We grew up watching our mothers cook with it. We drink single malts flavored with it. So why is it that no one actually drinks the Sherry itself - just plain, in a glass, on its own? I feel like every now and again we'll make an obligatory push for better appreciation of fortified spirits at K&L, but eventually that train loses steam. Then we go back to wine and booze for a few months until we suddenly "discover" Sherry all over again. The combination of both wine and spirits should be the perfect medium for fans of both genres, yet something never seems to click. Sherry is delicious, it drinks like wine and keeps like whisky, it offers a variety of styles, a myriad of flavors, and wonderfully affordable price points. What more does Sherry need to do to get our attention?
I got seriously housed on the above-pictured bottle of La Ina Fino Sherry $14.99 last night. Briny, salty, nutty, and fresh, this 15% alcohol delight is almost impossible to put down. Fino sherries are the Islay malts of the fortified world sans the smoke. They pair amazingly well with olives, cheese, sardines, and other salty snacks, but I had no problem putting away this whole bottle by itself while watching Nova's The Fabric of Space. When I woke up on the couch at five this morning with a mouth drier than the Mojave desert, I realized that Sherry can creep on you as well. However, I can definitely handle far more glasses of Sherry than I can single malt whisky.
While most single malts are aged in Oloroso Sherry casks (a style of sherry much sweeter than fino), there are the occasional fino-aged malts. Why they don't do it more often is beyond me (maybe a lack of available barrels). The brine, saline, and oxidized wine notes blend beautifully with whisky and provide the perfect highlight for the oily character of Springbank in this cask strength barrel they released last year. I also remember running through the Bruichladdich warehouse on Islay and finding a 1990 Macallan resting in a fino cask. We did get to taste it and it was fantastic. It was unfortunately already spoken for, however (otherwise you'd all have a bottle by now). Why Laphroaig and Ardbeg haven't experimented with fino cask enhancement is a curious question. Seems like a match made in heaven.
Besides the amazing flavors of dry fino Sherry, we've got a fantastic selection of amontillado and palo cortado offerings as well - most of which are completely dry as well. The complexity of these wines is simply beyond the capability of many $50 single malts, yet the Sherries sell for as low as $19.99 in some cases. Again, they'll keep for months after you open them and the variety they offer is vast enough to justify having a few open bottles in your collection. I'm definitely going to replenish my supply with this Herederos de Argueso later today and I may spring for this 1979 Gonzalez Bypass later in the month (easily one of the best things I have ever tasted while working at K&L). For the super geeks out there, you could read all day about yeast, flor, soleras, and the entire Sherry-making process which is much more complicated than distillation.
Sherry has so much to offer. If you're getting to the point where you need a new adventure in drinking, this might be the road worth taking.