and hyped (not choosing it is probably as bad as swearing in church or uncorking a Laphroaig in Lagavulin’s visitor centre)? Did I prefer the GG since it is fairly easy to get a hold of (I live in the south of Sweden, fairly close to Germany) for a very decent price (like £45, but please don’t tell anyone!)? And is age more than a number, or did AA never stand a fair chance since it’s probably younger than the other two? Either way it’s clear that these three £50-ish-bottlings (referring to what GD cost in the Swedish monopoly stores when it was available) are really tasty and the whole thing feels kind of like choosing a favorite puppy out of a litter. I choose this one. And that one. Oh, and that one too….