06 Apr The Big Whisky Debate: Bourbon or Sherry Casks
As Scotland’s oldest working distillery, Glenturret Distillery has plenty of wisdom to share. So join our Drammolier™Lucy Whitehall, as she takes on some of the biggest debates in the world of whisky…
Bourbon or Sherry Casks?
“When it comes to drinking whisky, it is all about the taste experience. Whisky is, without doubt, the most flavoursome of all the spirits. What other spirit can give you notes of chocolate, citrus and smokiness all in one taste? This is what makes whisky so exciting and unique.
It’s also why I love what I do so much!
Choosing a cask has the biggest influence on the flavours created and, ultimately the nosing and tasting experience you have when savouring a dram. Each cask offers subtle shades of character and, amazingly, up to 70% of the flavour that you taste in whisky comes from the cask.
So we know the cask is very important. But, what are the main differences between bourbon and sherry casks? They are quite distinctly different, so once you know what to look for, you should be able to tell the difference quite easily.
Bourbon barrels tend to impart lighter characteristics such as vanilla and coconut whereas sherry seasoned casks tend to impart heavier characteristics such as dried fruits and spices. I like to describe a sherry cask as a bit like a rich Christmas cake.
Our Glenturret Single Malt is matured in both ex Sherry seasoned and ex Bourbon seasoned casks. Our Glenturret distillery character is light and fruity in style. Our range of casks that mature our new make spirit help to create an exciting array of flavourful whiskies that span from our light aperitif style 10 year old Glenturret to the rich vanilla sponge cake and toffee tones of our 18 year old single cask Glenturret and beyond.
Both casks add desirable flavours to maturing whisky and choosing the right cask to compliment the spirit is vital in achieving the best balance of flavours. For example, if you have a lighter spirit with lots of subtle flavours, putting it into a new sherry cask may overpower it. Likewise, if you have a heavier style of spirit, then a bourbon barrel may be too light in flavour to compliment the spirit.
When you have a heavily peated spirit, both cask styles can work to dial up different flavours. Bourbon casks can enhance the peaty phenols in the final whisky or sherry casks can balance the smoky tones with sweet richer tones.
The spirit and cask combination is a real marriage of flavour fusions. Then, factors like the length of maturation time will have an influence on the intensity of the flavours.
Light and heavy on the nose and palate are the big indicators of the type of cask your whisky came from. See which characteristics you can spot on the nose and palate next time you’re enjoying a dram.
For this whisky debate, there is no winner or loser. Cask choice comes down to personal preference. Every whisky drinker’s palate is different and whichever dram you enjoy and how you drink it is up to you. Our world of whisky would be a pretty boring place to visit if we all liked the exact same flavours.
At Glenturret Distillery, we have a range of tours that will give you the opportunity to taste the different casks for yourself. Our Warehouse Experience includes our award winning distillery tour, a taste of four fine whiskies and a magical peek at hundreds of sleeping casks in our very special warehouse.”
Taste the whiskies mentioned by Lucy:
Learn more about the Warehouse Experience at our Distillery: