Distillery: Isle of Arran
Age: No age statement
It seems natural to compare the Arran Port Cask with the Madeira Cask, given the similarities between these two types of fortified wine. I tend to contrast it with the different effects that an Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez sherry finish can have on a whisky, but since I’m by no means a wine expert, I will quickly move to safer (whisky) ground. Because despite their similar maturation, it’s striking how different the Arran Port Cask and Madeira Cask actually are. Sure, they share the same Arran characteristics, but underneath this there’s a completely distinct flavour profile for each.
The Arran Port Cask was aged in American oak for about 8 years, before being transferred to ex-port casks. This extra maturation has enhanced Arran’s fruity flavours even further, but has also mellowed some of the freshness usually found in Arran whiskies, substituting it for an enigmatic finesse. Many other cask finishes have come and gone from Arran’s core range, but the Port Cask remains. While this may have something to do with the availability of casks, it’s certainly also an indication that Arran Port Cask has been a big hit. I for one am thankful that this whisky is still on the shelves, as it’s a dram I love to come back to!
Colour: Harvest gold
Nose: Rich, dark and almost overwhelmingly fruity. There is an autumnal quality to this Arran, with aromas of forest fruits and the earthy profile of strewn leaves. The nose offers a slightly salty tang, and this bottling has lost some of the typical Arran freshness, replacing it with a musty, winey perfume. Notes of figs and cranberry give way to strawberries and cream. Delicious!
Palate: Full-bodied, with a velvety, creamy texture. The fruity notes come forward yet again, but in less exuberant fashion. Instead, Arran Port Cask showcases flavours of toffee, almonds and sandalwood. Oaky yet floral, Arran Port Cask is an exemplary showpiece of elegance. Mature and sophisticated, this is a highly distinguished dram.
Finish: Gorgeous. Long and lingering, like an explosion of mellow dark fruit and aged oak in slow motion. The finish is where Arran Port Cask truly shines, a definite highlight to a great whisky. The aftertaste is slightly bitter, leaving behind flavours of chocolate truffles and walnuts. Breathtaking!
Verdict: Of all the excellent Arran whiskies currently on the market, Port Cask has got to be one of the best. Its incredible richness, partnered with that intense bottling strength of 50%, make for one hell of an enjoyable dram. With a drop of water, Arran Port Cask becomes almost a different whisky entirely, meaning you get to just keep exploring layer upon layer of Arran lushness. As the cheapest whisky in the finishes range, Port Cask isn’t actually very expensive either. Arran distillery can be proud of this one, what an absolute bargain!