Distillery: Isle of Arran
Age: No age statement
Despite its young age, the Isle of Arran distillery uses very traditional production techniques. Even so, they have not shied away from experimenting with different types of casks. And this is all to the good: drams such as the Port Cask Finish and the Amarone Cask Finish are delightful whiskies, and the Madeira Cask Finish forms no exception. As the name indicates, this Arran has received an additional maturation in casks that previously held Madeira wine. And while this whisky bears the influences of not one, but two different islands, it ironically does not have an obvious Island character. Like most Arrans, the Madeira Cask is an unpeated, fresh and floral whisky, but now overlaid with extra fruity, nutty flavours from the Madeira cask. The result is a delicious dram, which thanks to its bottling strength of 50% does not lack for vigour.
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Takes a while to open up, but then aromas of raisins and marmalade shine through. The profile is very floral, brimming with a zesty energy. Notes of pear and powdered sugar drift out of the glass like a fresh summer breeze. Underneath lurk some slightly briny notes, but they’re quite subdued. With water, the nose becomes a bit more earthy, developing scents of lavender, honey and autumn leaves.
Palate: Sumptuously sweet with a dash of spice to it, like blood oranges sprinkled with nutmeg. Notes of shortbread and chocolate praline give way to barley and baking flour. Add a drop of water and the flavour becomes even more intensely fruity, without ever losing its oomph. If anything, Arran Madeira Cask becomes more sophisticated and more mature when watered down ever so slightly. This is excellent stuff!
Finish: Deliciously smooth and warming, with a spicy sweetness and the aftertaste of dried fruit with a tinge of salt.
Verdict: What a pleasant dram this is! Arran Madeira Cask is fresh, aromatic and incredibly likeable. I’ve had many floral, fruity whiskies that sacrifice flavour for smoothness and delicacy. Yet this Arran offers both: it’s sweet without ever being boring. Quite the contrary, with its bottling strength of 50%, Arran Madeira Cask provides plenty of kick and manages to balance smoothness with a rich bouquet of interesting flavours. This dram is perfect for a sunny spring day when you’re in a good mood and everything seems to be going your way. Or to cheer you up when it’s not… Actually, you can just drink this Arran any time, it’s a mighty fine whisky!