When talking about Pinot Noir, most folks would immediately think about Burgundy. Not so with this Arran wine cask release which has spent its finishing period in Pinot Noir casks from the Knipser Estate (South West of Frankfurt) in Germany. It was bottled in 2009 at 50% ABV following 8 years of maturation (most of which would have been in ex-bourbon).
Nose: Quite christmasy (very out of season given the current weather in the UK) with fruit cake, raisins, sour plums and rum-soaked raisins. Deeper, there’s even more fruit – blackcurrants (it’s Pinot Noir right?), gooseberries and figs. A pleasant toasted malt/cereal aroma runs throughout – it is marred slightly by an unusual petrol-like sulphur note. Water introduces bready character with buttery pastries slight yeastiness and toast.
Taste: A big arrival of red berries, plums, toffee and chocolate sauce. There’s still a strange chemical note in here – I’m unable to place it precisely, but it seems almost synthetic – it’s not unpleasant, just unusual and unexpected. Bakery is apparent once more – buns, cinnamon swirls and rolled pastry. Water provides solid benefit here reducing and integrating the erroneous aroma and pronouncing honey sweetness and chocolate cake.
Finish: Medium, a touch boozy and certainly tasting like tannic (more than Pinot Noir usually is) red wine.
There’s something fascinating about this Pinot Noir Cask Arran – it’s not a complete triumph, but it’s certainly a lot more interesting than many of the wine finished whiskies out there. The sulphurous note reminds me somewhat of modern Mortlachs – heavy spirit that’s not quite meaty, but has certainly been touched by the brimstone stick. Here it is a touch jarring until water is added – then, it drifts into the background as a supporting note. Once less blatant and in your face, it adds an absorbing additional dimension to the pronounced fruit and bakery aromas and flavours. Certainly worth looking out for – just be prepared to experiment with water….and to experience a fair bit of funk.