Here is the third of three Arran reviews for the week. The first two were official distillery releases: the Quarter Cask/The Bothy Batch 3, which is part of the distillery’s current range; and the 2018 release of the 14 yo, which has apparently since been discontinued. Today’s whisky is an independent release, a single bourbon hogshead bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Somewhat unusually it seems to have been bottled for the American market. Coincidentally, there was also a distillery bottled 17 yo sherry cask from the 1999 vintage that was bottled for the Japanese market. But that is neither here nor there.
I liked the 14 yo quite a bit more than the NAS Quarter Cask. Will I like this 17 yo even more? Let’s see.
Arran 17, 1999 (55.2%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Lemon and toasted oak to start. On the second sniff there’s malt and some toffee. The toffee expands as it sits and the fruit transitions from lemon to apricot (baked rather than fresh or jammy). Some wood glue in here too now. Sweeter with water but otherwise in the same vein.
Palate: Comes in brighter here with more acid at first and then it turns sweet as I swallow. Very nice texture and quite approachable at full strength. On the second sip there’s the toasted oak from the nose and it’s joined now by pastry crust and apricot. The fruit gets muskier as it sits (some apple pie in there too now) and there’s malt here too now, even as the oak gets pricklier. Okay, let’s see what water does. A squirt of water brings out more of the oak and also a vaguely soapy note.
Finish: Long. The sweet fruit crests and then as it subsides spicy oak and white pepper come to the fore. Develops as on the palate with time. A little more astringent here at the very end with water.
Comments: This is my favourite of the three I reviewed this week. Just lovely bourbon cask whisky that put me in mind of some of the best old Balvenie 15, Single Barrel releases. A harmonious marriage of spirit, oak and time. The mid-high teens may be the sweet spot for Arran. Well, I guess that’s true of most distillates. Also, I may have added a bit too much water but I preferred it neat (which is a rare thing for me with cask strength whiskies).
Rating: 88 points.