After a week of reviews of whiskies from Mortlach (here, here and here) and then a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (here, here and here), here is a week of reviews with a more diffuse theme: 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland. First up, representing the islands, is a distillery I have not reviewed very much from: Arran.
Brodick Bay is an official release, a 20 yo whisky that came out in 2020 and was the first in something called The Explorer Series. I don’t know how many more releases have followed or how they were made but I can tell you that this was put together from spirit matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and finished in bodega oloroso casks (not sure if that means European or American oak). It’s not the oldest Arran I’ve reviewed (that would be this 21 yo) but it’s close. Let’s hope it’s at least as good. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
On Wednesday I had a review of a bourbon cask Arran; I did not care for it overmuch. Let’s see if we can get my Arran trajectory back in a positive direction with this sherry cask release. The bottler in this case is Acorn. They are a Japanese outfit that has apparently been releasing selections since the late 1990s. I think it might only have been in the last half-decade or so though that their casks became more widely available outside Japan. Or at least that’s when I first noticed them. This profile on ScotchWhisky.com notes that they now have distribution in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Japan—so still not so widely available, I guess. (ScotchWhisky.com, by the way, has good information on a number of independent bottlers—I’m hoping their list will slowly become more comprehensive: a number of major bottlers are not yet on it.)
This cask was released in 2016. It’s a sherry hogshead, and interestingly was not bottled at cask strength. I wonder if it was a little too unbalanced at full strength—given the greater wood contact for a sherry hogshead vs a sherry butt. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Despite what you might think, this is not a pointless review of a long disappeared whisky. Well, the review may be pointless, but the whisky is still around. Glen Fahrn are a German retailer who started releasing their own bottlings a few years ago (I’m not sure if they still do). I purchased samples of a few of these from Whiskybase a while ago but had somehow forgotten to drink any of them. I came across these Arran samples recently and decided it was time. Much to my surprise, when I looked up the whisky I discovered that it’s still available from Glen Fahrn’s store. There might be a reason for this: it pains me to tell you that my review is not likely to make you want to rush out and purchase a bottle. I’m always disappointed when this happens with an indie bottling of a whisky from an indie distillery. It’s especially disappointing in this case as I’ve enjoyed the few bourbon cask Arrans I’ve had a fair bit (see the most recently reviewed) and was hoping the positive streak would continue. Continue reading
My bourbon cask tour of Scotland continues. So far the itinerary has included a couple of stops at Aberlour in the Speyside, at Bladnoch in the Lowlands and at Bowmore on Islay. We’re on another island today: Arran. I’ve not reviewed much Arran on the blog and, indeed, it’s been a while since I’ve had any. This is not a recent release: it’s a single cask from 2013 and I think it might be the oldest Arran I’ve had so far—not that there are very many very old Arrans (I think production only began a year prior in 1995). I think this was one of a few single casks released in the US in 2013—though my memory can rarely be trusted. I’ve not been following the distillery very much and I’m not sure what they’re up to these days or what their general reputation is like. I do know I’ve always enjoyed their 14 yo when I’ve had it (the 10 yo a little bit less). I have also reviewed another single bourbon cask released a few years before this one. If this is as good it’ll be pretty good. Let’s see. Continue reading
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 that 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.