Whisky Tasting: Arran Amarone Cask Finish

I’m about to break all the rules of whisky tasting. Well maybe not all the rules, probably only the one, but it’s a fairly big one.

I’ve never had Arran before this. Not to the best of my memory. I’m launching straight into the distillery with one of its wood finishes, without any idea what the base malt is, and I’m going to blog it. Record for posterity my thoughts of this whisky are, and maybe it’ll even be your first exposure to Arran. If it sucks, I may never have Arran again (unlikely for two reasons: one, I’ve already tried this and the spoiler is that it’s quite nice; two, I bought this with another bottle of the regular Arran, so if I own it I should at least try it).

If I was to put a brave face on this, I could say that this is an ideal situation, a chance to taste the wood finish without any baggage, without having to look for what the malt would otherwise be. That’s probably a cop out though.

I should also add that I don’t know what an amarone is.

Nose: sherry but not quite, softer fresher fruits, black grapes rather than sultanas. A vague hint of dark chocolate, but only vague.

Taste: well balanced with the alcohol, toffee, malt, dry dark chocolate. Maybe a dry port flavour too.

Finish: Long enough. More toffee, caramel, more sultanas.

And with a drop of water.

Nose: more fruit on the nose, possibly plums.

Taste: Salty, more of what I’d think an “island” character is.

Finish: shorter, still very pleasant, maybe a lingering hint of spice.

Overall it’s quite a fantastic dram. Great balance, easy drinking, very smooth with great flavour. Not the most complex, but has a lot of guts ad enough around the edges to be very interesting.

I still don’t know what an amarone is.

The official tasting notes say

Nose: Poached pears and honey followed by toasted almonds and a subtle touch of cranberry. With water a coffee note appears together with chocolate orange and mellow butterscotch

Palate: Dark chocolate, cherry and Turkish delights are evident as are stewed fruits and toffee. Muscular notes of dark plum wrestle with bitter-sweet apricots and a hint of cinnamon

Finish: A well-balanced combination of the finesse of The Arran Malt and the restrained fruit and oak from the Amarone casks. Concentrated and elegant this malt delivers on all levels

One final note: Arran is possibly the isle of definitive articles. The full title of this dram is The Arran Malt The Amarone Cask Finish.

Tasting: Highland Park 18 year old

Nose: Sweet, raisins, possible sherry, also dry with a hint of acetic, citrus, possibly grapefruit, maybe some demerera sugar tucked away. There’s a lot going on.

Taste: dark bitter chocolate, honey, malt, a little thin. The taste doesn’t quite deliver on the nose.

Finish: quite long, lots of chocolate, a hint of smoke, brown sugar.

And then a drop of water…

Nose: more citrus, more grapefruit.

Taste: Still a little thin, I’m looking for flavours but not really finding them, maybe something herbal or grassy.

Finish: Shorter.

Then I checked the HP website:

http://highlandpark.co.uk/shop/highland-park-18-year-old/

“Lingering layers of sweet honeyed malt, meet characterful dried fruit notes, marzipan and golden syrup, all wrapped up in swathes of our distinctive, subtle floral peat smoke. A whisky, which reveals more layers with every glass you enjoy.”

So I got some of that. It’s a pleasant dram, not overly complex but good for drinking. I think I paid around $150 and it’s probably overpriced at that point given the flavour profile. HP do some great drams, this one’s okay.