Whisky Connosr
Menu
Shop

Discussions

Oloroso Vs. PX

2 11

@Onibubba
Onibubba started a discussion

A little help from those of you that are more experienced with sherried whiskies please. From what little experience I've had, I thought that PX aged whiskies were sweeter, whereas Oloroso aged whiskies were drier, spicier. But then, a couple nights back, I had an Oloroso aged Glendronach that was all butterscotch and sweeties, a bit more spice in the taste, but good lord, that nose! I asked the bar keep, and he said that those other Oloroso sherried drams which I had tasted must have been heavily contaminated by sulpher.

I don't think so. I got that same dry/spice/cinnamon Altoids taste from the new Balvenie 15 Oloroso sherry cask, last year's K&L single cask 16YO sherried Glenlivet, and a 25YO JoS sherried Bunnahabhain. I find it hard to believe that all of those were sulpher and this one particular Glendronach was not.

What do you all think? Is Oloroso aged whisky typically drier/spicier than the pure sweet assault of PX, or does it just vary cask to cask? And what about the bartenders comment that those tastes / smells indicated sulpher taint?

I should add that I think all of the whiskies mentioned tasted great - great enough for me to buy multiple bottles.

9 years ago

11 replies

@Pandemonium
Pandemonium replied

Oloroso according to Michael Jackson was more rich, creamy and fruity. PX: intense, raisin, syrupy and dark. I believe the spicier elements might come from the whisky itself. Though an amontillado finish in my opinion might give a spicier finish

9 years ago 1Who liked this?

@McTeague
McTeague replied

Onibubba, PX is very sweet, dark red and syrupy (think Lagavulin DE or Bowmore Darkest), while Oloroso is still quite sweet, but much less so, golden, and maybe also a little spicy (Ardbeg Uigeadail, I believe). The aroma you mention could well have come from Oloroso. (The name means "aromatic" in Spanish. Of course there are so many factors that can enter into the whisky making process, from how many times the barrel was used, to the "assemblage" (said with a French accent as Richard Patterson says it) of different barrels that went into making it.

A while ago I took it upon myself to become acquainted with sherry and visited Spanish restaurants, eventually buying bottles of my own. It was a nice education I would recommend to all scotch whisky drinkers and it made a sherry convert of me. If you search for the quality sherries, and they are many and affordable. Eating Spanish food with them really brings out their qualities. And there's nothing nicer than a glass of cool fino on a hot summer day. Except for maybe a glass of cool manzanillo or palo cortado ; )

9 years ago 2Who liked this?

Rigmorole replied

For me, it just depends. Sometimes one is better than the other. For instance, I liked the 1996 Glendronach Oloroso better than the PX a while back. I tasted both. The PX was kind of sickly sweet but the Oloroso was spicer and more interesting, more layered.

PX can be great though, really good. I think a lot has to do with when the casks were transported. If they were shipped in warmer weather, then they can get really grotty and require more sulfur or, better yet, a charring. Finishing a scotch in a PX or an Oloroso seems like it's often the way to go, but when a distillery does that, it's tempting to use the casks over and over until they are bland.

This said, sometimes the very first time they are used (after the sherry was in them) the whisky needn't be in as long. Second fill longer. Third longer still. This is where science, art, and craftsmanship mingle. It takes a knowhow of the whisky, the wood, and the sherry infused in the wood. Not an easy balancing act, by any stretch. Once the sweetness of the wood has been tapped out, then the whisky can be added without having been in anything else first and stay in there for many many years. That can be magnificent as well.

As for the sulphur argument with Murray et al, I think he is bold to speak out against sulfur. I've tasted more than my share of great bottles that were ruined with too much sulfur. For me, sulfur is not an acquired taste: it's always a liability. I don't like sulfites in my wine, either. Obviously in this latter case, they are added as a preservative. I have a problem with that. Bad idea. The French don't do it. Natural wine generates some sulfites, but adding more? Uh uh. Nope. Not for me. Wine in France often tastes better because extra sulfites are quietly left out for the stuff that the French drink and then added for the stuff shipped to Americans that don't know any better.

As for scotch, my advice to the whisky industry is this: Don't try to salvage grotty casks with sulfur candles and detergents. If you mess up, get a new cask and take the loss. Don't pour great whisky into a cask that taste like its been raised from hell due to overly high sulfur levels in the wood.

Yes, Jim Murray can be a bit much at times, what with his "racy" comments about women and his Shakespearean sense of humor, but I do admire Murray's stand about sulfur. He is doing the industry a favor, just as Ralfy has done by pushing for higher ABV levels, craft presentation, leaving out the E150a, and doing away with chill filtering. Ralfy has really helped to make Scotch whisky even better. Distilleries are listening to me in large part because his opinions on such matters have spread out like ripples in a pond. And, of course, he's right. Bravo to both men for speaking out.

A distillery that sells bottles of whisky that are over $70 really can't make excuses for adding E150a or letting sulfur get the upper hand. Now, a bottle down around $30 is a different case (and a different market, as well).

Yes, these things matter, and so does using quality Oloroso and PX casks wisely. Yes, people can be conditioned to like just about anything. Calling a heavy sulfur flavor "gun powder" is silly to me. It's like trying to polish a turnip or calling a destroyed sense of decorum a "rose." All of the rosy terminology in the world will not make sulfur desirable in my estimation. But that's just one man's opinion. A hint of sulfur is one thing, but even that is better left out of the nose, palate, and finish of a quality whisky if you ask me.

9 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Onibubba
Onibubba replied

Thanks for the replies guys! I guess I was thinking on way too simplified terms: "Oloroso aged whiskies taste like this." "PX whiskies taste like this." when there are actually far more factors involved in the process. I must say it only makes the journey more fun and interesting to be able to be surprised by something you think you have figured out.

@rigmorole Funny that you mention the 1996 Glendronach 17 from 2013. That is exactly the one that I tasted that negated all of my assumptions about what aging in Oloroso produces. What a delicious and sweet whisky. Question for you - the bar did not have the 1996 PX "brother" of this one. You say that one did not work for you. If you were to assign a rating to each of them, what would it be? I'm interested in hearing more of your opinion on these as you have tried them side by side, while I have only tried one. I would put the Oloroso cask at a solid 90. It was that good.

9 years ago 1Who liked this?

@sengjc
sengjc replied

Could well be the wood used too: American oak sherry or European oak sherry. There's another recent thread that is having discussions on this.

I have tasted the Glendronach 15, 18 and the 21 year old. Of the three the Glendronach 21 contains a proportion of PX sherry cask matured in the blend make-up. I believe the others two are predominantly Oloroso sherry cask. I have to say the 21 year old provides a sherried malt profile that is more appealing to me, fruity and sweet yet not sickeningly sweet with a wondrous fragrance. Not particularly spicy.

The 15 year old in comparison is spicy and off-dry but also very enjoyable.

Another comparison that I can draw would be the Glenlivet or Aberlour sherries examples vs. Glenfarclas and Glenrothes sherries examples. I believe they use Oloroso sherry casks only yet I find the Glenlivet and Aberlours to be a drier subtler style compared to the Glenfarclas and Glenrothes style. In terms of spiciness, they generally have about the same level of spiciness.

9 years ago 1Who liked this?

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

A couple points of disagreement: @McTeague , the Bowmore Darkest uses Oloroso; it does not use PX as you implied. @sengjc , I very much disagree about GlenDronach 15 vs 21. At least to me, in my bottles... the 15yo (Revival) is very smooth whereas the 21 (Parliament) has a lot of spice, maybe half as much as the 18yo. As you say though, any spice effect should probably have to do with the wood rather than the spirit itself...

I, too, have been interested in this question for a while, especially since tasting the Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX. From rumor, the PX should boost sweetness, but I don't necessarily find this. And my follow-up PXs have not had the same smoothness or fruitiness. For example the effect of PX on the Laphroaig was not harmonious, to me. Like Onibubba, I would like a side-by-side comparison. Considering the Sonnalta... should I drink it side-by-side with their Lasanta or their 18yo? Which is more representative?
And as @sengjc mentioned, there is a recent thread where wood influence is discussed: connosr.com/wall/discussion/…

9 years ago 0

@sengjc
sengjc replied

@vanPelt

Interesting that you should find the Glendronach 21 to be spicy whereas I did not and found it to be smooth. However I do recall one of my mates commented exactly the same as your experience having shared a drink from the same bottle.

Maybe my palate is mildly off. LOL.

9 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

@sengjc You make me question my own palate! So I just looked at the 7 existing Parliament reviews on Connosr, and it is interesting that 6 of those find it "spicy" or especially "peppery". I would love to experience the Parliament the way that you do, because for me its degree of spiciness is precisely its 1 drawback!

9 years ago 0

@McTeague
McTeague replied

@vanPelt I see now that you are correct. The Bowmore Darkest spends 3 years in an Oloroso cask, not a PX cask. I had assumed the beautiful reddish color and degree of sweetness of that whisky (cloying to me) could only have come from PX. It's interesting that you find that the PX does not necessarily boost sweetness. Something to think about.

9 years ago 0

@FMichael
FMichael replied

Neat topic!

In the past few months I've been enjoying the Glendronach 12 Original (PX) , and 15 Revival (Oloroso).

So far - I've found the 12 yr to be a bit spicier with raisins/cinnamon whereas the 15 yr reminds me of a mixed dark berry jam with hints of chocolate.

9 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

@McTeague , I thought it was worth pointing out the Bowmore maturation, because (to me) it shows just how worthwhile @Onibubba 's point is-- the influences are not as straightforward as we sometimes think!
Regarding PX/sweetness, here's one example.... I have not had (for example) the Glenmorangie Sonnalta (PX) and Glendronach 15 Revival (Oloroso) side-by-side; but in memory the Revival stands out as sweeter than the Sonnalta. (Am I wrong...?) @FMichael , I recently reviewed both of those! I think it's worth pointing out that the Glendronach 12 Original is actually a vatting of both PX and Oloroso-- just to make it more confusing.

I think @Onibubba 's question still remains: What flavor profiles are consistent with PX vs. Oloroso?

whiskyscience.blogspot.dk/2013_03_01_…

9 years ago 1Who liked this?

Liked by:

@paddockjudge@vanPelt