A visit to a new distillery always fills us with such trepidation and excitement. What are we to expect? Do they do things differently? And more importantly, what will we get to try??
Isle Of Arran - 10 yo – (50% refill sherry 25% fresh sherry 25% fresh bourbon) 46%
Nose: Light and zesty, fruit sherbet, vanilla custard, absolutely no nose prickle. With water, the fruitiness (fresh crisp green apples) comes through in abundance.
Palate: Sherry makes itself apparent, a hint of dry vermouth, but still maintaining the vanilla sweetness. Some gentle spices, mix with a gentle maltiness.
Finish: Very fresh, green beans and more light notes. Some salted capers with water.
Overall: Absolutely wonderful. Light, and perfectly summery. Although this shares a lot with the classic Lowland style of whisky making it is refreshingly different, giving Arran its own regionality. (£32)
Next up- the brand new 14yo release, which was so new, the distillery shop was still waiting for its allocation!!
Isle of Arran - 14yo – 46%
Nose: Summer pudding!! Fresh strawberries, mint, malty bread, raspberries, and vanilla. Given time, some banana toffee and fresh apricots emerge. With water, even more vanilla custard.
Palate: A rich mouthfeel, Crème Brulee, licorice, a little pepper, but backed up by the fresh fruit.
Finish: Slightly salty/briney, but then back into the fruits – hints of green banana and a little creaminess. Surprisingly lengthy for a light style.
Overall: Another cracker, with more sweet fruity goodness. This bottling highlights just how well the whisky is maturing. Stay tuned for an 18yo in the future!! (£38)
After a couple of cask samples including a single cask sherry bottling, (much drier, but still retaining that wonderful fresh fruit and vanilla) and a Calvados cask (baked apples, butter and spice... think Tarte Tatin) it was time to sample the distillery's prized Anniversary bottling. And after the 2 previous drams, our expectations were running high! The casks used to produce this bottling were 3 of the very first casks in the distillery's inventory, specially selected by James for their exceptional balance.
Isle Of Arran - 15yo Anniversary bottling– 600 bottles from a vatting of 3, 1st fill Bourbon casks– 51.4% – (Heaven Hill Casks) - Released at the 2010 Arran Distillery open day
Nose: Pannacotta time! A sensational vanilla and summer fruits nose. Absolutely beautiful. Fresh, vibrant, yet with incredible balance. With water, a hint of waxiness (ala Clynelish, but not as huge) and a peppery rye note. Clearly, the casks which went into this bottling were absolutely top draw indeed.
Palate: Rich, malty, very complex, the bourbon influence is devastatingly apparent. Cinnamon, coconut, that wonderful vanilla, mint and then some milk chocolate.
Finish: The fruit and fresh bourbon notes give a spiciness which lingers for a few minutes. This is 'second dram stuff', without a doubt!!
Overall: If you can, get a bottle of this now- there are only a handful left, but it is undoubtedly a landmark bottling for the distillery- some of the oldest casks of the distillery stocks have gone into this and it is a true time capsule for the rise and rise of Arran's wonderful whisky making. (Only available from the distillery in person, or via mail order here) (£95)
Part 2 of our Arran trip will be posted shortly, where we got a chance to see the distillery at work, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the warehouses and the faint whiff of a familiar friend at work...