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  • Writer's pictureErnie - Ernst Scheiner

Sensational Solera Whisky St. Kilian

Updated: Dec 4, 2023


The Solera process at St Kilian

explained in detail



At the beginning of November 2023, the St Kilian Distillery

introduced

a new seated single malt whisky

which has matured in an Andalusian Sistema Solera.


It is probably one of the first peated single malt whiskies in the world

which matured totally in Spanish Sherry casks

by applying Criadera Solera methods.


Translated by WIX from German


Ernie Scheiner

thanks to St Kilian's CTO Mario Rudolf for the interview

as well as the transparent explanation of the St Kilian Solera



 






Solera. A novelty in whisky industry?


“The initial notion for our enthusiasm for sherry casks, the Spanish bodegas and the solera system came with the first trip to Andalusia in 2019.
The idea quickly developed of adapting the sophisticated and complex solera system, which stands for maturity, age and constant quality in sherry and brandy, to whisky" ,

Master Blender Mario Rudolf recalls.

“Now we are very proud to have installed a [real] Whisky Solera here at St. Kilian, which is probably the only one of its kind in the world .
We are very excited about the wealth of flavours that this complex aging system will reveal over the years.”


Ernie's Andalusia Seminar 2019. German and Austrian distillers discovered tonelerias and bodegas in Montilla, Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. They studied liqueur wine production and maturation in seasoned casks as well the coopering of Sherry casks in Montilla at Casknolia, Pino, Rodriguez; in Jerez at Vasyma, Paez, Hudo and Tevasa.
 

Solera in Andalusia, what is that exactly?


"The solera and criadera system means that the oldest wines benefit from a refreshment by the youngest wines and still retain their characteristics developed over the years."

The Solera-Criadera System is mainly used in Andalusia in the D.O. Jerez, D.O. Montilla-Morilles and D.O. Malaga for the maturation of vinos de licor - fortified wines. The general term Sherry is reserved exclusively for the fortified wine - vino de licor - from the geographical triangle of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez de la Frontera and is strictly protected by law as a geographical designation of origin.


The Consejo Regulator monitors compliance with these strict regulations.


The solera aging of fortified wines, fortified with grape spirit, was invented by the viticulturos during the mid-18th century. Before 1800 most Andalusian fortified wines had mainly the character of a light Claret, a fresh young wine with the colour of today's rosé wine. Cask maturation with fortified wines became popular in the early 19th century and displaced the trade in young Sherry wines. The wines were fortified by grape spirit with a high alcohol concentration with the effect they did not spoil into vinegar during transport from Spain to Bristol, Amsterdam, New York or the colonies. Today the fortification of Sherry is between 15 % and 22 % abv.


The decisive factor for using a solera method were primarily commercial reasons to standardize and harmonize the quality of the Sherries. The winemakers were able to compensate for the different harvest results by blending the wines in order to preserve and reproduce the typical taste of their products for consumers.


In 1848 the term Criadera Solera appeared for the first time in the warehouse books of the Bodega Garvey in Jerez. The first very simple Sistema Solera was probably developed by traders and viticultores in Sanlúcar de Barrameda to stabilize the quality of their export wines during the second half of the 18th century.


A typical Solera at Bodega Fundador in Jerez de la Frontera

The process of not maturing wines, which had been common until then and was determined by the highly restrictive rules of the Gremio de la Vinatería Guild, gradually became less common and was abandoned after 1778 due to the liberalization of the strict guild rules forced by traders. The rule of bottling individual young, heavily fortified export wines just few month after harvest gradually disappeared in the 19th century.


Nevertheless, the organically matured vintage sherries are returning again to the markets as AÑADAS SINGLE CASK, AÑADAS CRIANZA BIOLÓGICA and AÑADAS CRIANZA OXIDATIVA.

See, for example, the procedures in the bodegas Williams & Humbert.



Let's return to the current widespread Criadera Solera Maturation Method. The fresh young wines fortified with grape spirit - Fino 15% abv, Oloroso 17% abv - fill the top 2 criadera after about 30 percent of the filling quantity has been passed on to the 1st criadera. After a year, this wine was transferred to the solera with 30 percent of the riper and older wines. Depending on the maturation profile, the winemakers also took off 30% of finished Sherry from the Solera, which they mixed with the other withdrawals to create a cuvée.


A Solera may have been set up several decades ago. This ideal traditional method of maturing and blending is very labour intensive due to the manual work and therefore very expensive. It is always carried out by experienced oenologists. However, today in the industry new less expensive methods are applied.


For further details, see the detailed description Solera and Criadera system.





When producing Fino or Manzanilla - very dry white wines from the Palomino grapes in the D.O. Jerez or Pedro Ximénez grapes in the D.O. Montilla-Moriles - the Solera method is not carried out as intensively in several stages. The same applies to the Vinos such as Oloroso and Amantillado, as they are also stronger and fuller-bodied than other varieties.


NB: Most of the Pedro Ximénez Sherries (PX) from the D.O. Jerez is vinified from mustos or base wines - Sobretablas - from the D.O. Montilla-Moriles, a wine-growing region 60 km south of Cordoba. There, the winemakers are not allowed to use the term Sherry for labeling their wines, even though they use the same most and the same processing methods for Solera as their winemaker colleagues in Jerez.


The Montilla-Moriles wine grower send them their PX musts and/or base wines in tankers for further processing. In the magical triangle of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez-de-la Frontera, the viticultures make Pedro Ximénez sherries, which they officially label with the misleading geographical designation of origin D.O. Jerez. As far as the consumer is concerned sherry winemakers should state the geographical source and origin of their most or base wine on the label. The sources of the base wines are not mentioned.



Some Pedro Ximénez vines are still growing in D.O. Jerez. The Bodegas Valdespino Estévez (in March 2023 Macallan bought 50 % of the shares of the Grupo Estévez) and Bodega Ximénez Spinola are the only remaining few to bottle PX Sherry from their own grapes they harvested in their vineyards of D.O. Jerez. Williams & Humbert have started a project of replanting PX vines in the D.O. Jerez. Bodega Lustau sources its PX base wines from D.O. Montilla-Moriles, people say.

 

A Maturation Method is conquering the world


A Sistema Solera is also used in the aging and blending of Brandy de Jerez and other alcohol-fortified wines in Malaga, Montilla, Madeira. The Andalusian solera system can be found in wineries all over the world in a similar way. Even in Australia, South Africa, Cyprus or in the Sicilian Marsala Region and French areas of Banyuls sur Mer or Rivesaltes or even in Greece etc. The Solera method is also found in the production of vinegar, which matures biologically and aerobically in a similar way to sherry. In the Cognac and Armagnac region, some destillates are created by using the same blending method.


The Sistema Solera also operates in several rum distilleries in the Caribbean as well as in Colombia, Venezuela and India. The sugar cane distillates mature in four or more stacks Criadera-like rows of barrels. A rum from the lowest Solera range reaches an age of several decades, although only a small proportion of it actually came from the earlier years when the Solera had been set up. The blend of young, middle and old rum does not necessarily have to be 40 years old or even older. The only fact true is that the solera started 40 years ago. The same applies to sherries.


In the US... the Hillrock Estate Distillery has been producing whiskey variations by using the Andalusian pattern Solera Aged Bourbon or Solera Pinot Noir Aged Bourbon. The Solera variations with Sauternes Barriques - French sweet wine from Bordeaux - and Dakota Shy Napa Cabernet Barriques expand the Hillrock Bourbon portfolio.


The dynamic Doc Swinson's Blender in Washington State released a Rye Whiskey, which they aromatically modified in former American Oak rum barrels using a process similar to Solera:


"It was a experimental project where we found ourselves a few years ago with a surplus of five-year-old rums from Trinidad, Venezuela and Jamaica alongside a number of recently discarded bourbon casks. After processing the aged rum, we decided to use the solera aging method...to create a rum barrel rye whiskey. At the time, there were only one or two rum barrel-aged rye whiskeys on the mainstream market."


A Doc Swinsons ALTER EGO Rye Whiskey Blend, finished in a Rum Cask Solera, was released with 47% vol. Master Blender Jesse Parker finally matured the Rye Whiskey Blend from two different mash bills in the solera rum barrel system. The barrels came from rum production at distilleries in St. Croix, Trinidad, Venezuela, Jamaica.

For the Solera process, see the detailed description in Swinson's Product description.


From Australia comes a Solera Single Malt Whisky, which is produced by Starward Distillery in Melbourne.


"A fraction of each young cask is mixed with older casks, so that every sherry always contains a portion of the first cask. This means that every Starward Solera contains a touch of the distillery's very first barrel. The single malt was stored in Apera wine barrelsfrom the McWilliams winery, an Australian fortified wine."


Since 2012, Apera has been the official name for a fortified wine made in Australia, whose aromatic character appears to be similar to an Andalusian sherry.


In Melbourne The Gospel Distillery produces a non-age statement double-distilled rye whiskey made from 100% Australian unmalted Rye. It is matured using a modified five-stage solera method in a mixture of 20 Australian red wine casks, refill The Gospel American bourbon barrels and new virgin oak barrels. As whiskies younger than three years also appear in the solera, it cannot not be marketed as "whisky", as they fill a new spirit into the top criadera of virgin oak casks. The Criadera y Solera Sistema is connected from level to level with a permanently installed hose system. The barrels rest in a five-tier steel rack.


The spirit blend, which passes through the system, matures in a separate "holding" row of solera barrels. The red wine barrels are wrapped in foil and the heads are covered with special cardboard to minimize evaporation.

The first Gospel Solera Rye was released in 2019.


"Shaped by our unique solera maturation system, Solera Rye delivers an American style rye whiskey with a unique easy-going Australian attitude."


Co-founder Ben Bowles explains the GOSPEL system in detail. The distillery has occupied a warehouse since 2019. Their first moonshine spirits were distilled in Portuguese stills in 2015.



Drayman's Solera Whisky was first released in South Africa in 2009 without an age statement. The South African Craft Brewery from Silverton, near Pretoria, founded in 1997, created a solera made from wine barrels in 2006. Brewer and founder of the Micro Brewery Moritz Kallmeyer bottled a 45% vol blend of grain and malt after solera maturation. He blended imported Scotch and South African whisky (grain?) together. The aromatic flavouring of the base whiskies took place in a solera made from barriques in which South African winemakers aged their red wines. Kallmeyer now distills his own double-distilled malt whiskies from his beers brewed according to the Bavarian Rheinheitsgebot.


"At Drayman's, a SOLERA is, in the truest sense of the word, a set of 10 French oak barrels, each with a capacity of 225 liters, which are used in the aging process...Over a period of 3 to 4 years Another 5 barrels are filled one after the other with new mature Scottish and South African whiskies at intervals of 6 months. The first Drayman's Solera Whisky was bottled in 2009 when some of the contents of the mother cask were tapped. The mother cask was then filled with the next oldest cask and from the second oldest cask to the youngest cask, which was then refilled with new whisky. This process is repeated at the end of each six-month ripening interval."



New Drayman Solera whiskies are currently not on offer.




When bottling, we only take part of the whisky from the Swedish oak barrels, so there is always liquid left over. The remaining contents are then topped with whisky from the bourbon barrel above (Criadera 1). And this continues the same way up to the top layer (Criadera 5)...The system ensures that the whisky is always at least 6 years old, but since the barrel is never completely emptied, Solera changes its character with each new bottling."


Source: High Coast Distillery Facebook 21.8. 2021, Photo by High Coast Distillery


Please Note:

Glenfiddich's Solera Variation is not a single malt that is matured in a multi-stage traditional Criadera-Solera system like Sherry. Why? The former Master Blender David Stewart pioneered a different innovative way of Solera aging for his single malt.


The 15 Year Old Glenfiddich Solera consists of three different maturing single malt whiskies that initially received their basic maturation in different cask styles: 1 European Sherry casks, 2 American Bourbon barrels and 3 Virgin Oak casks. The marriage of the Vatting of the whiskies selected from the three cask types takes usually place in a huge open-top vat (see photo below on the left) and then afterwards in special traditional Portuguese Solera Tuns made of American oak (see photo on the right).



The Solera process at Glenfiddich. On the far right are the Portuguese Tuns. Photos copyright The Gateway to Distilleries 2023.


Rumours have it that the Irish distilleries Boann and Bushmills have laid down Solera Systems for whiskey maturation.


 

About Sherry

More information about the production of Sherry and Montilla fortified wines. Double click each time.

Photos Copyright The Gateway to Distilleries


 

A Solera at St. Kilian Distillery, what is the procedure like?


The master mind of St Kilian is Mario Rudolf. The qualified master brewer developed into one of the most innovative German whisky makers at the St Kilian distillery. The conditions were favourable. Andreas Thümmler promoted and supported the creative perspectives of his CTO Rudolf. The Rüdenau CEO is enthusiastic about the tremendous development of his family-run distillery near Miltenberg am Main. The wide-ranging St Kilian portfolio delights the local whisky collector.


An encounter with the Irish distillation expert David F. Hynes - Cooley, Kilbeggan, Great Northern - developed into a friendship that ultimately led to the founding of the St Kilian distillery in 2012. The first barley distillate bubbled through the Spirit Safe in 2016.


Mario Rudolf, who comes from the nearby town of Amorbach, learned fast from Scottish and Irish distillery colleagues and winemakers in Andalusia. The former brewer and malster was impressed by their wines and production methods in Montilla, Málaga and Jerez. Personal contacts with renowned cooperages and bodegas enabled him to create new, direct ways of maturing whisky in first-class containers at St Kilian. In addition to 103-year-old Vino de Color Barriles from the Bodega Herederos de Argüeso are barrel cultures from the most famous bodegas in the D.O. Jerez, D.O. Malaga and D.O. Montilla Morilles.


"Our New Make also feels particularly at home in sherry casks and generates a complex aroma profile in them that really convinces me,"

whisky blender Rudolf says.


Why shouldn't we use the Andalusian sherry-solera system when maturing the St. Kilian malt whiskey,"

the Franconian thought.


Together with the head distiller Zoltan Fodi - also a participant of the seminar in Andalusia - he discussed processes of adaptation and possible ways of implementing the solera method at St Kilian. The way was difficult because vinologists were unable to provide any help from Andalusia for their initial construction of a whisky solera.


Mario Rudolf and Zoltan Fodi

The first difficulty was the actual procedure:


"How do we start off with a Kilian Solera, what should we do when, how should we do it?" There was no help from Andalusia,
because the biological-aerobic maturation of sherry differs significantly from whisky maturation.
The winemakers use extremely old barrels to develop their fortified wines.
They are 500 liter butts that coopers bound from either American or Spanish oak.
Sometimes even made of chestnut wood.
We rejected the idea of filling all selected Solera barrels with the same New Make or whisky and came up with an alternative approach."

Long and intensive discussions and considerations within the Kilian team ultimately led to the creation and construction of a Kilian-specific Solera cask culture in which non-peated and peated Kilian distillates would continuously mature into whiskies in the near future.


The first rule determines the distillate:

"We decided always to choose the same malt recipe, refining, yeast and distillation method for the solera distillate,
so that a basic consistency of the whiskies will be observed.
Everything will remain identical,"

Mario Rudolf explains the approach.


NB: Kilian always sources the unpeated malt from German barley from the Weyermann Malters in Bamberg, while the peated malt with 80 ppm (HPLC measurement method) comes from the Scottish Maltings in Glenesk near Montrose, south of Aberdeen. Of course, the types of barley to be malted could change over the years as cultivation changes.



The beginnings of St Kilian Solera with Mario Rudolf.


The second rule determined the barrel selection:


Mario Rudolf and Zoltan Fodi developed a three-stage barrel aging system consisting of a two-part Criadera 2 & 1 and a final solera 3. They were looking for the ideal aroma-defining casks for the non-peated and peated whiskies, because they wanted two separate peated and non-peated solera system.


According to their ideas, each cask should add specific aromas and contribute to the desired complex character of the two Solera single malts.


It sounded like a gamble.


But their previous experience in maturing Kilian distillates taught them to estimate the general aromatic effects of the different casks.


"We wanted our whiskies to have a Sherry flavour."

They therefore only discussed those cask cultures that had previously produced sherries from the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. There was a choice of containers in which Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel or sherry cuvées such as Cream previously matured. Their Kilian Solera selection was ultimately limited to those fresh barrels that had previously been filled with Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontillado, Pedro Ximenez and Medium Sherry. They decided on a mixture of relatively old bodega butts from a former Bodega Criadera Solera as well as certified seasoned Sherry casks in which renowned bodegas aged their base wines for at least 18 months. The cask were set up by first-class Andalusian cooperages.


Rudolf's and Fodi's considerations and assessments ultimately came to the conclusion that a different selection of barrels should be used for their Sistema Solera for non-peated and peated distillates.


The selection they set up in 2020 formed the aroma-defining backbone of the St Kilian Solera and should not be changed during the future maturation phases. However, an exception may be possible:


"We also decided that a single cask could be replaced from time to time during the maturation phase if aromatic silence will be noticed.
But not all of the them,"

Mario Rudolf points out.



The role model: A traditional Sistema Solera in the Bodega Gonzalez-Byass which Mario Rudolf and Zoltan Fodi visited

 

When did the St Kilian Solera begin?


Time had come in October 2020. The CTO Rudolf and his team started the development phase of the first St Kilian Solera for a peated malt whisky:


"The first filling of Criadera Two happened in October 2020."


Mario Rudolf explains the way of the St. Kilian Solera maturation process during a web tasting

Step 1

The stillmen distilled the base distillate twice in 6,000 liter Scottish Forsyth Swan Neck pot stills from an 80 ppm peated Scottish malt which came malt from Glenesk. Afterwards, Char 4 Virgin American Oak Barrels from the Independent Stave Company (ISC, 190 l) shaped the core distillate of the St Kilian Solera for a year. A few weeks before the initial filling of the Solera, the Peated Spirit celebrated its first anniversary of maturation on September 4th, 2020. (NB: Therefore, the Solera variant bottled in October 2023 is four years old).


Step 2

"We filled the top row the first year,
so the Criadera Two,
consisting of three five hundred liter Oloroso Butts with a one-year peated distillate."

Step 3

Afterwards, in the second year, the Kilian team filled the entire contents of the Seasoned Oloroso Butts into the second row, i.e. into Criadera One consisting of two Amontillado Bodega Butts (both were 20 years old, 500 liters each) and a thirty-year-old Fino Bodega Butt (500 liters). As with the Criadera Two, the origin of the casks is not communicated.

"These weren't seasoning casks, but real bodega casks from a Criadera solera,"

explains Mario Rudolf.


Step 4

After another third year, Criadera One was also drained and for the final solera maturation in six certified seasoned Pedro Ximénez barriques (225 l) from the Bodega Ximénez Spínola from Tablas in the D.O. Jerez decanted.


"We went through Criadera Two and One as well as Solera with our final product.
In the third year, our core distillate was finished three times, so to speak."

Step 5

When the Kilian distillers transferred the liquid from the Criadera 1 to the Solera, the three Oloroso Butts in the first row were of course refilled in the following October 2021. This time, however, it was a two-year-old peated spirit from the distillation periods of May and June 2019, which matured in first-fill Jack Daniel American Standard Barrels (190 l).


We chose this maturing peated spirit so that the fillings would be of the same age.

Step 6

In the third year, the Criadera 2 was topped up with a whisky matured for three years in a first-fill Jack Daniel barrel (the Peated New Make, as described above, came from the same distillation months May and June 2019).


"In the third year of 2022, however, we had a delay and were only able to refill in February 2023. So in spring all the casks of Criadera Two and One as well as the Solera were filled.
In October 2023, we were able to extract around thirty percent of the filling for our first release in 2023 from the Solera below, i.e. stage three.
It was only at this point that the actual solera began with the removal of thirty percent of the contents of Criadera Two, which filled from above down into Criadera One,
from which they had previously removed 30% and put it into the solera casks for further maturation...
from which we had also previously removed 30% of the contents for our inaugural St Kilian release.
At the same time, we refilled the Criadera Two with a three-year-old peated Kilian from a Jackie Barrel [thirty percent] "
According to our calculation, the Solera will reach an average biological age of ten years in 2032,"

Mario Rudolf emphasizes the current status of the Solera proceedings.


Step 6

With the annual Criadera 2 addition of a three-year-old St Kilian malt, which underwent basic maturation in Jack Daniel's first-fill bourbon barrels, the Solera will continue on an annual basis in the future.


"The Jackie thus brings about standardization and a balanced harmonization of the three-stage St Kilian-Criadera-Solera system."

The Criadera and Solera are always filled up to the bunghole during decanting and subsequent refilling. An ullage, a free head space in the cask, as it is common in Andalusia, is not allowed when refilling the Kilian Criadera and Solera casks, because the maturation conditions for sherry (flor formation, oxidation influx) are different.


The Angels' Share in the Kilian warehouses for Bourbon barrels is around 3 or 3.5% per year, for other casks there is loss of filling quantity between 1.5% and 3%. For comparison: The Angels' Share in Italian Amarone wine barriques reaches between 1.5 and 2% of the annual filling quantity.


Mario Rudolf's Solera Project. The beginnings in 2020 at the first distillery warehouses.


Whisky maker Rudolf says about the result, taking into account the legal requirements for brandy and sherry:


"When we always put a three-year spirit from Jackie barrels into the Criadera Two,
then after going through the three barrel stages we end up with the same calculation as with the brandies
at least one six-year-old St Kilian Solera Whisky.
but theoretically there is at least one drop that comes from October 2020...
according to the official calculation to the Spirits Regulations, the Solera will have an average age of ten years...
around October 2032 the Solera will be complete,
we have then reached the maximum average age."


Kilians Unpeated Solera. The Cask Types


For the mild, unpeated Kilian Solera variant, Mario Rudolf and Zoltan Fodi also chose a three-stage barrel maturation system consisting of a two-part Criadera 2 & 1 and a final Solera 3. But compared to the peated Solera, they changed to other types of casks.


The procedure for building up the Solera in June 2020 was similar to that of the peated Solera variant.


Step 1

In the first three years of building the St. Kilian-Criadera-Solera "...the whole set up started in June 2020 with the filling of the Criadera 2 with a distillate from December 12th, 2018..." which initially shaped Char 4 Virgin American Oak Barrels from the Independent Stave Company (ISC, 190 l) for just over a year.


Step 2

In June 2021, the casks in the top row were completely emptied after a year and their contents were filled into the Criadera 1 in the row below. The team filled the Criadera 2 with a two-year-old distillate from the same batch of December 2018, also matured in Virgin Oak barrels.


Step 3

In June 2022, the third year, the Criadera 1 was transferred to the solera casks.

The distillate flowed from the Criadera 1 stage into the solera barrels below, while the distillates from the Criadera 2 filled the barrels of the Criadera 1 again.


The Kilian distillers immediately filled the empty Criadera 2 barrels with the three-year-old virgin oak distillate from the same distillation batch from December 12, 2018.


"The non-smoky St. Kilian-Criadera-Solera system was finally born,
From 2023 onwards, we will fill the Criadera Two exclusively with mild Kilian malts that have matured for three years in first-fill Jackie barrels.
In the future, the removal and transfer from the Criadera 2 and 1 as well as from the Solera will be reduced to around thirty percent of the respective capacity of the casks."

Rudolf says,


"...We could have done the process differently, initially filling all stages of the Solera at the same time with the same distillate.
We had some thoughts, but what was crucial for us was how do we make the structure most efficiently from an aromatic and taste point of view?
There is no right or wrong, for us it felt right to choose an aroma-building and structuring method...
Up to now, the positive results confirm this approach.
We're off to a very good start with an incredibly charged product.
Now we can put an exclamation mark!
It will be exciting to see how the Solera changes over time."


 

Which barrel cultures are used for the mild St Kilian version?


For the unpeated Criadera 2, the Kilian team uses seasoned barrels made of American oak from the renowned Toneleria Tevasa in which a dry Manzanilla Sherry of the Bodega Baron of Sanlúcar de Barrameda flavoured the staves beforehand. From June 2020, 2 certified seasoned first-fill Manzanilla Hogsheads (250 liters) will form the twice-distilled barley spirit (see above) in the Criadera made from non-peated German barley malt (Pilsner Malt variety) from the malster Weyermann in Bamberg, Franconia.


In the following stage of Criadera 1 old seasoned medium sherry butts from the Bodega Ximénez-Spinola will be used. As with the peated Kilian version, the final Solera maturation takes place in certified seasoned Pedro Ximénez Barriques (225 l) from the Bodega Ximénez-Spínola from Tablas in the D.O. Jerez.


"In the third phase of maturation we only use certified seasoned Pedro Ximénez Sherry barriques from the Bodega Ximénez-Spínola.
These give our whisky an expressive and complex aroma profile."

With the annual addition of a three-year-old St Kilian malt, which undergoes basic maturation in scratched first-fill bourbon barrels from Jack Daniel, the solera will be continued in the future.
This allows standardization of the three-stage St Kilian-Criadera-Solera system.
The Criadera 2 is refilled every year after the 30% has been poured into Criadera One up to the bunghole with the one in "Jackie".
The St Kilian Solera System will be refilled only with matured single malt whisky in the future."

This means that a double-distilled St Kilian malt whisky that was originally matured for three years in first-fill bourbon barrels is actually finished three times in one way or another:

  • Finish 1 Subtle andelegant Manzanilla aromas,

  • Finish 2 with a mild, young medium-aged sherry and finally a

  • Finish 3 of an aroma-intensive sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry from organic vineyards. The Pedro Ximénez grapes grow on the slopes around the Ximénez-Spinola winery in Tablas, D.O. Jerez.


A selection of cask cultures. Virgin Oak Barrels from the U.S., Jack Daniel American Standard Barrels,
Manzanilla Casks, PX Sherry Casks and Sherry Casks at the St Kilian Distillery

Photos Copyright St. Kilian Distillers and The Gateway to Distilleries


 

Conclusion


It should add up. So we increase the aroma, the delicate aromas, the colour, the sweetness, the fruit...actually everything.
It's exciting to see what effect this will have and will look like from stage to stage...because no one has done anything like this in the single malt sector in Sherry casks before.. ."

the inventor of the St. Kilian Solera Mario Rudolf says.


However...

The Kilian Solera process is very complex: labour-intensive and above all expensive. In compliance with German Customs Regulations, the casks must always be completely emptied during refilling, the removal weighed, stored temporarily and processed for tax purposes. The meticulous documentation of the procedures is indeed very time-consuming. Each individual step is handwritten in the warehouse book and checked and countersigned by a Kilian employee who acts as a part time officer of the German Excise Authorities.

 

About Bodega Ximénez Spínola


The small Bodega Ximénez Spínola enjoys a very good reputation among connoisseurs. The innovative white wines come from the Pedro Ximénez grape vineyards surrounding the bodega - they are rare in the D.O. Jerez. The resulting excellent Pedro Ximénez Sherries impress with their complex aroma, taste and originality. The vinologist José Antonio Zarzana vinifies the Pedro Ximénez wines and PX sherries which exclusively come from his own PX grapes growing according to organic principles in his Tablas vineyards.



The result is that the winery has a unique selling point in the D.O. Jerez: It does not source any PX musts or PX base wines from the D.O. Montilla-Moriles like surrounding bodegas do in large quantities because,


due to poor harvest success in the past, the Jerez-winegrowers extensively cleared their PX vineyards and replaced them with Palomino and Moscatel vines.


The quality of Spínola's PX barrels is highly appreciated by whisky makers worldwide. The demand is great...however, long-term delivery contracts ensure that St. Kilian may have access to the precious pieces from Tablas.


The Solera 1918 Laura and José's ancestors created the Bodega Ximénez Spinola in 1918. It follows that the sweet Pedro Ximénez Sherry extracted from it is actually not over 100 years old, but only contains traces of a PX Sherry from the 1918 harvest year.


See further information at Bodega Ximénez Spinola.


Solera at Bodega Ximénez Spínola. 1918 and 1964. Pedro Ximénez Sherry in biological-aerobic maturation. Fresh and wet casks from Andalusia always reach the St Kilian distillery directly in late Autumn in air-conditioned trucks shortly after three days of emptying at the bodega.

Photos copyright St. Kilian Distillers and The Gateway to Distilleries


For further information about Bodega Ximénez Spinola, please see Whiskey & Drinks.






 

The St Kilian Solera is suitable for collecting. New editions appear every year. A horizontal Criadera-Solera stack at home is possible because the bottles are closed with long-lasting, odorless, food-safe plastic corks.



 

Press Release by St Kilian Distillers from October 2023



Whisky Solera by St. Kilian – Peated (limited to 620 bottles):




St. Kilian CTO and whisky blender Mario Rudolf explains the process:


"The first bottling of the new “Whisky Solera by St. Kilian” series will certainly attract the attention of whiskey enthusiasts from all over the world.
The peated St Kilian Single Malt Whisky went through the three stages of the St. Kilian Solera system, in which the final maturation stage consists exclusively of Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.

The first row of barrels is made up of a mix of 20-year-old Amontillado and 30-year-old Fino Sherry barrels, while the second row of barrels is made of the finest Oloroso Sherry barrels which are filled with smoky whiskey matured in former bourbon barrels.
The perfect combination of tradition and innovation makes this limited special bottling a very special enjoyment experience."

Appearance:

Dark amber


Aroma:

Warm peat smoke, interwoven with dark sherry-pickled fruits, plums and baked apples, blends harmoniously with fine herbs, a hint of walnut and dry ash tones into the complex overall picture.


Taste:

The intense sweetness of sherry, plums, raisins and brown sugar harmonizes perfectly with the warming melange of oak spices, herbs, dry ash tones and green walnuts, which is surrounded by fine, spicy peat smoke.


Aftermath:

The aromas of green walnuts, dry ash and warming oak spice last pleasantly long with creamy fruit notes, herbs and fine dark chocolate.


Alcohol content: 56.8% Vol.


RRP: € 99.90 (0.5 liters)


[The Solera Release was sold out in minutes after the web show.


A second St Kilian release in a non-smoky variation is expected in 2024.]


For further information please see St Kilian Distillery





 

About the Author

Ernie - Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries www.whisky-distilleries.net He documents over 150 distilleries photographically from the inside and describes the production of the whiskies in detail. Since studying at the University of Edinburgh he has been interested in the subject of whisky and has published in

Trade magazines like The Ireland Journal, the small distillery, Whisky Passion and The Highland Herald. Features and stories appeared in blogs like whiskyexperts, whiskefanblog and whiskyintelligence. As former head of the VHS Ingelheim, and now as a whisk(e)y tutor, he teaches distillation at colleges, organizes study tours and whisky culture tours to the sources of whisky.


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