Distillery: Isle of Arran
Age: No age statement
While 2017 saw the introduction of the Arran Trebbiano Cask, in 2018 it was time for another Italian wine to take its place. After plenty of shuffling around, Arran seems to have now settled on the Port, Amarone and Sauternes Cask being a core part of their range, complemented by a different Limited Edition each year. That honour now falls to the Arran Marsala Cask Finish.
Marsala is a fortified wine produced on Sicily, and is essentially Italy’s take on port or sherry. While Marsala’s intense flavour means it’s often used for cooking, it can also be drunk on its own, particularly if you have a bit of a sweet tooth. Not surprisingly then, Arran Marsala Cask will come as a treat for those who like their whiskies sweet and sumptuous. Bottled at the usual 50% abv, this is another easy-drinking sip of whisky from Arran distillery.
Nose: Deep, winey aromas drift from the glass, although not quite as fragrant as we’re used to from Arran. The distillery’s signature fruitiness has taken on a darker shade, with cherries and blackberries giving way to stewed pears. There’s a dash of zest as well, as orange peels and fruit cake fizzle out to make room for pecans and a faint hint of cloves.
Palate: Rather sweet, with flavours of candied fruit and sticky toffee. Then oaky notes come to the fore, accentuating the winey aromas found on the nose. As a nutty character takes hold, pecans shine through once more, along with almonds and dark chocolate. No shortage of flavour here, the Marsala Cask is making its presence known!
Finish: Hot, viscous and syrupy, with toasted oak and sweet tannins slowly dissolving into a faintly bitter aftertaste of charred oak and fruity tobacco leaves. Not bad… not bad at all.
Verdict: You’ve got to give Arran credit for another charming entry in their ever-changing Cask Finishes range. Arran are fast becoming the undisputed masters of giving their whisky a soak in something weird or wonderful (with some stiff competition from Mackmyra). There’s an inherent risk in this experimentation, but the Marsala Cask doesn’t shame the distillery one bit. And yet… compared to its cask finished siblings, this dram doesn’t really stand out either. While the Marsala Cask is packed full of flavour, it also lacks some balance. Rather than accentuating it, the European oak is bludgeoning Arran’s distillery character into submission. So while this whisky beats the Sauternes Cask hands down, it’s not going to stop me longing for the now discontinued Arran Madeira Cask…