Colorado’s pioneering single malt whiskey distillery Stranahan’s is about to release a sherry cask finished gem of a bottle for less than $100, and it might forever change the way you look at American single malts.
This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten to try this delicious whiskey. We actually tasted Stranahan’s Sherry Cask last year at the distillery’s first annual Cask Thief festival, and it was our favorite of several projects that master distiller Rob Dietrich offered up (others included port and rum casks). Apparently everyone else agreed, because the feedback led Dietrich to bottle the stuff and release it this month.
Sherry Cask Finish is a 4-year-old Stranahan whisky, aged for an additional period (which they did not share) in 40-year-old Oloroso sherry casks from the Andalusia region of Spain. If you’re a fan of the Stranahan’s brand (you should be) you’ll note that this is essentially a sherry-finished Diamond Peak whiskey.
Dietrich needed to use such well-worn casks to extract enough flavor to impact the whiskey. American single malts have intense, bold flavors in comparison with their Scottish brethren, and a lot of that comes from the newly charred casks used to age new whiskey (the scots use ex-bourbon casks, which will have already had several years worth of flavor extracted by bourbon).
The resulting whiskey is an endless well of flavor. At the beginning it’s rich and dessert-like: tons of cherry pie notes, raisins, with walnuts and a hint of leather echoing in the background. By the end it’s syrupy warm and sweet, with brown sugar, caramel and toffee notes.
It’s a brilliant example of American single malt style—bold flavors from grain and barrel, a good balance of age and youth, and a vibrant polish of cask finishing. American single malts aren’t necessarily bound by the same rules as Scottish, Japanese, or Irish ones, and as the style grows in popularity, releases like this one demonstrate the endless potential of one of the U.S.’s growing whiskey categories.
But back to Stranahan’s Sherry Cask Finish.
At 94 proof we found that a tiny touch of water opened this one up really nicely, but anything more will overwhelm it, so pour it over ice with caution. We’re not sure how much of this stuff will make it into the wild this year, but at $80 it’s a steal.
Dietrich has plenty of other projects in the work, in addition to the annual Snowflake release (a similar concept but in this case a separate release).