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Arran Distillery was the brainchild of Harold Currie, a former director of Chivas Brothers and a D-Day veteran. Harold ‘Hal’ Currie was born in 1924. Like so many of his generation, he signed up to face the threat posed by Nazi Germany and on the 13th of June 1944, a week after the Normandy Landings, he took part in the infamous tank battle at Villers-Bocage.
Post-war, Currie joined Liverpool and Bristol wine and spirit merchant Rigby & Evans before moving on to Canadian Distiller Seagram in 1960. Ten years later he joined Chivas Brothers as a director, based out of Paisley where his love of football would see him invited to the board of St Mirren FC. Taking on the role of Chairman he would be responsible for the hiring of a young manager named Alex Ferguson, who would go on to win the First Division title despite his squad having an average age of just 19.
After his career peaked at the mighty St Mirren, Alex Ferguson faded into obscurity, later to be found washed up at the helm of a tiny, insignificant Manchester club south of the border but Currie himself was far from finished with his career in the whisky industry. Despite retiring from Chivas Brothers in 1982 he was retained as a consultant until 1990 when he finally severed ties with the company he had worked with for more than two decades.
Retirement didn’t agree with Mr Currie however. In 1991 he founded the Arran Distilling Company after a conversation with a friend who lived on the island. At that time Arran was totally devoid of a whisky industry, despite a proud distilling heritage. The last (legal) distillery closed way back in 1837 and Hal resolved to do something about the situation. In November he bought a tract of land at the entrance to the village of Lochranza and began to draw up plans.
Local opposition was fierce at first but the mood soon softened and in spite of further resistance from Scottish National Heritage, approval was eventually granted by Secretary of State Ian Lang in May 1993. The company broke ground on the 16th of December 1994 and the first whisky was produced on the 29th of June the following year.
Harold left the board in 1999 and watched from afar as Arran overcame the troublesome income-light early years that plague so many young distilleries. He sadly passed away in 2016, a few short months before the distillery turned 21 but his legacy will undoubtedly live on. It took great vision to build a distillery on an island that wasn’t known for whisky and incredible bravery to do it when the industry was only just recovering from one of the toughest periods in its history but build it he did and the company has now achieved such success they have been able to expand with the addition of a second premises at Lagg in the south of the island.
Bottled by Glasgow-based specialist retailer, The Good Spirits Co, this single cask single malt was matured for 9 years in an American oak cask that may possibly have been a tad too generous where the Angels’ Share was concerned. With an ABV of 42.1% it retails at £55 a bottle.
Smell: Peach. Apple and pear. Pineapple. Bourbon – Vanilla, toffee, caramel. Honey and lemon. Eucalyptus. Cereal and barley extract.
Taste: The Arran malt is known for a note of peach and this is a particularly good example of it. With notes of Orange and maybe even a touch of Cranberry we have something akin to a malty Sex on the Beach. Sex on the Maltfloor? Maybe not – those grains get everywhere. A touch of pepper without the heat. Also apple, vanilla fudge and some dry oak on the finish.
Thoughts: The Good Spirits have nailed it yet again with an intriguing single cask. Low strength means there’s no tastebud-searing heat to hide behind, allowing the fruity, malty flavours of the spirit to shine through in all their glory.
A seriously drinkable dram from a favourite distillery of mine. Many would have overlooked it with such a low abv but these things happen in whisky and it’s a joy to be able to taste such eccentricities. I’m glad it got bottled and even happier that one of them now resides in my cabinet. A wee charmer.
Visit the Good Spirits Co here.
Visit the Arran Distillery here.