It seems like Matt from The Dramble and I are going through a somewhat similar experience. In the last year or so I’ve tasted quite a few wine-finished or wine-matured whiskies — and I enjoyed them more than I expected. It’s upended my believe system somewhat.
It’s not like I used to dismiss wine-influenced whiskies straight out of hand, but I was certainly skeptical. That was based on previous experiences, which more often than not weren’t all that. Also, the whisky community as a whole is quick to poopoo on these types of whiskies. While I try to be as objective as possible, as a member of said community that certainly influenced me.
Enter the latest test of my newfound affinity for single malt matured in ex-wine casks. The Arran 2009 Saint Émilion is a small batch release from last year exclusively bottled for the Netherlands. This single malt spent its entire maturation in red wine casks from the renowned St. Emilion region in France.
Arran 2009 Saint Émilion (54.9%, OB, 1920 bts.)
Nose: Pretty shy and mostly herbal at first. A touch of basil but also some lemon peel. A tinge of red fruits in the background, supported by some orange liqueur. Even somewhat farmy and hoppy at times. A VERY slight burnished or peat note too. Interesting.
Taste: Much sweeter than expected on arrival (honey and redcurrant syrup), but also quite aggressive and spicy, and even a touch of sulphur from the wine cask. Water is almost obligatory. It really seems slightly peaty at times, but I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other tasting notes.
Finish: Medium and somewhat dry. A touch of green grapes.
There’s plenty going on, but it just seems to clash every now and again. While this probably wouldn’t bore me anytime soon, it’s also not entirely satisfying. Turns out not everything touched by wine turns into gold. At least I don’t have to change my entire believe system.