Distiller: Arran. ABV: 46%. Age: 14 years. Region: Islands. Price: $65-80.
Arran Distillers is one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland, and the only one currently on the Isle of Arran, which once held more than 50. Founded in 1995, it’s being doing great things recently, and this 14-year-old bottling is a fine example.
The line-up starts with a 10-year-old, but I think I’d recommend this as the perfect first Arran.
The nose is bright and vibrant, which you might call the house style. There’s fresh vanilla, dried green apple, and candied ginger and lemon on the nose. On the palate, moist lemon pound cake, with a touch of whipped cream, and plenty of spice. Just the right amount of sourness on the long, intriguing finish.
I’ve gotten to spend more time with this Arran than most others, though I had the pleasure of surveying the full current lineup at an epic Malt Nuts tasting earlier this year, and I can assure you that there are many other good things in store for those who like the 14–particularly their cask strength and wine finish bottlings.
Slàinte, friends! – BO
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