“We wanted to celebrate (ten years) by creating a new addition to our whiskey line – it’s one of the things we excel at.” Santa Fe Spirits chose to age some three-year-old Colkegan for an additional year in Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry barrels. “We like our whiskey,” says Colin, “the Apple Brandy Finished Colkegan was a huge success. We decided to build on that success by trying a different finishing variation.” Both Colin and Head Distiller Kris Bohm note that Colkegan, though and American Single Malt, was created in a style similar to Scotch, and aging Scotch in sherry barrels has been tradition for hundreds of years.
The limited-edition Sherry Cask Finished Colkegan (Colkegan PX) started as two 53-gallon Colkegan barrels. Both were new American oak and had been aging for over three years when their contents were transferred to two PX sherry barrels for an additional year. “This is the oldest Colkegan to be released.” Says Kris. After tasting the Colkegan PX at various proofs, from 92 to 116, Colin and Kris decided to bottle at 100 proof. “It really showcases the character and depth.” Says Kris. “The 100 proof has a heavier body and best maintains the character coming out of the cask.”
Kris has used the élevage process of proofing down the Colkegan PX: gradually adding water to reduce the proof of the whiskey while it is still in the cask. “This extracts different sugars form the wood. It helps the whiskey take on more of the character from the cask.”
That character has notes of “stone fruit, cherries – a richer flavor profile.” Says Kris. Colin adds that “the extra year of aging tempers the smoke a lot. The sherry finish accentuates the fruity notes and gives it a deeper, more layered, finish.” Colkegan is known for its smoke but in this expression “subtle hints of wood from the sherry butts and sweetness from the Pedro Ximénez are more dominant.” According to Kris. In the hierarchy of Colkegan (this is the fourth expression: Colkegan Single Malt, Colkegan Apple Brandy Finished and Colkegan Cask Strength are currently all in the market), Colkegan PX “sits at the top of the pyramid.” Says Kris. Colin says this is the second expression with unique finishing. The PX “adds another layer of interest, a softer, deeper, finish.” He adds that finishing in PX or Apple Brandy casks gives the ability to work on flavors at the end of the process.
What’s next for Colkegan? Says Colin “the next one will probably be an un-smoked version. It will still be Colkegan, made with traditional values and 100% malted barley,” just without the mesquite smoke. Kris agrees, noting that smoke isn’t for everyone.
Colkegan PX will be a very small release, about 100 cases of 750ml bottles. It will be launched at the distillery, with much less fanfare than originally planned, on Friday, October 16th and Saturday, October 17th: reserved tasting times only, ticket information below. After the 17th Colkegan PX will be available exclusively in Santa Fe Spirits’ tasting rooms through the end of the year, or while supplies last.