Gonzalez Byass Cristina Oloroso Abocado

Some casks of Gonzalez Byass lying around...

Gonzalez Byass is an often seen cask in Scottish warehouses. These casks already find their way into making some excellent whisky. As we all know, the best results come from Oloroso casks, so here we have the opportunity to try a nice Oloroso from Gonzalez Byass.

This Oloroso is made of Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez (both white grapes!). Up to 95% of all grapes used for sherry is Palomino. Since this Sherry is sweetened with the PX-grape, this is essentially is a cream sherry. Usually three types of Palomino are grown: Palomino Fino, Palomino Basto, and Palomino de Jerez. Of which the first one is considered the best for making Sherry and especially today the latter two are grown less and less. Besides these Palomino’s, only Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes are used for Sherry.

Gonzalez Byass Cristina Oloroso AbocadoEssentially, there are three types of Sherry:

1. Fino (including Amontillado and Manzanilla)
2. Oloroso
3. Palo Cortado

Fino Sherries arise under flor. This means that when the must is fermented a ‘flower’ of yeast (flor) grows on the surface, and no oxygen can pass through. This also causes the finished wine to have that fresh yeasty taste.

In Oloroso (‘Scented’) Sherries the flor is suppressed by fortification at an earlier stage. Since the lack of this layer of flor, the Sherry comes in contact with air through the porous walls of oak casks, and undergoes oxidative aging. Due to the ageing, the wine becomes darker and stronger.

Palo Cortado is a rare kind of Sherry and is placed between Fino and Oloroso. Palo Cortado resembles Oloroso in color and taste and has the aromatics of Amontillado (sort of long aged Fino), and it doesn’t arise under flor.

Color: Golden Brown. Amber.

Nose: Nutty and fragrant. Diluted PX, so notes of raisins. Very floral and maybe some fresh wood and vanilla. Toffee. Baked banana. Actually quite nice.

Taste: Sweet and sour, with lots of depth. Clean lemony acidity. Not cloying, thin compared to PX. So I guess not a lot of PX was used, nor should it have been used, to me this seems just right. Actually I quite like this. Easily drinkable and for me a thirst quenching Sherry. Recommended.

I’m quite new to Oloroso’s. I just had only one before and that was a bone dry one. This one, at 17% ABV, has some PX thrown into the mix and therefore is more palatable than the dry one I remember. Time to expand more into Oloroso Sherry, since a new world has just opened itself to me.

By the way, I found out that good bottles of Sherry are far less costly than the most recent offerings of whisky, which seem outrageous. Today a new 21yo Lagavulin (yes Oloroso Casks) costs almost 700 Euro’s. I think I’ll buy some more Sherries tomorrow.

Points: 87

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PX Sherry: Valdivia Pedro Ximénez Dulce

Some casks of Valdivia lying around...Valdivia was founded by a supplier of building materials in 2003. He bought an old property in Jerez and completely renovated it. Next was locating some old stock to be able to release a series of old Sherries. This Series is called Sacromonte and are made up of 15 year old Sherries. Here we will try a PX from the ‘standard’ series. The modern look is aimed at the new trend-conscious generation. In its young history, Bodegas Valdivia already has its third owner.

Valdivia Pedro Ximénez (Muy Dulce version)Color: Mahogany. Dark brown with a fabulous red hue.

Nose: Wood, leather, raisins and figs, Lavas. Old books and syrup (not as strange as it seems). Hint of smoke and tar. Smells sugary sweet with a promise of nice acidity. Greenish. Fresh cut shrubs (a smell of working in the garden trimming various plants). Fabulous balance. It doesn’t smell only thick, as some PX do, nor has it a kind of mustiness, still it does smell elegant and ‘fresh’.

Color: Mahogany. It’s essentially dark brown with a fabulous red hue.

Nose: Wood and leather. Raisins and figs. This has even some lavas notes. Old books in syrup (what?). A hint of smoke and tar. Smells sugary sweet with the promise of nice acidity. Green. Fresh cut shrubs (a smell of working in the garden trimming various plants). Fabulous balance. It doesn’t only smell thick, as some other PX do, nor has it only a kind of freshness, but it does smell like a modern and elegant,’fresh’ PX.

Taste: Wow what a texture. Modern tasting. Sweet, but not raisiny as most others are. Some asphalt in the mix, but mostly clean sugar syrup and cough syrup. This should go over pancakes. Definitely a Sherry to accompany (sweet) foods, not only after dinner or as a dessert. The body is quite mild and the finish is short. Not what I’ve expected.

It’s good. Compared to the Lustau reviewed earlier, this is a less typical PX, less old skool and thus more modern. Even though it’s quite thick It lacks a bit in the taste department if you sip it like I’m used to. This one should be taken in big gulps en then, and only then, does this Valdivia show what it’s made of. Even the Elite I’ve tasted earlier has more going on in the taste department, what is a surprise considering the Elite had an ultra thin, velvety, texture.

Valdivia PX Dulce LabelFor me the nose is fabulous, and the taste a bit thin and short. Lacks a bit of complexity. When I finish this bottle, I will try the 15yo Valdivia.

Points: 83

PX Sherry: Lustau Pedro Ximénez “San Emilio”

Lustau LogoEarly November I started a series to support the drinking of sherry to get more good sherry casks for the whisky industry. For reasons not even science can wholly explain, I picked PX Sherries as a starting point. As mentioned before, PX or Pedro Ximénez is the most syrupy and sweet Sherry around, and is considered an after dinner Sherry or one to accompany a nice (sweet) dessert. Goes well with ice-cream.

Lustau PX San EmilioEmilio Lustau was founded in 1896 by Don José Ruiz-Berdejo who was an Almacenista himself. He made Sherries and stored them for a while, after which he sold them off to larger companies, thus adding value. In 1940, his son-in-law and name-giver for the company, Don Emilio Lustau Ortega moved the Bodega to the old quarter of Jerez. Since then the company wanted to be the best and expanded by offering high quality Sherries.

This “San Emilio” PX (17% ABV) is from the Solera Reserva range which has it’s heritage in the original Stocks of Don José Ruiz-Berdejo. His stocks were combined with special Sherries from different “Almacenistas”,  small independent wine-producers. Besides this Solera Reserva range, where casks of the same type of Sherries are blended, there is also a very interesting Almacenista range. In this series, Lustau selects small batches of high quality sherries which have been made and matured by small independent producers, or “Almacenistas”, who often make Sherries as a hobby.

Color: Almost black mahogany.

Nose: Very elegant syrupy Sherry which has a nice dry whiff of paper over it. Grassy with cloves. Dried apricot and raisins, also a more spicy element which you get when putting parsley in broth. A hint of yeast and/or flor (Marmite), so not only syrupy and sweet. For me also hints of lavas.

Taste: Sweet (sometimes sugary), but accompanied by a nice acidic touch, which is a great effect on the palate. The acidity reminds me a bit of the lemon part of cola. I Love SherryYes the apricots are there and some vibrant freshly made raisins and maybe some dates. Very lively and never dull, heavy or dusty.Very well balanced. Actually, this is blended so well to a nice harmony, that it’s almost hard and not even fair to look for separate markers or hints of it. The sum is so great.

Easily a favourite of mine when looking at PX Sherries. Excellent and an easy recommendation. Oops, another “San Emilio” finished…Next bottle!

Points: 89

PX Sherry: Elite Selección Dorada

Here’s an appeal to all. Start drinking Sherry. NOW! Because it may be too late already. Let’s face it people. We love our whisky and we particularly love it when it’s from a good Sherry Cask. But as can be seen, prices are soaring when a nice sherry casked whisky is released these days. I’ll be reviewing some Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherries the following days, but there is a lot more out there. You might want to try a nice Oloroso (maybe the best performing casks for whisky). Some of you might like a dry Fino. But there is a lot out there, and a lot of differences in quality too. One thing is sure, when trying out some nice Sherries you won’t break the bank.

The Sherry I’m about to try is made by Elite Vinos y Licores,  S.L. and this PX is part of their premium range. Just not super premium prices (yet).

Color: Mahogany Brown.

Nose:  At first, raisins, raisins, raisins and figs, but that quickly changes into fresh mushrooms, mushroom soup and wet earth. Hints of liquorice and old & dark tarred wood. I said hints. The mushroom cream soup is predominant. Dusty lavas. Very atypical and interesting nose for a PX.

Taste: For a PX Sherry it’s quite thin, and not syrupy as most other PX-Sherries that are around. At first a nanosecond of an acid attack but then the slow-moving sweetness comes in with a little bit of lingering woody sourness. Coffee in the aftertaste. Very easily accessible. Burned creamy sugar as in the top layer of Creme Brulée. The acidity is a very nice addition to the taste of this PX. It doesn’t seem to be as sweet as the competition, and it is certainly not as thick. The finish therefore, is not the longest in the business.

Very easy drinkable PX. It’s not overly sweet and syrupy. It has very nice construction of fine tastes. Nicely balanced and very restrained PX.

Points: 84