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Regular readers will know that Arran has featured a couple of times already but it’s a testament to the quality of the whisky being produced at that little distillery that I keep returning to it.
Back in March, I found myself bound for the isle of Arran, with plans to stop by the distillery for a tour and a few drams. The island is a destination I cannot recommend enough and seems to cater for tourists in a way the rest of Scotland sometimes fails to achieve. Home to magnificent scenery, sites of historical interest, fine hostelries and a distillery, Arran has something for everyone. It also excels in championing its own local produce with seemingly every restaurant serving Arran Cheese and locally made ice cream, every bar sporting the local beer on tap and a gantry weighed down by the island’s malt. Even the toilet facilities are equipped with Arran Aromatic handwash! For me, it all helps the island to develop its own unique identity and I would love to see more remote communities take a similar approach.
Arran is a relatively young distillery, but the reputation of its malt has been steadily growing over the past few years. The distillery buildings are of a simple, modern design, though the pagodas that crown the rooftops pay homage to tradition. The buildings seem to huddle together at the foot of an imposing hillside, home to the famous eagles which adorn every bottle of the Arran malt.
The tour begins with an introductory video, accompanied by a welcoming dram of the excellent 14-year-old, before moving on to the production area. It is a compact size, with mash tun, washbacks and stills under one roof. As a result, tours are on the short side, running at around 45 minutes.
Back at the visitor centre, the tour concluded with a sample of Arran Gold liqueur, a pleasant enough drop if not quite to my personal taste. Additional tastings can be booked for a very reasonable fee with several options to choose from. For my part, I chose to sample the Lochranza Reserve, the Port Cask Finish, the 18-year-old and a Sherry Cask expression. Each dram was of high quality and would have been worthy in its own way of a place in my collection but I was particularly intrigued by the Port Cask Finish and decided to take a bottle home.
Smell: Orange, Hazelnut and Praline, Cinnamon and Cloves, Marzipan, Honey and even Furniture Polish
Taste: Caramel, Orange, Vanilla, Plum and Red Wine.
Thoughts: Generally speaking, the Arran malt is great value for money. It has a bottling strength of 46% as standard and much of the range retails around £50.
This distillery is worthy of praise in my opinion. They have created a unique single malt with its own identity. It isn’t like other island drams but there isn’t really anything like it on the mainland either. It’s also a bit of a chameleon that can adjust to different cask types. The Port cask is one of their better offerings. For a finish, the Port really makes its presence felt. A lovely wee dram at an affordable price from a wee distillery that’s doing things the right way. What’s not to like?