I think my liking of bourbon naturally leads me to pick a sherry bomb ahead of a peat monster if I had to choose. I am not entirely sure what the defines a sherry bomb, but I tend to see it as whiskies that have been fully matured in sherry whereas sherried whiskies are ones that have been finished in a type of ex sherry barrel – most notably Pedro Ximenez or Olorosso. The most notable example that come to my mind is Aberlour A’bunadh. There are people that are averse to sherry bombs as others are to peat monsters – I guess each to their own. I am just glad that I can appreciate both ends of the spectrum.
I have issue with sherried whiskies however. These are single malts that have been finished in ex sherry casks. In general, I get the taste of dark fruits, nuts and vanilla with single malts that have been finished in ex sherry casks. If you are unlucky enough to come across a single malt that has been finished in poor quality casks, then you should also be able to pick up strong tannin notes which come across as bitter and rough – for want of a better term.
Having tried core entry level bottlings and some more mature bottlings from distilleries across speyside – where you will find more distilleries using sherry casks – I find that I was either becoming more bored with the style or desensitised to the sherry influence. Tamnavullin, Strathisla, Tamdhu and Cragganmore spring to mind. I can level this accusation at distilleries that mature their whiskies exclusively in bourbon. I stick to my mantra that there are no whiskies that I dislike, just whiskies that I like more. So, I am not being snobby by trying to infer that I think they are inferior – I just don’t find them interesting.
There are two distilleries renowned for their sherry influenced single malts that have caught my attention. These are Aberlour and Glenfarclas. Aberlour finish their single malts in sherry casks and I find that their whiskies have that bit extra to the others, I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Aberlour 10-Year-Old is one the best value single malts around in my opinion. Then there’s the full on Aberlour A’bunadh which is a single cask and can be classed as a full-on sherry bomb. If you want a sherry bomb experience, then try this. I have heard about batch variation and standards sometimes slipping so if you are unlucky you may get one with strong tannic features. Glenfarclas are probably as close as you can really get to craft distilling as I believe the whole whisky making process remains in house. I have been through most of their range and have not been disappointed so far. Glenfarclas 12 sticks out as being rather funky but nice.
I have noticed a trend throughout my whisky journey, and you may have had this too, I naturally gravitate to a few distilleries. In my opinion if you want a good quality sherried single malt experience then you cannot go wrong with Aberlour or Glenfarclas. I should give a mention to Glendronach – their single malts are highly rated, but I have not tried enough of their bottles to pass a well informed view.
P.S. In terms of peated whiskies I tend to gravitate towards Ledaig and Talisker.