Scotland in Miniature – Isle of Arran Tasting – 24th April 2015
The Isle of Arran is often referred to as Scotland in miniature, at the southern end the landscape is soft farming country, the northern end is mountainous and rugged and home to Arran’s only distillery situated at Lochranza.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Arran distillery and whisky, the distillery first ran on June 29th 1995 – I remember it well as it was my …….th birthday. So as this year it celebrates its 20th Anniversary we felt it only right to invite Louisa Young, Senior Brand Manager, to bring us up to date with everything going on and let us try some Arran whisky.
The distillery is independent and privately owned; quite a small operation run by Distillery Manager James MacTaggert, and his four man team. They are intending to produce 600,000 litres of spirit this year, with 6 Washbacks and one pair of stills, running 6 days a week 2 mashes a day. Next year they are going to add another pair of stills so they can increase production.
The Whiskies – due to the excellence of the Arran range we were forced to sample 8 whiskies this evening!
This is the distillery’s signature expression light gentle, grassy notes and citrus fruits, very easy to drink. The distillery Founder Harrold Currie wanted his whisky to stand out from the usual heavily peated and strong flavoured Island whiskies so came up with this softer style but still with loads of flavour, if just a little more subtle.
Being a small operation they do 4 bottlings of 10 y/o a year about 30 casks a bottling. They use refill ex – sherry casks and first fill ex – bourbon casks, the refill casks (used for whisky before) ensure that not too much rich sherry flavours intimidate the whisky. The white American oak ex – bourbon casks give softer vanilla and oaky flavour.
Again like the 10 y/o a light easy drink, a bit more weight and some extra flavours from the extra 4 years in the cask, more butterscotch and oak with more rich fruity flavours. They use some first fill sherry cask matured whisky as well as ex-bourbon casks to give greater depth.
This expression is not only has some first fill sherry butt whisky but also benefits from being bottled at natural cask strength. As no water has been added at bottling the delicate richer, oaky, dark chocolate and coffee beans, flavours come through.
These three whiskies have spent an extra 9 – 12 months maturing in casks which previously held Sauternes, a sweet French wine, Amarone, a rich heavy red Italian wine, and Port.
The original occupier of the cask leaves some of their flavour in the wood which then gets picked up by the whisky. Sweet honey, marzipan and melon from the Sauternes. The Amarone cask gives dark chocolate, rich cherries, Strawberries. The Port gives richer forest fruits blackberries, raspberries, and heavier flavours.
Arran whiskies light gentle body is excellent for this type of Finishing picking up the flavours well, also leaving it at 50% abv allows the subtler flavours from the cask come through.
Arran 18 years old – 46%
This limited edition is the oldest bottling of Arran from the distillery to date. The 14 y/o is a progression from the 10 and 12, however this 18 is not like the 14, it has lots of light fruity flavours, pineapple, lemons, apple and pears, and very gentle.
Machrie Moor (5th Edition) – 46%
This expression is made using malt which has been peated to 20 phenols PPM. The barley is smoked over peat fires which gives an earthy smoky flavour to the barley and subsequently the whisky. Arran produces only a small amount peaty whisky each year and so the Machrie Moor is quite limited, but a great way to finish an evening.
Our thanks to Louisa for her excellent presentation, and all the guests who attended.