Regular readers will be aware that Arran has featured a couple of times already on WhiskyReviews.net but it is testament to the quality of the spirit being produced at this 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 falls a little short. Home to magnificent scenery, sites of historical interest, fine hostelries and of course, a distillery, Arran has something for everyone. It also excels in championing it’s 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 islands malt. Even in the toilet facilities one will find 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 pagoda’s which crown the rooftops pay homage to tradition. The buildings seem to huddle together for warmth 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 site, with mashtun, 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 concludes 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 a 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.
Value for Money: Generally speaking, the Arran malt is great value for money with a bottling strength of 46% as standard and much of the range retailing for around £50.
Overall: 44 / 50.
Arran is worthy of a lot of praise in my eyes. They have created a unique single malt with some intriguing expressions while ensuring their product will always be shown in its best light by bottling un-chill filtered, at higher strength.