Arran Illicit Stills Vol. 1 Review

Distiller: Arran. ABV: 56.4%. No age statement. Region: Islands. Price: $100.

We may not be in a golden age of whisky, but we’re sure as hell in a golden age of whisky packaging.

Exhibit A: Arran Illicit Stills Volume 1, which I got to try courtesy of my man WhiskyGeekdom. The great shot above is his, and you can see he takes his packaging as seriously as Arran does.

The Illicit Stills was made as an attention-grabbing super-premium NAS–a genre with its hits and misses. This is right in between. Looks stunning, of course. It was sold at about $100, though it’s going for a good deal more on the secondary market, as it sold out quickly. The juice is a mix of peated and unpeated, bourbon-barrel-matured and port-finished.

So how is it?

The nose is, characteristically for an Arran, bright and fruity, with a strong cask strength punch. Caramel apple. Golden syrup. Baked goods with vanilla icing. The bourbon fruit leads the palate too, but with a heavy dose of oak tannins. Saddle leather. And a softer white smoke that recalls the Laphroaig 15 and carries through to the finish, with tobacco and some bitter oak.

With water, it’s more fiery and alive. There’s more citrus on nose–lemon-lime. And on the palate. Along with an overarching sourness that doesn’t quite spoil the proceedings, but isn’t ideal. The charred underside of an overdone lemon tart.

Give it 30-40 minutes in the glass, and it’ll continue to unfold. But it’s not the surpassing experience you’d hope for given the magnificent package. Between this and the K&L Wines Cask Strength Arran 15, say, I’d take the 15.

Thanks again to WhiskyGeekdom! Slàinte, friends! -BO

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