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 whisky produced there that I keep coming back to them. I paid a visit to the Distillery at the end of March and I thought it would be nice to talk a little about my experience.
If you haven’t been to the Isle of Arran you really should. It’s quite accessible, being only a couple of hours journey from the centre of Glasgow and it is home to some magnificent scenery, some good pubs and restaurants, a brewery… and of course the Isle of Arran Distillery at Lochranza (with a second Distillery planned for Lagg in the south). The island caters well for tourists, something that can’t be said for large parts of Scotland, and one of the things I really appreciate here is the apparent support for local businesses. It seems every restaurant or bar has the local Beer on tap, the local whisky on the shelf, Arran Cheese on the menu and even handwash in the toilets made by Arran Aromatics. This greatly appeals to me and I wish it could be found in more places.
I’ve covered the story of the Distillery before, suffice to say it is young in Scotch terms but has been steadily gaining attention and a reputation as the years go on. For a while there it was perhaps something of a hidden gem but I’m not sure this really applies any more, such is it’s popularity.
The distillery is modern with a nod to traditional architecture in the form of pagoda’s on the roof of the buildings which huddle together at the foot of some impressive hills – home to the famous Arran Eagles. There are two main buildings at the front – a purpose built Visitor Centre complete with Cafe and water feature and the Distillery building itself with Warehouses standing to the rear.
The tour opens with a short video accompanied by a dram of 14 Year Old malt, followed by a tour of the production area. It’s a small but well designed distillery with Mashing, Fermenting and Distilling all taking place under the one roof. It’s maybe one of the shorter tours I’ve taken, at around 45 minutes but then it’s a small facility and there was no tour of the warehouse – which is always a shame. Things concluded with a sample of Arran Gold Liqueur back at the Visitor Centre and while I’m not usually a fan of such things, this was actually quite pleasant.
To accompany our tour we paid for a tutored tasting of four more drams so stayed behind after the rest of the tour party. We sampled the Lochranza Reserve, Port Cask Finish, 18 Year Old and Sherry Cask. We were very well looked after by our host and I have to say there wasn’t a single dram I tasted that I wouldn’t have been happy to take home with me. I should also say that the Arran range is very reasonably priced – most of the core expressions come in under £50. Only the 18 Year Old and Single Cask Releases were higher – coming in at £82 and £72 respectively.
As always I like to pick up a bottle for the collection while I’m at the distillery and this time I narrowed it down to either Machrie Moor – the peated Arran – or the Port Cask Finish. There wasn’t much between them but in the end I opted for the Port Cask. There was just something a little bit unusual that drew me to it. It’s bottled at 46%, it hasn’t been chill filtered and there’s no colourant added.
The nose is a heady mix of Orange, Hazelnut and Praline, Cinnamon and Cloves, Marzipan, Honey and even Furniture Polish, while I pick up flavours of Caramel, Orange, Vanilla, Plum and Red Wine on the palate. It’s certainly an interesting dram.
The Scores: About the Scoring System…
Smell: 17 / 20. A rich, intense nose with bags of character.
Taste: 17.5 / 20. There’s a lot of flavour here and a satisfying mouth feel thanks to the decision not to chill filter. Best of all it’s a little bit different.
Value for Money: 9.5 / 10. As I mentioned earlier, the Arran range is generally great value for money. 46% as standard, no chill-filtering, natural colour and a willingness to experiment and do their own thing but most importantly, they make great tasting, characterful whisky that won’t cost an arm and a leg – I really can’t praise them enough.
Overall: 44 / 50.