Sherry butt business for spirits is booming

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

27 January 2017

We're due to see a raft of innovative products - including tequila - aged in sherry butts, according to some of the sherry producers who are sending their butts all around the world.

‘The most important body [of our casks] goes to Scotland, but also to Japan, to South America, to Taiwan…’ Rafael Medina Martínez, operations director of Bodegas Williams & Humbert told Imbibe.

There's increasing interest from tequila producers, Medina Martínez said, and 'also in the world of spirits people are researching sherry casks.'

‘We sold casks for tequila to one company three or four years ago, and last year to another company. The last shipment was one container of different styles… some casks of fino, some oloroso, some cream, some PX… I understand that they’re experimenting.

Rafael Medina Martínez. Photograph by Colin Hampden-White
Rafael Medina Martínez. Photograph by Colin Hampden-White

‘We have also sold several casks to breweries, and to bourbon companies also.’

A new trend has emerged in Jerez over the last decade or so: as demand for sherry butts grows, and bodegas are loathe to part with their old established solera casks until they’re completely exhausted, a new industry has grown up where brand-new barrels are made and then seasoned with sherry by bodegas. These companies are struggling to keep up with demand.

Bodegas Williams & Humbert started its sherry seasoning arm in 2004, partnering with nearby cooperage Humberto Domecq who supply the barrels, while Williams & Humbert provide the liquid and the storage space.

Of the 55,000 casks currently maturing in their 60,000sq m bodega, 18,000 are dedicated to cask seasoning. And with all their space currently accounted for, the bodega is looking into expanding.

Meanwhile, at Bodegas Páez Morilla, a company that produces table wines and sherry vinegar that also has a cooperage and a seasoning arm, five-year forecasts from their clients has also encouraged them to plan a huge expansion.

They currently store 15,000 casks, but a brand-new warehouse is about to be built with capacity to store 55,000. That’s a lot of sherry butts making their way across the world. It will be interesting to see how they’re used…


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