A little while ago, I was introduced to sherry via Harveys Bristol Cream and, not long after, I was very happy to try Harveys delicious Pedro Ximenez. With Christmas fast approaching, DBS suggested that it was time for me to try something a little less sweet (after all, there are enough sweet things around at this time of year!).
Harveys Fino is – unsurprisingly – a fino sherry. For those of you who don’t know much or anything about sherry, it is divided into a number of subcategories, fino being one of them. This subcategory is made up of young, pale, dry sherries. During the production process, excessive oxidation is avoided because of a layer of yeast that sits atop the sherry in the barrel, producing a fresher, lighter flavour. Because so little oxidation has taken place prior to bottling, Harveys recommend that you treat fino like a white wine: refrigerating it and finishing it within a week of opening. How easy is that going to be to do? Well, here is the result of our experimentation with it.
The nose was fruity; a neat mixture of grape and the flesh of apples, with a faint hint of marzipan at the end. To taste, it was slightly sour, but full of fruity flavours: predominantly grape at the front of the both and apple at the back. There was a sweetness, but it was a natural sweetness, like that of apple juice. The finish was dry and a tad bitter, with the apple flavour lasting the longest. Light, without being dull.
Using Stolichnaya Gold (DBS’ favourite vodka) This smelt vibrant, fresh and cold! There was also faint hints of white grape and green apples. On the tongue, it was very clean to start, followed by the distinctive notes of the vodka. The apple notes kept popping up throughout. White grape creeps in again with the finish and is quite lasting.
As may be expected, this had a sharp, vibrant citrus nose – a cross between lemon and orange. The taste hit me immediately – there was a sharp flavour of sherbet, followed by the sour tang of the sherry, with a sherbet-y edge. I thought this was lovely; it certainly wakes you up!
Another drink with a sherbet-y flavour; it started off with lemon sherbet, followed by white grape with hints of Christmas spice, before moving onto apple notes and a slightly sour finish. I thought this drink was lovely and refreshing, and made a note to drink more of them next summer.
This cocktail had a fresh, lemony nose and was dangerously easy to sip. The beginning was extremely smooth, before alternating between the dry grape of the Fino and the bitterness of the Lillet. This was still very well-balanced, though, with all of the flavours being quite delicate.
Fino and red vermouth in equal parts.
Smelling like a smoother version of a fruit cup, this was packed full of flavour. More delicate than a fruit cup, it nonetheless had lots of things going on in it. I found it difficult to indicate particular notes as there were so many, but they all worked very well together. I’d definitely drink this again.
The Queen’s Speech
I part Harvey’s Fino Sherry, 1 part Dubonet (if using Italian vermouth instead, double the amount of Fino used).
This is a take on the Dubonet cocktail, a favourite of the Queen and the late Queen Mother.
The nose was an interesting combination of sweetness and the Fino, starting like fresh apple or grape juice, followed by a dryness and the distinctive fruity tang of the sherry. It tasted like fortified Fino, with a pleasant warmth in the stomach after each sip and an ever-so-slight hint of dark chocolate. Very nice – not too heavy and just vibrant enough to stop you nodding off after Christmas dinner!
Another cocktail packed full of flavour, but this time of aniseed. It starts with faint aniseed, followed by a burst of the sherry, which is then immediately covered by the sweet aniseed of the Pernod. This is definitely an interesting cocktail, but the Fino is sadly dominated by the Pernod, mainly coming through in the mouthfeel of the drink.
This tasted very similar to a gin Negroni (with a light gin), only with an increased fruitness where the gin notes would usually be. Not being a fan of Negronis, this certainly wasn’t a favourite of mine, but it would be an interesting cocktail to try if you do.
This cocktail greets you with a lovely nose of warm spices, white grape and ginger. The combination of bourbon and sherry produces a powerful warmth and spiciness that usually comes from ginger root. The flavour slowly develops from bourbon to spiced grape, before finishing on the warmth of the bourbon.
Heather & Harvey
30ml Fino, 10ml Pedro Ximenez, a few dashes of Christmas Bitters. Garnish with a twist of orange.
A distinctly orangey nose is followed by strong flavours on the tongue: allspice and cinnamon, and rich fruit; the latter is such a dark flavour that it practically tastes like liquorice. I particularly liked how each sip of this drink seemed to differ from the one previous – it’s definitely a drink to explore! This uses Dr Heather Duncan’s Christmas Bitter which are avaialbale here.
30ml Fino, 15ml Ginger Wine, 15ml Red Vermouth.
This was a slightly lighter version of a fruit cup, which made me think it would be another drink that would be good for next summer. Ginger was the predominate flavour, with occasional bursts of grape.
This had a rich, fruity nose of sweet grape or raisins, reminding me of the Ximenez. It tasted lighter, fresher and drier than most toddies, with strong notes of lemon and honey, but without any strong sweetness. Unlike the nose, the sherry notes in the drink tasted more like grape than raisin, and there was some subtle, dry spice towards the end. I will definitely be drinking one of these again – a lovely toddy!
Harveys Fino was an excellent Christmas cocktail ingredient, balancing out excessive sweetness and adding a vibrant freshness and lightness to all of the cocktails that we tried it in, in addition to being a very good option for a refreshing tipple after Christmas dinner. Given how much of what is on offer to eat and drink this season is heavy and sweet, this could be a very useful addition to your cocktail cabinet this winter. Particular favourites of mine were: The Queen’s Speech, the Adonis, and the toddy, all of which I am looking forward to having again very soon.
And as for the test of finishing a bottle in a week, we finished ours in a little under two hours. Superb!
– Mrs. B.
Harvey’s Fino sherry is available for around £6 for 50cl from most supermarkets