After a week of whiskies in the 20+ age range let’s try some that are a fair bit younger. Who knows, maybe I’ll be more enthused by them than I was by the older lot. First up, the Arran 10, the entry-level malt from the only distillery on the Isle of Arran. (At least I assume it’s their entry-level malt: they haven’t slapped out a NAS with a Gaelic name when I wasn’t looking, have they?)
I don’t have a whole lot of experience of the Arran and in fact may not actually have ever had the Arran 10 before. At least I don’t recall it—not that that’s saying much at this point. I do like the 14 yo very much, and I also liked the single sherry and bourbon casks I reviewed (the port cask finish, not as much). Interested to see what I make of this one. Let’s get straight to it.
I’ve previously reviewed a single bourbon cask Arran and a single sherry cask Arran. This one is not, I believe, a single cask, and it is in any case not matured for the full term in port casks, merely finished in them–though for how long I don’t know. I’m not sure either how old it is. It’s hard to stop up this gushing fount of useful information but it’s time to taste the whisky.
Arran Port Cask Finish (50%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Nutty and raisiny with just a little bit of cherry syrup. After a minute or two there’s some citrus–some orange peel and some lime–and a mild grassy note. The grassy note actually picks up with time and the lime gets stronger too. With water the citrus is mixed in with some melon and there’s some toffee too. Some of the candied sweetness from the palate shows up here too now. Continue reading
The last Arran I reviewed was a single bourbon cask from 1998, and I quite liked this one. This is a sherry cask from 1997 and it may be the first sherried Arran I’ve ever had (I’ve not had very much from this distillery). I’m curious to see if I will be able to see any family resemblance beneath the sherry. Let’s get right to it.
Arran 1997-2008, Sherry Cask #391 (55.4%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Quite clearly sherried but not a sherry bomb. Mild raisins and a lot of citrus–starts out with oranges but then there’s rapidly intensifying lemon and lime zest and quite a lot of salt. Something mildly grassy too. As it settles down the rounder, sweeter aromas (some brown sugar too now) re-establish under the brighter, zestier notes but those notes are still very present. The salt all but disappears. With more time the fruit is muskier (or maybe that’s malt) and there’s some caramel and honey too. Water pulls out sweet vanilla. Continue reading
A single bourbon cask Arran released in 2009. I think this one might still be around in the US, and I think it runs $15-20 more than the 14 yo at 46%. I tasted and wrote this up immediately following the 14 yo that I posted a review of yesterday. Let’s get right to it.
Arran 11, 1998 (57.6%; bourbon cask 650; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Not a million miles away from the 14 yo at 46% at first nosing: grassy malt and fast expanding lemon. The musky fruit I got on the 14 yo is less in evidence here and there’s more beeswax than honey; white pepper as well. Quite clearly a sibling of the 14 yo. With water there’s more citronella on this one too and a lot more vanilla. Really quite lovely.
Palate: Very drinkable at full strength. Lemon first then sweet malt. Barley-led spirit–this is why they call it malt whisky. Very nice indeed. As with the 14 yo, not the most complex palate but what there is is very good. But let’s see if more air or water release any twists or turbulence. With time there’s a lot more fruit: melon, some peach, maybe even a little over-ripe banana. The fruit gets quite musky -sweet with time and there’s some nice counterpoint from toasted wood that also emerges. As with the 14 yo water is better for the nose than the palate but this is still very good with water: there’s clearly banana now and more pepper and even some tart apricot. Continue reading
Arran are one of the newer Scottish distilleries, established only in 1995. As with the revived Bruichladdich after them, in order to keep the cash flow going, Arran have released a large number of finished and other experimental young malts in special releases and limited editions. Not all of these have been everyone’s cup of tea and the distillery thus has a somewhat variable reputation. However, I really like this official 14 yo which was released in 2010. Bottled at 46% and without chill-filtration it seems to highlight the quality of Arran’s spirit coming out of ex-bourbon casks. It does seem to confound further the notion of terroir in malt whisky that some are increasingly committed to as this tastes very similar to bourbon cask malts from the Speyside.
Arran 14 (46%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Biscuity malt, a little grassy. The malt turns to toasted wheat and then some fruity notes begin to develop: honey and bright citrus first and then something a little musky, moderating the citrus which keeps on coming. After a while the citrus resolves to grapefruit and the musky thing is over-ripe melon; some white pepper sprinkled over it all. After more time there’s a mellow nuttiness: cashew or hazelnut butter. Water brightens the citrus up and then turns it into citronella. Some sweetness now too (simple syrup). Continue reading