The Fisherman’s Retreat: Arran & Port Charlotte

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Ramsbottom, Lancashire. Hardly the first place which would spring to mind if I mentioned a new (to me, anyway) independent bottler. The Fisherman’s Retreat is a bar, restaurant and much-sought-after wedding venue based just three miles from the northern English town, on the outskirts of Manchester.

The bar stocks over 500 whiskies, and most are available to purchase by the bottle from their extensive whisky shop. Over the past 15 years or so, they have also selected and bottled half a dozen single cask whiskies from Arran and Bruichladdich, and sold it under their eponymous label.

The two samples I have in front of me are their 4th and 5th releases; a 2013 5yo Arran matured in a Yalumba Octavius red wine cask – a south Australian Shiraz – and a 2008 10yo Port Charlotte matured in a Haut-Brion red wine cask – a Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux. Each of their releases thus far has been matured in a funky red wine cask. Indeed their sixth, and most recent, release is a 2007 12yo Bruichladdich matured in a Rivesaltes French wine cask. But back to this pair of whiskies… let’s dive in.

Arran 2013 5yo
Yalumba Octavius Red Wine Cask
The Fisherman’s Retreat Edition No.4
54% ABV
£85 (50cl) here

Nose: The wine influence is striking from the very first nosing – strawberry parfait, cranberry, sugared stewed rhubarb, raspberry jus, and pomegranate. There’s some warm tarpaulin and window putty too, with a very light oakiness.

Palate: Again, the wine cask really dominates – loads of blackcurrant cordial, red currants, and strawberry coulis. Then a touch of dark treacle and some caramelised sugar, with faint aniseed balls, Black Jacks and earthy spices.

Finish: Drying oak, sticky raisins, and some faint rubber.

Port Charlotte 2008 10yo
Haut-Brion Red Wine Cask
The Fisherman’s Retreat Edition No.5
54% ABV
£85 (50cl) here

Nose: Classic PC salty smoke initially, with crispy smoked bacon, rock salt, brine, a touch of carbolic, and a hint of old coal bunker. Then mixed charcuterie, smoked olives, liquorice, dark cherry, and driftwood. Delightful.

Palate: Cracked black peppercorn spice to begin, then Frazzles crisps, tar, light iodine, sooty smoke, truffle oil, and sea spray. Background notes of chewy oak, Morello cherries, plums, and dates add a richly fruity element… but there’s also a distinct freshness too, with orange peel, pineapple, and grapefruit.

Finish: Lingering sweet peat smoke, singed heather, and smoked citrus peels.

Overall: The old football (soccer) adage really rings true here – that was a tale of two halves. The light Arran spirit really hasn’t stood up to the red wine cask, and it’s become a bit of a winesky (wine and whisky hybrid). It’s not really for me, but I know it’ll please a lot of people with its syrupy red fruitiness. The Port Charlotte on the other hand is really pleasing – the smoke and rich fruits are well integrated, the nose is extremely inviting, and the whisky goes on and on once on the palate. With each of these priced at £85 per 50cl bottle, I’d be inclined to avoid the Arran but I’d certainly be very tempted to splash out on the Port Charlotte.



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