Oloroso sherry, a dry, fruity fortified wine—and in Spain, a legal category—is aged, like bourbon, in new oak barrels. The used barrels, like ex-bourbon barrels, have long been sent north to house Scotch and Irish whiskies. Increasingly, with the growth of craft whiskey in the States, that process of using ex-sherry casks for aging or finishing is now being replicated by American distillers.
Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio, which makes a range of vodkas and whiskeys, recently started distributing their oloroso-aged whiskey, OYO Oloroso Wheat Whiskey, outside their home state. Like their other spirits, it’s bottled under the label OYO (pronounced “oh why oh,” a pronunciation of “Ohio” that more closely approximates the Native American word for the river), and like their OYO whiskey, it’s made with 100% Ohio soft red winter wheat and double distilled.
The whiskey has been aged for several years in new oak barrels, then transferred to sherry casks for additional 12-18 months of finishing. The whiskey is bottled at 51% ABV and has thus far collected a number of tasting panel awards. It is pricing upwards of $90 a bottle at the moment.
Color: Rich mahogany
Nose: Dominated by vanilla and thick, heavy fruit notes like overripe apricot and peach. After a few minutes in the glass, I get cinnamon and chocolate. Port wine is also definitely evident.
Palate: Darker fruit—black cherry and currant—is apparent on the palate, along with more spice and noticeable heat. The mouthfeel is dense and chewy, with a long, pleasant finish fading to sherry and bitter oak.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this whiskey reminds me of a nice brandy. Despite the prevalence of sweet and fruity notes, there’s enough balance that the overall effect isn’t cloying. It’s a unique, well-executed whiskey worth trying out if you can get your hands on it.