This 8 year old Sassicaia finished Arran is slightly different to many of the wine cask finishes that the distillery has produced – it was first matured in sherry casks rather than ex-bourbon. Sassicaia is a sought-after Tuscan red wine that was first released in 1968 (it is regarded as the first ‘Super Tuscan’ wine). It’s made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and comes from the only single wine estate in Italy that has gained its own DOC (in 1994). This Arran has spent 9 months finishing in Sassicaia casks before being bottled at 55% in 2008.
Nose: Saccharine sweetness with strawberries and oodles of caster sugar. This is tempered somewhat by interesting green aromas directly from a forest – pine needles, alpine fir and fresh mint. The sweet vibe continues with some pastry notes of iced buns. In the background, boot polish, liquorice and cinnamon spicing. The addition of water tones things down a notch (it’s needed, unless you’re an ant) – more grassiness, less refined sugar.
Taste: Surprisingly woody on arrival, this has some gummy bear sweetness, but by and large avoids being as cloying as the nose. In its place, toast and brioche, vanilla cream and some fairly pronounced and astringent oak. Whereas water was helpful on the nose, here it proves less so, heightening the cask influence to a level where planking, sawdust and wood chips dominate.
Finish: Medium, quite dry and certainly woody.
This Arran Sassicaia finish is a game of two halves, and neither are totally successful alas. The nose is uber sweet – though it benefits greatly from water which allows some of the more interesting ‘green’ aromas and patisserie notes to shine. The palate however is rather lost in a sea of oak and vanilla – astringent, drying and altogether way too woody. Perhaps this cask was overly-active, perhaps the finishing period should have been shorter? – either way, this one feels over cooked.