Origin: Isle of Arran (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrells: Ex-Bourbon and ex Amarone Wine
Added coloring: No
Owner: Isle of Arran Distillery
Average price: € 50.00
Official website: www.arranwhisky.com
We return today to Lochranza, on the north coast of the enchanting island of Arran, a destination for walkers, birdwatchers and whisky drinkers, to taste perhaps the most distinctive of the finishes in the distillery’s core range: that in ex-Amarone wine casks.
Amarone is a dry red raisin wine, produced exclusively in Valpolicella, in the province of Verona. It’s a wine rich in complex and evolved scents. Amarone base wines express a powerful note of ripe red fruit, with black cherry in the foreground, balsamic notes, and lots of tertiary spices such as cocoa and coffee, a significant alcohol content (minimum 14% but usually much more) and a discreet acidity that allows the sometimes robust body and high aromatic concentration to refine. Amarone Riserva wines, which have spent at least four years in casks, then go on to develop some of the most surprising olfactory scents to be found in wine, what the French call “goudron”: notes of tar, volcanic stones, musk, burnt or smoked wood, bbq or bacon, which for whisky enthusiasts often come from peat.
Bottled at 50% ABV, with no artificial colouring or chillfiltration, like all Arran’s finishings, the Amarone Cask Finish rested 8 years in American oak ex-Bourbon barrels, before concluding its maturation with 9 months in barrels from Italy, which had previously housed Amarone della Valpolicella.
The colour is a red with caramel reflections.
On the nose, embraced by an evident but not at all invasive vinous note, we perceive a hint of sour cherry, a delicious scent of dark chocolate, an impression of ripe figs and sultanas, and a generous touch of spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). A floral note is clearly discernible in the background, suggesting a well-rounded bouquet. There’s almost a hint of peat, like a mirage, in the distance.
On the palate, in a decidedly robust body, the hint of black cherry and the scent of chocolate become more subdued, in favour of spices. Nutmeg and cinnamon gain in intensity, as does the impression of sultanas, while the 50% ABV supports the drink beautifully and leads to a long finish in which the spices (cinnamon in particular) and sultanas triumph.
Ageing in ex-wine casks, especially with wines with a strong personality (such as Amarone), is risky, because the whisky could be distorted. But here the influence of the barrels has been managed with extraordinary restraint, and the result is an excellent whisky in which richness and complexity go hand in hand with balance and pleasure.