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Fino Sherry and Kilchoman Cask Maturation

May 13, 2023

Following on from the success of the Fino Sherry Cask Matured Limited Release in 2020, the first global release of that cask type from Kilchoman, a 2023 limited release is now hitting shelves around the world again.

On Anthony & Kathy’s visit to Jerez earlier this year, they were able to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of how Fino Sherry is produced and matured.

What is Fino Sherry?

Fino Sherry is a type of dry sherry that comes from the Jerez region of southern Spain.  It is made using the palomino grape variety, which is grown in the unique albariza soil of the region.  The unique feature of Fino Sherry is that it is aged biologically under a layer of yeast known as ‘velo de flor’.  This layer protects the wine from oxidation and imparts a distinctive delicate, fresh, dry and nutty flavour and aroma.

Manzanilla is another sherry type that is matured biologically but it has to be matured in Sanlucar de Barrameda, next to the sea, meaning the climate conditions will be different from fino casks maturing in Jerez for example, all of which influences the maturation process.

In Sanlucar de Barrameda the temperature remains cooler and fresher, even in the summer months.  The Atlantic Sea breeze keeps things fresher and cooler, resulting in a thicker flor being maintained throughout the year.  Manzanilla sherries will be paler in colour and more delicate on the nose.

Fino Sherry Maturation

Just like any other living organism, the yeast responsible for creating the flor needs a series of conditions in order to develop and survive.

Temperature and humidity – the flor requires mild temperatures and a high level of humidity.  During the summer months in Jerez, extra care and attention has to be given to the maturing fino sherries.  The layer of flor will become thinner due to the rise in temperature, so there is more interaction with the oak and increased oxidation.  To continue as a fino sherry, that layer of flor has to be maintained throughout its full maturation.  When the temperature outside can be as high as 40 degrees Celsius, essential steps are taken to keep the warehouse as cool as possible, for example, the warehouse floor will be watered to keep it cooler, fresher and more humid inside the bodega.

-Oxygen – the velo de flor needs a certain amount of oxygen for its survival, therefore the butts cannot be totally sealed or filled.

-Alcohol – to survive, the alcohol must remain between 15-16%

The Solera System

The solera system plays an important role in the ageing of the wine.  The flor requires a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen to survive.  To maintain the system, the same amount of wine that is removed from the bottom row for bottling has to be replaced with the same quantity of wine from the cask on the row above, and so on.  This technique provides micro-nutrients and specific quantities of oxygen which stimulate the regeneration and growth of the velo de flor.  The yeast respiration quickly depletes this oxygen supply, leaving the wine once again protected under the flor.

Fino Sherry is gaining popularity around the world as a unique and versatile wine with a distinctive flavour profile.  It’s recommended to be served chilled as an aperitif or alongside seafood or tapas, it was certainly a big hit with Kathy and Anthony!

So what influences do we get on our whisky when we mature in fino sherry casks?

Fino Sherry is a light, dry type of sherry, originating from the Jerez region in southern Spain. Fino is produced from the Palomino grape variety. Due to Fino being more delicate than Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez, the grapes used to produce Fino are grown in top-quality soils such as the chalky albariza marls. Once the grapes are ready to harvest, they are picked and fermented into a light wine which is then fortified with distilled wine, reaching approximately 15% abv.  It is then aged under a layer of yeast, known as ‘velo de flor’ to prevent contact with the air, minimising the risk of oxidation. The casks used during this ageing process are American oak butts which are stored using the traditional solera system in the bodega. The average maturation sits between 4 – 7 years. When using these casks at Kilchoman for maturing our spirit, flavour profiles of yeast, dough and almonds can easily be identified while also providing a rich saline profile with hints of fresh herbs.

Kilchoman Fino Sherry Cask Matured 2023 Limited Release

The Fino Sherry Cask Matured 2023 Limited Edition becomes Kilchoman’s second ever release to be matured in ex Fino Sherry Casks. Anthony and Robin hand-selected a total of 20 Fino Sherry Butts of which the spirit was distilled in 2018 and aged for a minimum of five years.

Nose: Elegant, dry peat smoke on the initial nosing, gradually opens to the unmistakable fruity character of Kilchoman. The distinct influence from the Fino Sherry casks provides dry, smoked oak which balances with the smoke found in the heavily peated Kilchoman malt. A lasting aroma of sweet butterscotch as the whisky begins to open.

Palate: Honeycomb sweetness can be found immediately on the palate, gradually giving way to rich toffee and caramel. The Kilchoman spirit brings together candied fruits and the fresh citrus found in the distillation. Flaked almonds and a delicate peat smoke remain throughout.

Finish: Long-lasting considered finish combining the malty spirit of Kilchoman, with the ripened citrus fruit profile provided by the Fino Sherry casks. A subtle peat smoke which has coated the palate right through now shares the finish with hints of dark chocolate.

“The Fino Sherry maturation works incredibly well with our classic Kilchoman character. The 2023 release elevates the fragrant green apple, stewed fruits and sweet citrus while allowing for the unmistakeable Kilchoman peat smoke to linger on the palate. Fino is another example of sherry casks working together, not against, our Kilchoman spirit,”

Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder

Click here for more information about our Fino Sherry Cask Matured Limited Edition Release.

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