PORTLAND, Ore. Aug. 31, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Nomad Outland Whisky is an excellent addition to a Scotch whisky library, even if it is not technically a Scotch.
Nomad Outland (70 cl, 41.3 per cent ABV) is a blended whisky expertly crafted by two legendary blenders: White & Mackay’s Richard Paterson and famed Spanish sherry and spirits producer Gonzalez Byass’s master distiller Antonio Flores.
The whisky is a blend of 25 single malts and six-grain whiskies that range from five to eight years of age. Once blended, it was aged in Oloroso sherry butts in Scotland for a year. It was sent to Jerez, Spain, for an additional year of maturation in Pedro Ximénez (PX) casks at Gonzales Byass. The first release was in 2014.
Since the whisky was not exclusively matured in Scotland, pursuant to Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) regulations, it could not be called a Scotch whisky, hence the designation Outland to represent a whisky produced in Scotland but matured, in part, elsewhere.
The use of previously-filled sherry butts in the aging of Scotch whisky has long been a ubiquitous feature of the industry. Historically, the practice was largely reserved for single malts. Macallan, GlenDronach and Balvenie were among the better-known distilleries that offered expressions exclusively matured in one or more combinations of 500-litre sherry butts. Other distilleries offered expressions finished from two months to two years in such sherry butts.
In recent years, a number of distilleries – Auchentoshan Triple Wood, Glenmorangie La Santa, GlenDronach 12 YO, 21 YO and Cask Strength – have offered expressions that were either “double matured” or finished in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.
Oloroso sherry is dry, imparting notes of nuts, spice and dried fruit to Scotch whisky. Pedro Ximénez, on the other hand, is produced from grapes that have been partially raisinated before pressing. It is extremely sweet, syrupy, and can impart distinctive sweet, raisiny and cooked fruit notes to Scotch.
Sherry butt aging/finishing has been the exception when it comes to blended Scotch, although it is not unheard of. Grant’s Sherry Cask Finish was the first sherry-finished Scotch blend released by a major whisky company, in 2001. The expression was based on the same whiskies used in the Grant’s Family Reserve. After blending, the whisky was placed in Oloroso sherry butts and aged for four more months before being released.
On the nose, the Oloroso influence is unmistakable: it smells distinctly dry, with notes of dried stone fruit, featuring peach and apricot, as well as slight dried tropical fruit notes of mango, followed by notes of spice and vanilla
The Famous Grouse, Scotland’s bestselling blended Scotch, has always had a portion of sherry butt-aged whisky in its blend. That’s not a big surprise when you consider that parent company Edrington Group also owns The Macallan single malt.
Nomad’s colour is dark honey/deep amber. It is packaged in a non-traditional bottle, faintly reminiscent of the various Singleton bottlings. On the nose, the Oloroso influence is unmistakable: it smells distinctly dry, with notes of dried stone fruit, featuring peach and apricot, as well as slight dried tropical fruit notes of mango, followed by notes of spice and vanilla. There are aromas of walnut, sweet marzipan and even hints of candied orange peel. There is also a distinct aroma of honey in the background.
On the palate, there is a marked crème brûlée-like creaminess with the pronounced oily, viscous mouth weight that is typically associated with heavily sherried whiskies. There is an unmistakable but restrained sweetness that grows stronger on the palate with a pronounced golden raisin and dried stone fruit flavours accompanied by caramel notes. There are also noticeable walnut and marzipan elements.
The bourbon cask influences are evident in the distinctive spice and vanilla flavours, but act as a nice compliment to the sherry finish notes. The two sherries offset each other nicely, adding nuts and dried fruit notes from the Oloroso and the sweet, golden raisin notes of the PX. Unlike some PX-finished Scotch whiskies, the sweetness is nicely balanced and well integrated, and is free of the cloying, syrupy sweetness that sometimes accompanies PX finishes. The alcohol is smooth with satisfying warmth and is reminiscent of a fine Spanish brandy.
The finish is long, refined and complex, and features a succession of sweetish, dried fruit notes set against a creamy texture highlighted by hints of walnut and tropical spice. This is an excellent, very approachable blended whisky, showing good integration and smoothness, and a degree of complexity that belies its relatively young age. It would make a superb after-dinner dram, yet could equally accompany a rich bisque or a spicy entree. Served over ice or with a bit of water, it would act just as well as an aperitif.
Nomad Outland Whisky has recently been introduced in Canada. It is available in Quebec and Saskatchewan, and should be available elsewhere soon. Retail price is between $65 and $75 a bottle.
If you are a fan of Spanish brandy, like a sweetish note in your Scotch and appreciate the added complexity that a sherry finish provides, then Nomad Outland Whisky is highly recommended. It’s definitely worth sampling. If your tastes run toward “peat monsters,” then it’s best to look elsewhere.
Rating: Appearance: 9/10. Nose: 25/30. Palate: 27/30. Finish: 27/30. Overall: 88/100
Joseph V. Micallef is an historian, best-selling author, keynote speaker and commentator on wine and spirits. Joe holds the Diploma in Wine and Spirits and the Professional Certificate in Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (London). Bottoms Up is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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