Sherry cask finished whiskeys, and even whiskeys aged entirely in sherry casks, are popular in the whiskey world. Perhaps you’ve heard the terms Oloroso sherry, or Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry used in whiskey conversation. What do those names mean? Is there even a difference between them? And can you actually taste a variance in the whiskey? Let’s find out.
What is sherry? For the sake of this article, I’m going to give you the simplest definition. Sherry is a fortified wine made in a specific region of Spain. If your curiosity impels you to want to know more, then a quick Google search should do the trick.
How many types of sherry are there? There are actually eight different kinds of sherry. Oloroso and PX are just two varietals. Of the eight, Fino is the driest, PX is the sweetest, and Oloroso falls about in the middle.
Why are ex Oloroso and PX casks the most popular for aging whiskey? I actually don’t know the answer to this question. I just know that they are. If you know then please include it in the comments below.
What’s the difference in flavor between the two? Oloroso sherries typically have a rich dark flavor in which you’ll find caramel, walnut, and deep fruit notes. PX sherry is incredibly sweet and you’ll get even darker flavors like toffee, fig, raisin, and molasses.
How do the two types of sherry affect a whiskey’s flavor? As you might guess, the aromas and flavors listed above – respectively – are what each sherry has to offer the whiskey. But there are also other elements to consider when it comes to how much the sherry imparts. For example, was the whiskey aged entirely in a sherry barrel, or was it only finished in one for a few months? Was it a first fill sherry cask, or a refill cask? How old is the whiskey?
To help you know what to expect when it comes to flavor, we developed the flowchart below. While there will always be exceptions to the rules with whiskey, this will get you pretty darn close. If you find this flowchart helpful, then download a copy and share it with others.
— Zac Smith