Welcome to the first in this series of three: a deep dive into the trinity of casks that allow us to age our Irish Whiskey to perfection. Oloroso sherry, red ale and Kentucky bourbon: these recycled casks once held a different story, but have now become part of something new.
Firstly, let’s talk about Oloroso sherry.
We’ll start with the simple stuff, the basics - an Oloroso sherry cask is a barrel that has previously held Oloroso sherry. Truly mind-blowing stuff; but… the story isn’t as simple as it first appears.
Oloroso sherry cask - credit: Decanter
The Sherry Triangle
One thing about Oloroso sherry, it must always be produced in Spain. More specifically, sherry wines come from the town of Jerez de la Frontera in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. In the same way that Irish whiskey must only be produced in Ireland, sherry can only be produced here in the region known as the “sherry triangle”.
Interestingly, Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey is produced and triple cask matured in an area of Dublin known as the “whiskey triangle” or “golden triangle”. Although whiskey doesn’t have to be produced in this specific area of Ireland, it is a historic area which is famous for high-quality whiskey production, and is home to some of the best distilleries in the Emerald Isle.
The Solera System
Another unique thing about sherry is the solera system. And no, we haven’t just had one too many sherries and started talking about planets orbiting the sun. The solera system is a unique way of aging wine – and since it is written in law that sherry barrels must only be emptied a third at a time – it’s not just a tradition. When a third of the liquid from the oldest barrel is bottled, it is replaced by sherry from the second oldest barrel, which is replaced with sherry from the third oldest and so on along the solera line.
The one third law means that sherry barrels are never empty and always in use, therefore some barrels used in the sherry triangle are over 200 years old!
Solera system - credit: Sherry Notes
If you'd like to read more about the history of sherry and the solera system, then check out this great guide by Sherry Notes.
Oloroso And Whiskey
If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking “how are Oloroso sherry casks used to mature Irish whiskey, if they are part of the solera system?” Well; the Oloroso casks that are used for whiskey have either held the sherry to transport it (prior to the 1980s when it was ruled that all sherry must be bottled in Spain) or have held sherry that will go on to be used to make sherry brandy or sherry vinegar. While the Oloroso is in these barrels, some of the liquid soaks into the wood’s pores, imparting its unique flavour into the cask.
A Cask Full of Character
Oloroso sherry is a fortified wine, meaning it has been strengthened with spirits to produce a higher alcohol strength. Oloroso is one of the darkest sherry types available and is characteristically strong and dry. Oloroso means “scented” in Spanish and the sherry is suitably aromatic with its popular nutty, fruity taste.
Irish whiskeys that have matured in Oloroso sherry casks such as Malones Triple Cask are usually dark and smooth, with hints of nut and dark fruit.
Oloroso casks are popular for maturing whiskey due to their harmonious character, and their aromatic contributions to the finished liquid. Thanks to Oloroso sherry casks, Malones Irish Whiskey is infused with rustic oak and the ripe flavours of dark fruits such as plums and figs. They also provide the whiskey with a soft, full mouthfeel.
Exquisitely Triple Cask Matured
Malones Irish Whiskey is a triple cask matured whiskey. The combination of Oloroso sherry, Kentucky bourbon and red ale casks results in aromas of fresh citrus alongside crisp vegetal notes and oak spices that develop on the nose into hearty fruitcake. On the palate, green apples evolve into demerara sugar and caramelised pear, leaving a lasting impression of spice, sweet apple, cinnamon and silky vanilla.
Sample this sumptuous triple cask combination with a bottle of Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey. As with all whiskey, it’s made to be savoured, so take some time to appreciate the delicious contributions of the Oloroso sherry Casks!