Whiskies aged in first-fill Sherry butts are especially so, and those drawn entirely from such sherried stock are invariably known as “sherry bombs” for the potent flavors the malt whisky has derived from its time spent mingling with the sherry-soaked wood. The ‘Sherried’ character, therefore, is down to the Sherry itself, but also oxidation and the way in which the Sherry has interacted with and changed compounds in the oak. All of these then interact over time with the maturing spirit.

The Sherry and wood form a pincer movement that stamps out distillery character or any sense of identity in the distillate itself. For me, a great Sherry-matured malt should possess a balance between distillery identity, fruitiness, earthiness and a lick of spice. Sherry bombs almost always eschew this tightrope balance in favour of heat, density and aggression of wood flavor.

The Glenrothes is a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky distillery located in the town of Rothes in the heart of the Speyside region of Scotland. The distillery sits beside the Burn of Rothes, hidden in a glen on the edge of the town.

Matured only in sherry seasoned oak casks and bottled at natural color with a character of vanilla, melon, and cinnamon. About 90% of Glenrothes’ whisky is matured in sherry casks, giving it a rounded character, a resonant aroma, and the potential to successfully age for a very long time.

ABV: 40%. Color: Dark gold

There’s plenty of sherry-driven citrus up front, followed by a bold almond note, making for a quite nutty expression of Glenrothes. Light fragrance, banana and vanilla. A light aroma of mint, melon, honey, and nut brittle. There’s a fair bit of sherry on the nose, with walnut, apple skins, and a touch of struck match.

A soft, creamy mouth feel that’s very much contiguous with the nose. Banana, lemon and melon with a hint of cinnamon. There’s more honey, more melon, more mint, and more nut brittle. Things move along with a touch of vanilla bean, a light dusting of cinnamon and clove, and a short, sweet, sugary finish that reminds me of glazed donut holes. 

Long and sweet, gala melon with light spice. only that light kick from the sulfur disrupts the balance here. Yet it hardly detracts from the overall experience; one could argue it adds complexity to the malt. In any case, this is the challenge when using a high proportion of first-fill sherry casks.

Balance, Body & Feel
Has a much more soothing, lingering, pastoral finish. This Glenrothes 12 Year Old is a good candidate for an aperitif whisky, and might go well with pre-dinner savories like cheese, nuts, and salami.