Arran Sauternes Cask Finish


Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…

Arran’s Lochranza Distillery opened in 1995. Back then, the idea of a new whisky distillery must have seemed insane to many, but after some difficult early years, the distillery found stability and then success. In the process, it inadvertently lit the fuse for a boom in new ventures in the Scotch whisky industry.

Arran has come a long way since those days. For one thing, the Arran Distillery is now known as Lochranza Distillery, so as to avoid confusion with Lagg, a new sister facility in the island’s south. The bottle design has had a few facelifts since then, too. Even the whisky has been through a few changes. The relaunch in 2019 led to some new versions of core expressions, some of which were a more radical departure than others.

Some stayed largely the same, however, the renowned Cask Finish series for example. This is a range that has proved incredibly popular over the years. There are Port, Amarone and Sauternes finishes. All of which have something different to offer.

Up until a few years ago, I would have told you my favourite of this range was the Amarone Finish, followed by the Port, with the Sauternes being my least favourite. But then I took part in a blind tasting/judging panel and found that I had placed them in the opposite order! It was a great lesson and reminded me to keep an open mind when tasting whiskies. We should never rely on our preconceived notions and should always try to approach a whisky as though tasting it for the first time.

I recently ordered a few samples from Master of Malts’ Drinks By the Dram service and, since I hadn’t tried it for a while, I decided to throw in the Arran Sauternes. I’m curious to see if I enjoy it as much as I did during the blind tasting.

Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

The Arran Sauternes Cask Finish Single Malt is matured for 8 years and then finished in a selection of Sauternes* wine casks. It’s bottled at 50% abv and retails for around £45.

*Sauternes is a sweet French wine from the region of the same name in Bordeaux. It’s made from a combination of Semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes that have been affected by “noble rot”. This condition causes the grapes to become partially raisined, concentrating the natural sugars and creating new and distinctive flavours.

Smell: There’s a definite winey grapey thing going on that gives the dram an almost tropical character. Pineapple, especially. Fresh lemons, too. There’s also honey and vanilla. Malt and oatcakes. Assorted baking spices give it a light warmth.

Taste: Quite acidic at first. More pineapple and citrus. A decent helping of peppery spice. Perhaps throw in a little ginger, too. Sour lemons. The wine really makes its presence felt – it’s quite a bold finish but underneath, there’s a malty, slightly grassy whisky with honey and biscuit, spicy oak and a slight bitterness that creeps in on the dry finish.

Thoughts: The wine finish is very well integrated. Sometimes I find a splash of water can be enough to kill off a finish but the Sauternes held up pretty well. The 50% bottling strength is a big bonus as well. It feels like you get a greater intensity of flavour as a result but you can also afford to add a bit of water without dropping the abv too much. I like that there’s a nice wee journey involved with each sip. It’s like the dram arrives in a flurry of wine notes but then transitions into spice and oak before bringing the wine back for the finish. An enjoyable and affordable offering from Arran.

Price: £45. No complaints. It’s a decent dram that delivers plenty of flavour for a reasonable price.

For more on Arran and Lochranza Distillery visit

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