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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Single Malt Report: The Arran Malt, Single Sherry Cask #391

Last year, I briefly mentioned that I was exploring sherry more deeply in order to sort out my sherried whisky issues.  In the thirteen months since, my tolerance and enjoyment of those whiskies has grown.  But I've also discovered that I really Really REALLY do not like sherry.  From the tart prunes and stale raisins in the palate, to the consistently off-putting finish that makes me want to slap myself in the face until the aftertaste falls out, there's nothing I actually enjoy about the process of drinking sherry (whether it's a $5 bottle or a $25 bottle).  Comparatively, sherried whisky is a pleasure.

With that in mind, today I'll follow up yesterday's Arran Single Bourbon Cask post with a review of one of their Single Sherry Casks.  Here it is matched up with a glass of sherry.

The sherry is an Oloroso from Lustau.  It's described as a nuttier, drier Oloroso.  Perhaps, but after choking down half the bottle's contents over the last two weeks, I'm dumping the rest down the sink.  Life's too short, plus the bottle took up valuable space in the fridge.

Next to the sherry, the Arran Single Sherry Cask whisky was subtle and nuanced.  Thank you to Jordan for this sample as well.  (Also, see Jordan's post about this same whisky.)  This was a fun swap.

DistilleryIsle of Arran Distillery
Type: Single Malt
Ownership: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
Region: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Age: March 19, 1997 to June 16, 2008 (11 years)
Maturation: ex-sherry cask
Cask: 391
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
Bottle: 64 out of 276

The color is light gold, lighter than many bourbon cask whiskies its age.  The nose starts with a little more alcohol prickle than yesterday's whisky had.  Beneath the heat, a nuts-to-cheese-to-malt progression evolves.  Maybe some fresh fruit in the distance.  At first there's a hint of milk chocolate, but after some time it expands and expands until there's a wall of soft Milk Duds and 3 Musketeers.  The palate is salty and nutty.  Thought it's not sweet, the chocolate bar notes from the nose are present here as well.  Chocolate malt too.  Maybe a hint of oloroso.  And a nice bit of tangerine juice.  That citrus note turns into something more like orange peel in the moderate, but tangy finish.  Chocolate and toffee.  Then, Rolos!

Just a few droplets here.  Brighter peppery spices develop in the nose.  Vanilla bean, coriander, cardamom, caramel, and lime peel.  The palate is sweeter and malty with toffee and oranges (juice and peel).  More orange peel in the finish.  Then chocolate and caramel, dusted with chili powder.

This is Exhibit #5437 in the case against Macallan's "Darker = Higher Quality" marketing malarkey.  This whisky is better than many mahogany-shaded "luxury" drams.  Similar to Jordan's thoughts in his post, I think this particular single cask was an refill.  And with all of the caramel and vanilla things going on, I wouldn't doubt if the barrel had been fashioned from American oak.

While I found more complexity and enjoyment in the bourbon cask sample, I really did enjoy all of the sherry cask's chocolatey notes.  I also think it would stand up pretty well if matched up against GlenDronach's regular (non-CS) range.  That's impressive considering the Arran distillery's youth.

As far as recommendations go, consider your palate.  Mine prefers ex-bourbon casks, but it still enjoys this whisky.  If you require a first-fill sherry blast, then this isn't quite that.  But all the milk chocolate notes will likely appeal.

Please note that this Single Cask belongs to that earlier stage of SCs bottled between 2007 and 2011, not the current more premium Single Cask bottlings with the fancier packaging.  This reviewed Single Cask whisky is a few years younger than the current versions, but also $30-$50 cheaper.

Availability - Disappearing, though may be at some specialty retailers
Pricing - $80-$100
Rating - 86


  1. Sherry really is an entirely different beast than sherried whisky. Usually bone dry (unless it's PX sweetened) and very savory. If you want to take another dip, Trader Joe's amontillado is just a bit sweet, which makes it more approachable. And it's only $5, so if you don't like it, you're not out a ton of cash. I found that same Lustau oloroso hard going as well, but the TJ's was sufficiently enjoyable that I knocked off a whole bottle in about a month last summer.

    I'd also recommend trying madeira. It spans a broader range, going from port-like malmseys to sherry-like sercials.

    1. Okay, so it wasn't just me struggling with that Lustau. TJs used to have a cream sherry, which isn't on the shelves anymore, of which I couldn't get past the second glass. I'll take a stab at that amontillado though it's not always out the shelves out here, for some reason. I actually do like madeira quite a bit more than sherry. Maybe the issue has something to do with Jerez grapes?

    2. Different production techniques. Sherry is fermented to dryness then fortified, while port and maderia have residual sugar when fermentation is halted by fortifying the wine. With madeira, they stop it at different times to get different amounts of residual sugar, but it's still fairly acidic, which keeps it from being as sweet as port.

    3. Thank you. I think I'll have more fun exploring madeira, going forward.