Recently, there seems to be a distillery that constantly turning heads… and all for good reasons! Arran distillery seems to causing a stir and once you have tried some of their whiskies, you can understand why. The water of life has an intriguing past on this island. In the 19th century, the Isle of Arran was once home to more than fifty whisky distilleries. Which for a island with only 432 square kilometres of land, is rather impressive. However, most of these distilleries were illegal, or known as moonlight distilleries. Hidden from many prying eyes (mostly the taxman I would expect), they spent years producing illegal malt whisky which was shipped across to the mainland to be drunk by the wealthy and elite. The last legal distillery on Arran was ‘Lagg’, which closed in 1837. So when Harold Currie stepped forward to build a new distillery, you would think it would have been plain sailing. Not quite! During the construction of this new distillery, a nest was found on a cliff near the site. This nest later turned out to be the home of two Golden Eagles; a protected species! Construction was temporarily halted, but luckily for us, the distillery opened in 1995.
For me it was a question of being able to get my hands on some samples to try. My good friend Toby Stokes, being the generous chap he is, gave me some samples left over from the Arran Tweet Tasting last year (how generous are Arran with their samples – good job!) I also acquired two very special samples during some swaps I had been involved in over the new year; with Dave Worthington and Ben Cops being the two bounteous fellows.
I tasted six expressions for this vertical, all OB’s:
– 10 Year Old
– 14 Year Old
– 12 Year Old Cask Strength
– Millenium Casks
– The Golden Eagle 1999
– Devils Punch Bowl II
Arran 10 Year Old
Nose: Light, fragrant, floral, sweet toffee. Slightly spirity and not overly complex.
Palate: Pretty sweet, feels relatively heavy on top palate. I get some heather, honey and pears. Gets more floral and syrupy with time. Slightly perfumed too.
Finish: Medium/short, not lingering much at all. Heat on tongue sticks around though. For an islander, it leaves the mouth feeling pretty fresh. It’s young, energetic and bright. I enjoyed this, but at times it seemed quite young.
Arran 14 Year Old
N: Even more floral than 10yo. Demerara sugar. Dull sweetness before some sawdust and honey.
P: Good mouthfeel and already feels more mature. The floral quality is there, less so than nose. Woody, slightly spicy, salty with some toffee.
F: Short. Slightly spicy on tongue. Leaving some stewed fruit and sugar. Nice smooth aftertaste and relatively robust. There’s been some quality work that’s gone into this. Without a doubt a session dram that you could enjoy all night long. The most easily accessible in the lineup. Put it in your collection.
Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength
N: Relatively withheld nose to begin with. Some apples and melons, but with time in the glass, more complex fruitiness appears. Really fresh and zesty.
Arran 12yo CS
P: Nice strong start. I love it at cask strength, works very well. Sultanas, apples, brown sugar. Some quality oak here too it seems.
F: Medium. Really warming with some lovely mellow fruity notes. It’s actually quite a delicate finish. Tad dry. Definitely more complex than the 10yo & 14yo, but I feel it gives a lot more too. (This is incredibly mature compared to most of the 12-year olds I teach at school!)
N: Sticks nicely to the Arran nose profile you get accustomed to. Slightly withheld again, but it really opens up in the glass. Pretty complex. Fresh. Fruitiest of the bunch. Quite spicy. I get loads of stewed apple with cinnamon here.
Arran Millenium Casks
P: Mmm this works, pretty sweet again but not overpowering. Vanilla. Some great work between malt and oak. Warm spices build continuously. I applaud the balance between the bourbon and the sherry.
F: Medium/long. Beautifully balanced, lingering nicely on the tongue. Rich toffee, heather, and a hint of Manuka honey. Its great at CS again, yet soft considering the ABV. I really enjoyed this sample and would recommend getting hold of a bottle before they sell out…. not too many of them around.
Arran The Golden Eagle 1999
N: SWEET. Apple peel, sugar cane, peaches. Did I mention it was sweet?
Arran Golden Eagle 1999
P: Malty. Very highland-esq. Bold fruitiness, especially sweet crunchy apples. Golden syrup and toffee apple sweetness. Old penny sweets. I did find it quite thin though.
F: Medium. Sits on tongue before evaporating quickly, leaving a lingering sweet sensation. I personally find the sweetness overbearing here, covering many other aromas. Nice delicate expression, but I feel like my teeth will all fall out if I drink too much of this. Just too much sweetness here for me… Shame.
(A big thanks to Dave Worthington from Whisky Discovery for the sample)
Arran Devils Punch Bowl II
N: Slightly withheld to start before some dried fruit appear – apples and apricots. Some gentle spices, vanilla and a hint of milk chocolate. Nutty notes followed by fresh cigars. With time it becomes even fruitier. Incredibly intricate nose, which needs time due to its complexity.
Arran Devils Punch Bowl II
P: Nice powerful spicy start, whilst remaining delicate. Far more sweet than the nose suggests. The spice sits playfully on the tongue; lovely. Juicy fruits and vanilla sitting together with some dry oakiness. Some bourbon, damp wood with a hints of peat towards the end.
F: Medium. Quite warming with a nutty and sherried dryness. Lots of chocolate, vanilla and lingering spice. Not as dark and scary as the name suggests, but that doesn’t stop it being an interesting and complex dram with lots to pick out and enjoy. I’d by a bottle to enjoy if they weren’t so expensive at auction.
(A big thanks to Ben Cops from Bens Whisky for the sample)
If you haven’t tried any of the expressions from Arran, then I would implore you to do so. You won’t regret it. Hey, if you don’t like it…. then just send it my way!