*Sincere thanks to Stranahan’s and Exposure PR for the sample.
Ok, I’ll try to make this will be the last time I mention that great 2016 trip to Stranahan’s. One of the highlights of that first Cask Thief event was trying some three year old whiskey that had been aged for an additional two years in a 40 year old Oloroso sherry butt. It was a rich, complex young whiskey that seemed to balance the Stranahan’s house style and the sherry well. At the time, I reported that the distillery hadn’t done much experimenting with sherry casks and unfortunately, there wouldn’t be anything like this on the shelves in the near future. Shows how much I know…
Stranahan’s Sherry Cask Colorado Single Malt Whiskey was first released late in 2017 and will be part of the core lineup alongside the Original and the Diamond Peak. This one was created from four year old whiskeys that had been finished for an undisclosed amount of time in 40 year old Oloroso butts. Note that while a lot of sherry-matured whiskeys make use of new oak casks that have been seasoned with new, base-level sherries, this whiskey rested for a while in old casks that had held sherry for a loooooong time. One of the reasons I was excited about the sherry cask I tried at the distillery was, to me, the Stranahan’s flavor profile of strong oak, dark fruit, vanilla and chocolate would seem to play very well with the influence a sherry cask might impart. So, with that in mind, I’m glad to see this new addition to the Stranahan’s range hit the shelves.
The Nose: A surprising amount of sherry right off the bat. There’s candied almonds, fudge brownies with nuts, spiced orange, cherry pie filling, and raisins. Notes of fruitcake, lemon oil polish, and subtle malt syrup follow. Subdued oak with a bit too much of that lemon furniture polish applied, along with baking spices – vanilla bean, nutmeg, clove and candied ginger – and a faint hint of oiled leather.
The Palate: Initially quite zippy with a familiar oily mouthfeel and…lots of sherry. More candied almonds, cherry cough syrup, plump raisins, and juicy citrus. After that, maple extract, burnt sugar, a bit more dry fruit cake, along with salted mixed nuts, and melted dark chocolate. Stronger youthful oak – grippy, rough-sawn boards. Hot cinnamon, vanilla bean, clove, ginger, and black pepper. This gets a little hot and quite bitter towards the end.
The Finish: Slightly numbing and a little too bitter with cola, burnt sugar, tannic oak, woody cinnamon, ginger and black pepper dust.
Thoughts: Fairly decent, but also a little confusing. For a slightly older than four year old whiskey, I thought this lacked the richness of the Diamond Peak. And at the same time thought it was a little too influenced by those old Oloroso casks. The nose had an interesting complexity, with a paler, more amontillado-like feel. The palate was more Oloroso-like, though still relatively fresh and lively seeming. The wood influence grows throughout and, by the finish, gets to be a bit too astringent. As I said, the Stranahan’s profile seems a great match for sherry cask maturation, but in this case, the sherry influence felt perhaps too heavy, and overwhelmed the richer aspects of the four year old malt, amplifying some of the younger, woodier harsher aspects. While this one is not quite there, the general idea is a worthy addition to the brand and I’m certainly looking forward to future batches.