Arran – 14
There used to be about 50 illegal whisky stills on Arran, you know, transporting their wares by night to the Ayrshire coast. Buying a bottle from Oddbins just doesn’t have quite the same glamour…
Nose: Clean, fresh and immediately appealing. I always find apples and peaches in Arran and this is no exception – and there’s maybe a bit of the orchard to be found too, with a sense of moss and damp branches. It’s interesting that at first you get more of the bourbon cask influence (coconut and vanilla) but after a minute or two the sherry cask makes itself felt more (golden raisins). There’s also a very distinct bit of sweet stem ginger, toasted hazelnuts, some blossom (back in the orchard…), lemon balm, menthol… There’s a bit of coast in there too.
Taste: Sweet toffee and vanilla at first, then stewed oranges and some soft gingerbread. Sweet lemon, honey and a bit of hazelnut too. Very good!
Finish: Develops really nicely, with the initial sweetness and fruit segueing into some light clove and gingery spice. Then … salty cider? Or a salty apple strudel? Crystallised ginger, definitely, and then the cider and those sherry raisins are back in the aftertaste.
I’ve always thought of Arran as being quite a Speyside-esque malt, but – while it remains fruity and easy-going – I kept drifting to comparisons with Highland malts while tasting this. A bit Old Pulteney, maybe, and it even made me think about a recent old bourbon-cask Highland Park I tried (minus the peat, natch). It’s the freshness, subtlety and salt that does it, I think, and these are certainly happy allusions to be making.
If I’m going to critique – and I am, by nature, ornery, negative and generally no fun – I’d say that you can “see the join” between the sherry and bourbon casks used here. Both are hugely pleasant, but you sense one or the other rather than an integrated whole, if that makes sense. This is me searching quite hard for fault though. My general conclusion is that Arran – having just celebrated its 21st birthday – is really coming into its own. There’s some real character and complexity developing here, and you’d be hard-pressed to find better quality at ~£40.