For a long time, single malt Irish whiskeys were fairly uncommon as a category, across the board. In a country where most of the malt whiskey being produced had always been earmarked for popular blended whiskeys, and the term “Irish whiskey” itself was almost always associated with blends, perhaps it just seemed like single malts were better left to the Scots. But with the revival of small, independent Irish whiskey distillers, came a revival of Irish single malts.
Of course, those new single malts tend to have a few things in common:
— They tend to be non-age statement, especially if they’re being distilled by a young company (for obvious reasons).
— They tend to be fairly pricey.
I was surprised, then, to start reading about the background of The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey, after seeing its very low relative price tag: $25-$30. Not only is it age-stated (four years, so it’s quite young), but it also boasts a sherry cask finish, which is something you tend to see in considerably more expensive expressions. $25 for a sherry-finished Irish single malt? That is a considerable outlier.
It makes a bit more sense when one learns that The Sexton (owned by Proximo Spirits) isn’t distilling this spirit themselves. No distiller is revealed—frustrating but common, among Irish and Scottish whiskeys—but judging from the clues of its distilling location, most internet whiskey geeks seem certain that the source is Bushmills. This, then, would represent a spirit that is fairly similar to Bushmills’ own NAS Sherry Cask expressions, whose price tag runs … $90? If so, it’s hard to deny that there’s quite a potential value to be had here.
I don’t usually comment much on packaging, but I will mention that The Sexton obviously stands out on the liquor shelf for its squat, hexagonal, obsidian bottle. It’s an unusual shape for the genre, and feels oddly smaller than 750 ml in your hands. It’s a cool look, but as others have observed, the wide bottle and short neck make pouring from the bottle a particularly tricky proposition. It’s clear that the people at The Sexton are fully aware of this, as the press sample I received included a spigot pourer to make it easier. You’ll probably want one for this bottle as well, if I’m being honest.
Now, let’s finally get to the actual tasting.
On the nose, The Sexton immediately comes off as heady and rich, especially for a young single malt. Heavy honey, toasted malt, light caramel, roasted nuts, vanilla and peach cobbler give the impression of a somewhat desserty dram. The sherry character is unmistakable, contributing vinous and nutty impressions. From the nose alone, this whiskey seems heavily sherried and fairly sweet, but also quite pleasant.
On the palate, this is much more viscous than you’d expect for a whiskey of its age and proof (a mere 40% ABV). They have packed some big flavors in here, and it’s even a tad hot—again, not what you would expect for the low proof. Intense nuttiness (almond pastries) and vinous notes again make the sherry casks obvious, before clearing the way for notes of stone fruit and tropical fruitiness. Light grassiness and moderate residual sugar round things out, but this is a sherry showcase more than anything else—definitely for the fans of what a rich, nutty sherry brings to the party.
All in all, this is a release that doesn’t exactly present its flavors in the most “sophisticated” way, but it’s decadently enjoyable and falls into a niche where there’s few similar competitors. It’s simply offering the type of experience at a low price point that you typically have to pay far more to find. There are aspects of it that could be improved—the booze is still slightly aggressive, even at 80 proof—but to me this still represents a pretty damn impressive value. Honestly, in the $25-$30 range I’m not even sure what you could compare it to.
If you’re looking for rich, nutty, sherried single malt on a budget, I’m not sure you’re going to be able to do better than this.
Distillery/Bottler: The Sexton (Proximo Spirits)
Style: Single malt Irish whiskey
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $25-$30 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.