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In my first few reviews, I talked about well-known whisky brands that can be readily found across the world. This time, however, I thought I’d take a look at a lesser-known dram, one which hails from a small island off the Ayrshire coast.
There are those who feel the islands should be considered a sixth, separate whisky region in their own right but this is a view which isn’t shared by the Scotch Whisky Association who recognise Islay, Campbeltown, the Lowlands, Highlands and Speyside as the five regions. Generally, the islands are considered part of the Highlands but I must confess that this has never seemed quite right to me. The people of the islands are very proud of their land and heritage and referring to them as highlanders would be denying them their true identity. As far as I’m concerned, the same goes for their whisky.
The Arran distillery is relatively young by Scotch whisky standards. Building began in 1994 but had to be halted for a short time due to a pair of Golden Eagles which were nesting on a nearby hillside. Due to the protected status of the species, construction work had to cease until nesting season had passed but work was finally completed in 1995. On the day of the distilleries official opening, a pair of eagles flew over the site, as though showing their thanks for the peace and quiet. In honour of this moment, a pair of eagles have adorned every bottle of the Arran malt to this day.
In the short time the distillery has been in production it has gained a reputation for producing a good quality malt whisky. The core range includes 10 and 14-year-olds, both bottled at 46% and a peated version named after ‘Machrie Moor’ on the island’s western coast. There have also been some excellent single cask issues, a series of wine cask finishes and, earlier this year, the first-ever 18-year-old expression.
One of the most exciting Arran offerings however, is this 12 year old which is bottled at a cask strength of 53.9%…
Smell: A little Musty at first, Almond, Marzipan, Lemon, Orange and Dark Chocolate.
Taste: Orange and Lemon, Peach, Dark Chocolate and Cocoa. A little harsh at first but a little water softens it well.
Thoughts: Arran really isn’t messing around with this one. For £45 a bottle you get a decent age statement of 12 years and a whopping cask strength. The dram delivers a great deal of big punchy flavour and may even be a little much for some people at first but that’s the great thing about cask strength whisky – you can add your own water to it and find your own personal sweet spot. A lot of people highlight the Arran 14 as the peak of this distillery’s output but personally. I’d opt for the 12 any day.