Gonzalez Byass is one of the largest producers of sherry in Spain, and as any modern drinker knows, the demand for sherry barrels far outweighs the demand for sherry itself. Sherry barrel aging gives all manner of spirits a distinct character, and at some point, Gonzalez Byass figured out it should be making spirits of its own in addition to the underlying wine.
During a recent online tasting a group of writers spent time with Gonzalez Byass Master Distiller Luis Trillo and his daughter and eventual successor Rocio Trillo, tasting five different spirits made by or in partnership with Gonzalez Byass — including gin, brandy, and Scotch whisky. After walking through a Sherry 101 introduction, we tasted each of the spirits to more clearly understand how different types of sherry barrels (and in different combinations) impact the finished product.
Thoughts follow — with specific commentary around the sherry influence on each included. We’ve tasted a few of these before (often in different incarnations), so links to prior coverage is included for the sake of comparison and completeness.
The London No. 1 Sherry Cask Gin – A version of The London No. 1 Gin, aged in Tio Pepe sherry casks. This pretty gin, close to the shade of yellow Chartreuse, offers lively aromas of licorice, allspice, and grapefruit peel, all backed well by aromas of mushroomy earth. A juniper bomb it isn’t, with more of that anise/licorice note on the tongue — much more present than in the rack version of London No. 1. Does the Tio Pepe influence that quality? Perhaps, as a lightly oxidized character gives the finish a winey quality that does indeed showcase some of the qualities you’ll find in a bracingly cold glass of fino, concluding on notes of bergamot, tea leaf, and a hint of coriander spice. Fully usable in the place of standard gin (or Old Tom), and definitely built for a Martinez. 86 proof. A- / $65 (700ml)
Gonzalez Byass Lepanto Brandy Solera Gran Reserva 12 Years Old (2022) – 9 years in Tio Pepe, then 3 years in sweet oloroso sherry casks. In 2016 this carried no formal age statement but spent 15 years in Tio Pepe casks. Now with less overall time in barrel but 3 years in sweet oloroso sherry casks , the brandy has developed a much livelier character, with brown sugar and molasses informing the notes of fresh raisins, some strawberry, and clove-spiked oranges. That tea leaf element seen in the No. 1 Sherry Cask Gin lives mainly on the nose here, with elements of cream-heavy coffee building on the cinnamon-laced finish. That said, it is about as lively and as sweet as I remember, though the floral notes seen previously have largely vanished. 80 proof. B+ / $50
Gonzalez Byass Lepanto Brandy O.V. Oloroso Viejo – 12 years in Tio Pepe, then 3 years in dry oloroso casks. Note the use of dry oloroso here, a different style of wine from the sweet oloroso seen above. There’s more of a coffee influence on the nose here, and a duskier quality on the palate, again evoking coffee and fresh barrel char. Soothing and sultry as it develops, the palate finds its way to notes of caramel flan, more bergamot, and a strenuous tea leaf note that endures for some time. The sherry character is more forceful here than in the Gran Reserva, perhaps because the brandy on the whole is simply less sweet, giving the finish a lively, Tio Pepe-inspired dryness, lightly oxidized and distinctly infused with earthy flor. The muted sweetness gives this more charm, and makes the experience more intriguing overall. 80 proof. A- / $60
Gonzalez Byass Lepanto Brandy P.X. Pedro Ximenez (2022) – 12 years in Tio Pepe, then 3 years in Pedro Ximenez casks. PX sherry has a powerful influence on spirits, and this brandy really pours it on: Rich and leathery, with notes of cola and dried fruit, it exudes iconic PX elements from the start, despite a slightly salty hint you catch on the nose. The palate evokes smoldering tea leaves, chocolate (maybe carob), then a bold coffee note. Sweet, with notes of cane syrup and toffee, the sugariness of the brandy only grows over time, leading to a finish that evokes brown sugar stirred into weak tea. Unctuously sweet and enduring — easily the sweetest in this lineup. Reviewed previously in 2016 as a 72 proof offering. Now: 80 proof. B+ / $60
Nomad Outland Whisky (2022) – Blended Scotch, aged 3 years in bourbon barrels, then 3 years in oloroso sherry casks — both in Scotland — then one more year of aging in Jerez, Spain in Pedro Ximenez casks. There’s quite a lot going on on the nose, including a strongly earthy and raisiny attack that feels heavy on the PX. The influence isn’t as dominant on the palate as in the Lepanto P.X., with brighter citrus, toasted nuts, and a sweet molasses note that really digs in. The latter element brings the PX back into focus, gently segueing to notes of blackberry jam, infused with hints of grilled mushrooms, oxidized wine (I said Madeira back in ’17, and that’s not wrong today), and some tangerine elements. A bit saccharine on the finish, but Scotchy enough with some clear barley and spice in the mix, meriting repeated visits. Compare to our prior review in 2017. 82.6 proof. B+ / $40