Matured in traditional oak for 8 years, this Arran has been finished for 7 months in Hungarian oak (Quercus Petraea) that previously contained tokaji aszu (the proper name for the sweet wine commonly called tokay in English speaking countries). It was bottled in 2007 at 55% ABV.
Nose: Somewhat shy from the off – this benefits from a short period of resting in the glass. Once decompressed - honey meets pastries (Turkish baklava), while yeasty bread and toast intermingle with apricot juice and vanilla pods. Still, I’m not finding much complexity here – there’s a lot of vague sweetness. The addition of water certainly provides a benefit in terms of clarity – puff pastry, choux buns and candied orange peels are all present.
Taste: Sweet, bitter and very dry. Honey, overripe apples, poached pears and apricots provide a promising arrival – but they are followed up by a near brick wall of bitter and astringency oak and cask pepperiness. Once this subsides, the back palate is able to process more information – candied almonds, vanilla essence and jammy reduced berries. Nevertheless, this is still exceedingly oaky – young, sappy and stiffly planked – there’ also some raw alcohol burn. Reduction is certainly beneficial here – it releases nuttiness, and some brighter tropical fruits.
Finish: Medium, with bitter, tannic wood, a dash of pepper and a sense of dusty chalkiness.
I’m not convinced by this tokaji cask – on the one hand some lovely sweet aromas and flavours have been imparted into the Arran spirit – on the other, they’ve brought a wheelbarrow load of oak with them. So much so, that the underlying distillate is hard to discern beyond a morass of vanilla and bitter wood spicing. Water improves balance and reduced prickle, but in the end, this is very much cask-first, spirit second.
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