Oloroso Sherry Cask Finished (2021)
MASH BILL – 72% corn, 22% rye, 6% barley
PROOF – 94
AGE – 5 to 6 years plus additional months in ex-Oloroso casks
DISTILLERY – Woodinville Whiskey Co.
PRICE – $70
WORTH BUYING? – Yes
On December 10, 2022, Woodinville released a new batch of their distillery-only Oloroso Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. I’d picked up a bottle of the previous Oloroso release on an August 2021 visit to the distillery. That bottle was still in my bunker, so I cracked it open that night. If I couldn’t be at the distillery in person, I’d toast their new release from afar.
On that 2021 visit, I’d interviewed senior distiller Mike Steine, so my senses were brimming with his insights when I sat down at the tasting room bar to select which bottles I’d stow away in my suitcase to take home. I only had room left for two, so I had to be choosey. Steine had told me about the then impending Moscatel Finished Bourbon release, but I was too early for that. I already knew I wanted to pick up their cask strength rye, which back then was not yet available outside the distillery. So for my second bottle it was between the PX and Oloroso Finished Bourbons. I opted for the latter.
And so here we are, finally. These brief notes were taken just over a week after uncorking and a handful of pours into the bottle, using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a wonderful spectrum of rusty and toasty autumn oranges
NOSE – Christmas baking spices, mulled wine, weathered oak, homemade apricot compote or preserves, medium-dark chocolate, drizzled honey
TASTE – true to the nose, with everything one notch brighter, a bay leaf note amidst the spices, the oak tannins and now a more notable caramel note kicking it up a notch as well
FINISH – the mulled wine redder now (is red a taste?), with weathered oak and oak tannins, a nice warmth like a wool blanket, lingering medium-long
OVERALL – a good cold weather bourbon to spike your tea with or sip neat near the fire with friends and everyone in their warm cozy sweaters
I’m drinking this at just the right time—a very chilly winter afternoon. And it actually tends to be colder inside than outside, the building I live in being a very old Edwardian with all the drafts and rattly window frames one might imagine. I don’t have the option to build a fire in a hearth. But if I did I would. Luckily this bourbon warms the mood, at least!
Though not as magical as the 2021 Moscatel release, and not as dark and luxuriously rustic as the standard Port Cask release, this 2021 Oloroso Sherry Cask Bourbon offers something subtler, less attention grabbing, but in its own way perfectly pleasing. I’m a fan of the tendency these Woodinville cask finished bourbons have toward balancing their rustic weathered wood notes with ample fruit and a range of tea and leaf accents. I often wish for more prominent chocolate or caramel in the mix. At the same time, what’s the use of missing what’s absent when so many good things are present?
With a new batch of Oloroso Sherry Cask Bourbon having recently been released, anyone able to get to the distillery or have a friend shepherd a bottle their way now has a chance to try this variant on Woodinville’s many cask-finished offerings.
I could also understand someone not enjoying this enough to go out of their way to track it down. Though the quality is high, taken altogether it’s not radically unusual in the wide world of bourbon. Many distilleries are experimenting with cask finishings, almost to the point of the very concept getting a bit tiring.
That said, cask finishing bourbon is still relatively new. I look forward to when multiple cask finishings are as commonly nuanced with bourbon as they’ve long been with scotch and Irish whiskey. Once the novelty has thoroughly faded, and going deeper with the process becomes both habit and necessity, the particular joy of parsing subtleties that I experience with scotch from age-old distilleries might become standard in the bourbon experience as well. With scotch, for example, if you know a bottle started in a first-fill bourbon cask for X years before spending X more years in a second-fill Madeira cask, etcetera, tasting it can be like noticing the individual glints of sunlight on a calm ocean’s undulating surface. If bourbon goes in this direction, perhaps that in turn might make old-style, 100% pure, straight up American bourbon—no finishings, no special barrel stave toastings, no extra angles or bangles—exotic!
With the worldwide whiskey boom still booming along, this imagined future might not be far off. The day I have the opportunity to crack open something like an 18 Year Woodinville multi-cask-aged something or other will be a wonderful day.