Moscatel de Setubal is a fortified Muscat wine produced in the Setubal Municipality of Portugal. This Arran has spent 8 years maturing in ex-bourbon before being transferred into this particular style of dessert wine for a finishing period of 10 months. It was bottled in 2008 at 55% ABV.
Nose: A very sherried nose packed full of rich chocolate gateaux, ripe apple and berries and with plenty of sweet honeyed malt. Big whisky. Sweetness gives way to tartness with some bright candied lemon peel and sour grapefruit – both of these aromas cut through what is a fairly fierce, polished nose. The addition of water reduces some of the initial ABV impact, softening the fruits and adding in earthy ginger spicing and toasted tobacco leaves.
Taste: Highly textural with an oozing syrupy arrival. The sweetness of the Moscatel is immediately apparent here with plenty of caramel, burnt sugar, toffee and rich chocolate syrup. These give way to a more fruit-driven mid palate containing apple tarts, orange peels and ripe grapes. Pepper and ginger both fizz around the mouth and are also greatly enhanced when this whisky is diluted – at that point, the interplay between richness, sweetness and spice feels much more user-friendly.
Finish: Quite long, deep with chocolate and coffee beans and fading to prickly peppery spice.
This Arran Moscatel is bold and opulent with expressive flavours and excellent weight and texture in the mouth. However, it’s also rather powerful at 55% which might prove too much for some. Water is beneficially to reducing some of the heat, but also introduces much more sweetness, which might not be desired given the levels of richness which are already inherent. I’d also question whether the Arran spirit character is given enough space to shine here – it feels rather hidden behind a wall of Moscatel to me. Nevertheless, big whisky is big.