I think I may have promised a week of Arran reviews in July. Let’s get to it now before we get too far into August. First up, an official release and one that became part of the distillery’s portfolio in 2015. I’m not sure if this series has come to the US—Whiskybase only shows one 750 ml bottle and that’s from 2015. It is first matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in much smaller quarter casks (also American oak). I’ve seen references to the quarter cask finish having lasted two years for the first batch. I’m not sure if that has remained the case for subsequent releases. The overall age is, I’m guessing, not very high, which makes this a bit of an outlier relative to the last few Arrans I’ve reviewed: the 20 yo Brodick Bay and a 21 yo bottled for OMC’s 20th anniversary among them. I’m generally a fan of Arran’s fruity profile. I hope it’s not overwhelmed here by oak via both the first-fill bourbon and then the smaller quarter cask maturation. Having now jinxed myself let’s see what the whisky is actually like.
Arran Quarter Cask, The Bothy, Batch 3 (53.2%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Lemon and dusty oak. The oak expands on the second sip and some gooseberry joins the lemon. The fruit then picks up some musky overtones but the oak is still very prominent. With more time there’s some cereals and some malt as well. Slightly sweeter notes too now—some kind of berry. A few drops of water and the cereals and lemon expand over the oak (which is still palpable in the background).
Palate: Comes in generally as indicated by the nose but the oak is thankfully less assertive. Approachable at full strength with decent texture. With time the lemon is joined by some pepper but there’s bitter oak extract in the background. The oak extract becomes more and more prominent with each sip. Let’s see if water pushes it back. Yes, it does to some extent but not entirely—and turns it sour rather than bitter. It also brings out some chalk.
Finish: Long. It gets bitter—a mix of lemon peel and oak extract—and there’s no development of note. Develops as on the palate with water but the sourness settles down and it’s much better here.
Comments: Well, my fears came true: there’s too much oak in this. Water pushes it back enough to make it more palatable on the whole but the nicer, fruitier whisky lurking in the background never quite gets to emerge.
Rating: 80 points. (I had it in the mid-high 70s before adding water.)