Arran Madeira Cask Finish

Arran Madeira Cask Finish 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

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.

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Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish

Tullibardine Sauternes FinishDistillery: Tullibardine
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Established in 1949, Tullibardine was the first distillery to open in the 20th century, after some extremely difficult decades for the whisky industry. Don’t be fooled by the 1488 indicated on the box, this is merely marketing: supposedly King James IV had a beer at a brewery located roughly where Tullibardine distillery now stands. Either way, a rich heritage is not required to make good quality whisky, and Tullibardine has some fabulous drams on offer indeed. This particular whisky was aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, before being transferred to casks that previously held Sauternes.   Sauternes is a sweet white dessert wine made in the Bordeaux region of France. In this case, the cask was previously filled with 225 litres of Château Suduiraut Premier Cru, lending sweet, fruity flavours to this whisky. While I’m not a fan of Genmorangie’s Nectar d’Or, I was more than happy to give Sauternes finishes another try.

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Age Your Own Whisky – Batch #1

For the first batch, Master of Malt recommends to fill your cask with something other than expensive whisky. This is because the cask has never been used before, and the wood is still packed full of flavours that are ready to overwhelm any liquid you place inside it. For this purpose, I decided to use Bols Corenwyn, as this resembles unaged whisky spirit fairly closely.

Bols 01

The first batch uses Bols Corenwyn

Korenwijn (Bols uses the Corenwyn spelling to make their product seem that little bit more fancy) is a type of Dutch jenever. It literally translates to ‘grain wine’, and to an extent it is just that. By regulation, korenwijn must contain at least 51% malt wine, meaning that like a whisky, malted barley is its main ingredient. To contrast, ‘jonge’ jenever may contain no more than 15% malt wine, while ‘oude’ jenever must have at least 15%. As such, korenwijn is often seen as the more luxurious cousin of jenever, and indeed is often cask-aged before being bottled. Korenwijn is distilled to a strength of about 50% alcohol and bottled at a standard 38%. Distillation to such a low alcohol percentage leaves a lot of space for impurities, and these are traditionally masked by the addition of herbs. The botanical of choice is typically juniper, from which the name jenever derives.

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Age Your Own Whisky – Before the First Batch

This year I was given a brand new, toasted, 1 litre American Oak barrel for my birthday! While it’s possible to buy new make spirit and mature it from scratch, I intend to use this cask to give a special finish to some of my favourite whiskies. Excited to get started, I got right down to business. Upon taking the cask out of the plastic, the smell of freshly toasted wood immediately filled the room. The bung and tap still had to be inserted, and although this required some force, it was otherwise easy enough.

Cask 01

The cask is ready for use after inserting the bung and tap.

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