Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes.
Arran 21 (50%; Old Malt Cask; cask 17075; from my own bottle)
Nose: Juicy fruit (apple, orange) with a bit of oak and a bit of malt in the background. Richer on the second sniff with butterscotch and the apple now caramelized. A lick of woodsmoke too. The fruit gets brighter with a drop or two of water and the metallic note from the palate appears here as well along with some citronella.
Palate: As advertised by the nose but with apricot in place of the apple and the oak now polished. Lovely thick texture. With time the wood transitions to a slightly metallic note but it’s still very juicy and fresh with the orange in the lead. More acidic on the palate too with water but here the wood and metal retreat.
Finish: Medium. Not terribly interesting here with spicier notes from the oak the most pronounced. With time the apricot hangs out longer and some mild tropical notes develop (a hint of passionfruit). Longer with water with lemon and pepper.
Comments: This is lovely; the best Arran I’ve had yet. The sherry influence is there but not so pronounced as to drown the usual fruity Arran character. Between the sherry, the fruit and the oak, this is just a very classy, balanced whisky. Just missing some complexity.
Rating: 89 points.