Sherry IS wine, dumbass.

Today’s story comes from the inimitable Mark Reynier of Bruichladdich. This is a response to purists who decry the use of wine casks for additional maturation.

There is a school of opinion that objects to the use of wine casks for
single malt whisky. This raises several controversial issues. True,
wine casks have indeed been exploited by some bottlers for outright
marketing reasons but I argue that this subject is a much more complex
one than just marketing.

Firstly I confess, guilty as charged, that at Bruichladdich we have
been using wine casks er…since 1881. Wine casks for whisky are not new
sherry, after all, is a wine.

“I have noticed, in the forty-five years since I began to study whisky,
that the general style of most if not all kinds has changed…The older
whiskies were darker in colour, from being kept in golden Sherry or
Madeira casks, rather sweeter in taste, and rather heavier in texture;
the newer are lighter in both the first and the last aspect, and much
drier in taste.” This was the introduction of Bourbon casks (made from
Quercus Alba, or white oak) and was written in 1920.

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Best of: Beau on Sherry (Part 2)

Beau Jarvis writes an excellent blog called Basic Juice.
Beau really knows his wine, and takes an unpretentious look at what is basically fermented grape juice – hence the name of his site.

Very Simply Sherry 2

Now that you know a little about the epic history of Sherry, It’s time to learn what all the fuss was about.  Buckle up.  I’ll do my best to explain how Sherry is produced and which grape varieties are used to produce the various styles of this Spanish treat.

Part 2: “Waiter! There’s a 100 Year Old Wine in My Sherry.”

What would you say if I told you that a glass of 100+ year old wine
will cost only a few bucks at a tapas bar?  This is the beauty of
Sherry.  Sherry is a blended, non-vintage wine – and in some cases, a
portion of the wine used in the blend is decades old. Sherry producers
go to great lengths to produce a consistent ‘house style.’  In this
respect, Sherry is similar to Champagne.  Of course, in most other
respects, Sherry is utterly unique.

Hot and Dirty

Jerez, the demarcated Sherry production zone,
is situated in the southernmost region of Spain.  The region’s
otherwise toasty climate is moderated by the Atlantic Ocean.  Still,
only a few miles inland, summer temperatures can reach 100F, while
coastal communities enjoy much cooler air (~20F cooler).  In addition
to hot hot heat in the summer time, Jerez experiences essentially
drought conditions from June through October.  Grapes growing in this
environment need to be tough.  The luckiest vines grow smack-dab in the
middle of the Sherry Triangle (the 3-town triangle, which forms the nucleus of Jerez).  In this sweet spot, spongy, water-retaining Albariza soils slake the thirst of hot grapes during the hostile growing season.  Albariza
is a chalky, calcareous soil.  In fact, vineyard sites within Jerez are
ranked by the amount and depth of calcareous minerals within the soil.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Beau on Sherry (Part 1)

Beau Jarvis writes an excellent blog called Basic Juice.
Beau really knows his wine, and takes an unpretentious look at what is basically fermented grape juice – hence the name of his site.

I believe that sherry (via the casks) is a little understood, though extremely important, part of the whisky experience. And since I know just enough to be dangerous in this area,  I asked Beau if he was interested in doing a piece on sherry for us.

He thought this was a great idea, and over the next three installments, we’ll be reading Beau’s thoughts on sherry.

If you love wine, like wine or are interested in wine, I highly suggest you add Basic Juice to your list of frequently visited sites. And now, Beau teaches us about sherry…

Very Simply Sherry 1


Sherry is one of the wine world’s most undervalued creations.  Sherry’s history alone could fill up a War and Peace-sized volume. Additionally, the production of Sherry, and its numerous
styles, is complex enough to add a second volume to Sherry’s tome.

When confronted by Sherry & its vocabulary, many modern wine drinkers
become dazed & confused by terms like flor, fino, olorosa, criadera and solera.
It’s easier to walk on by.  However, a little time investment in
understanding Sherry, will open up an entirely new world of wine scents
and flavors.  Allow me to present Sherry in a user friendly, 3-part format.  Who knows, you may experience the sudden urge to grab a bottle and whip up a few tapas.  It could happen.

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Animal Farm

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

George Orwell, Animal Farm

Irreverent, quirky, independent, are just three of the terms used to describe the eccentrically named whiskies Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose. The terms apply equally well to the brands’ owner, drinks marketer Alex Nicol.

A former COO of Whyte and Mackay, Alex took on the two brands when he left the company in mid 2005. Alex says:

These brands are typical orphan brands discarded by large companies for being unworkable into International brands – and too quirky to succeed in their portfolio.

So Alex set up Spencerfield Spirit, a home for parent-less brands.

Sheep Dip – a blend of single malt whiskies – and Pig’s Nose – a blended scotch – are perfect for a small company such as ours, dedicated to providing a quality alternative to mainstream brands. It’s that simple”.

Alex has four rules for raising his orphan brands. “No 1, achieve the best possible product quality. No 2, avoid discounting. No 3, work only with partners who share your business philosophy”. And the fourth? “Have as much fun as you can doing it and try not to go bust”.

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Imerman wins big; shares win.

Just a quick note to laud Vivian Imerman who, out of his own pocket, gave 600 members of the Whyte & Mackay workforce a 3 month bonus.

The source of this windfall? The profit Imerman made from the sale of W&M to Vijay Mallya.

This type of corporate generosity is incredibly rare – most of the upper echelons who come by huge profits tend to pocket it. I am really pleased that such a large and unexpected profit sharing came from within the Scotch Whisky industry.

Bravo, Mr. Imerman.

is this bartending?

Don’t ask me how I come across this stuff.

This video came up in a search with the description:

At vote JC as Best Bartender in South Florida.
Rate more hot bartenders on personality, cocktail, & looks at

Macallan Rocks

While this is a very complicated drink, I wondered if "JC" was a one-hit wonder.

Nope. He amazed me with this Scotch drink as well:

Glenlivet Rocks

How could you NOT vote for this guy????

My response to Carl's comment…

I thought this response was important enough to make it’s own post…my response to Carl’s comment from the previous story…

I certainly don’t want to turn this into some sort of feud between Mr. MacLean and myself. He has a great body of work, which I respect and enjoy.

And god knows I’ve pissed enough people off.

I agree that Mr. MacLean seems to affirm that he feels that the SWA is playing bully to the Indian government. He does not say "I never said that".

But he certainly also tenders his support for the SWA.

I currently have the very enviable position of simply being a pundit with a number of opinions and a website which I use to make my opinions known.

And thankfully, I do not rely on anyone associated with the whisky industry for my income. As a result, I am free to say what I believe, and not feel obligated to play both sides.

It’s a freedom which I enjoy – but which also ensures I’ll forever be on the outside of this industry. (You don’t piss off Charles MacLean, Paul Pacult and Diageo and expect to be named a "Keeper of the Quaich").

In the Indian situation, I think it is apparent to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the issue that the Indian Government is playing protectionism at its most blatant – and spitting in the face of free-market economies – all the while whining about not being allowed open access to markets.

Did you all know that Mr. Mallya is a member of India’s Parliament?
– He is.

See the connection?
- I do.

Charles MacLean responds on

Rob Draper of just emailed to let me know that they’ll have an interview with the Scotch Whisky Association’s David Williamson on the Whyte and Mackay Purchase and Charlie MacLean clarifies the Indian Newspaper Story later this evening.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it on my Mac:)

SWA statement on UB Group

The SWA will be releasing a brief press release reaffirming their desire to work with UB on "matters of mutual interest" in regard to protecting and promoting Scotch whisky in the world market.

The saga ends. And starts.

As reported here yesterday, the UB Group purchase of Whyte & Mackay closed today. The final price was GBP 595 million (US $1.18 billion). Not bad considering Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose (a single product) to Bacardi for US $2.3 billion.

Now the fun starts. Mallya plans to introduce Whyte & Mackay’s brands to the Indian
market immediately. However with the punitive tariffs still in place, that will make Jura & Dalmore very expensive products.

Will, as I suggested in the past, the Indian government mysteriously and suddenly cave in to WTO demands and remove the tariffs, or does Mallya have something up his sleeve whereby Indian-owned products get the same pass as Indian made products?

If so, that’s sure to piss of the SWA even more.

Stay tuned. I can assure you, this soap opera is not over.