When is a whisky distilled in Scotland not a Scotch whisky? When it’s been aged and bottled outside Scotland. No, I’m not referring to some Japanese blends, I’m talking about a new collaboration between Richard ‘The Nose’ Paterson of Whyte & Mackay and Antonio Flores master blender from Gonzalez Byass, makers of fine sherry and Brandy de Jerez. It’s called Nomad and I attended an online masterclass with the great men. Well, I watched it on Youtube, and, most importantly, tasted the whisky. But before we dive in, let’s get a bit of background on the Nomad project.
The origins of Nomad
The duo have a long relationship together from sourcing casks for Dalmore single malt. Flores said, “Richard is always looking for something special, something distinct”, and he joked that he had to hide casks from Paterson or he wouldn’t have any to age sherry in.
Paterson explained the concept: “for many years we’ve said it’s time we did something together. So we came up with a number of concepts”, before deciding on a blended whisky. The important thing was to have a whisky with “body and character”, as Paterson put it, to stand up to some serious sherry cask ageing but both emphasised the importance of the grain element to bring everything together.
It’s all about the casks
Most sherry casks used in the whisky industry are seasoned with a low grade sherry produced specifically for the purpose. Not so with Nomad. It was aged in casks used in the production of Gonzalez Byass sherry. They begin with American oak sourced from forests in Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri. Flores explained that it was more durable than French oak and so better for solera casks that had to last for decades.
These butts of around 500 litres were first used to ferment wines before ageing a variety of different types of sherry beginning with fino and amontillado, progressing to oloroso and then sweeter types of sherry. The wood soaks up something like 15 litres of sherry which is then transferred into the whisky during ageing. If you wanted to buy one of these it would cost you around £1,000.
The Spanish angel’s share
So the casks are unusually well chosen, but then lots of Scotch whisky is aged in high quality sherry casks, the difference here is the addition of warm climate ageing. The malt and grain whiskies, around 30 different components, spend a minimum of six years in Scotland before they are blended and sent off to Jerez for the finishing process.
The climate in Jerez is very different to the cold and damp of Scotland. It gets seriously hot in the summer, outside temperatures can reach 40 degrees celsius in the summer, so they have to water the floors of the bodega to keep the temperature down and humidity levels up. The angel’s share, therefore, is much bigger in Jerez than it is in Scotland. According to Flores “the heat really nurtures the wood and the flavour of the component parts.”
Tasting Nomad whiskies
There are two whiskies: a standard bottling that spent six years ageing in Scotland and one in a PX cask in Jerez, and a 10 year old reserve which after six years in Scotland then spent two years in oloroso casks followed by two years in PX casks.
I’ve put some tasting notes below but the short version is that these are heady decadent spirits. There’s something like 12 grams of sugar per litre in the standard bottling, that’s all PX sherry that had soaked into the wood. It actually tastes a lot like a Brandy de Jerez, not a surprise, while the 10 Year Old Reserve is like Gonzalez Byass’s amazing sweet Matusalem sherry but in whisky form.
Patterson recommends not adding ice or water, try them neat, the sweetness is very appealing. These are the kind of whiskies that are perfect for sipping after a meal with blue cheese, chocolates, or even a nice cigar. Their sweet flavour profiles would also suit cocktails like a Roby Roy or Old Fashioned.
They’re gorgeous whiskies, a perfect marriage of Scotland and Spain, and the standard bottling especially is a bargain. It might be my new favourite blended Scotch. Sorry, blended whisky.
Blended whisky, distilled and aged in Scotland and then shipped to Jerez for a finishing in PX sherry casks. Bottled at 41.3% ABV.
Nose: Raisins, walnuts and orange peel – sherry heaven.
Palate: Peppery, fruity and fresh initially followed by walnuts and molasses.
Finish: Sweet and sticky.
Blended Scotch whisky shipped to Spain and aged in old PX and oloroso sherry casks. Bottled at 43.1% ABV.
Nose: big flavours such as treacle, chocolate and fudge with aromatic spice.
Palate: Peppery and spicy with a thick, creamy mouthfeel and orangey fruit.
Finish: Long with lingering walnuts.
Nomad whiskies are available from Master of Malt. Click on links above for prices and to buy.