Tag Archive: Arran


Independent Spirit: Arran (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Years: 58.7% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain to gold.

Viscosity: Generally slow thin puckering, with a few fast streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol jelly. Lime. Salted caramel and apple. Water brings out more caramel, a touch of milky coffee. More water adds floral notes.

Body: Alcohol touched. Salted toffee. Moderate oak. Salted caramel. Water adds apples and makes smoother. Much more salted caramel. More water adds more apples and pears. Light cinnamon. Creamy notes and some lemon curd.

Finish: Charred oak. Apples. Alcohol. Toffee malt drinks. Drying. Water adds salted toffee. More water adds lemon curd and light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, this has a lot of water room to it. Like a proper serious amount. Not entirely unexpected at best part of 60% abv, but what does stand out is that it is actually pretty approachable even when neat; Which means that you have more room for quality water play as you don’t have to add a ton just to get it to where you can taste it. No innuendo on water play please. That is my job.

Neat to middling amounts of water it is very unlike any Arran I have encountered. Very toffee and caramel driven. Salted interpretation of both no less. Neat it is a little alcohol thick but still very drinkable, if a tad burning. Even a little water though turns it into a very smooth, kind of salted toffee doughnut style whisky. I was kind of addicted to salted toffee doughnuts for a while, I know of what I speak.

More water, like heavily more water, adds a mix of traditional green fruit that feels like a more Arran by way of Hakushu whisky style. Initially just soft notes around the toffee, enough water means that the green fruit takes centre stage with the salted caramel around the edges.

Initially as a salted caramel heavy whisky I found it soothing, smooth and easy drinking but not too complex. I was going to call it a whisky that did one thing but very well – a whisky for the high end of enjoying to sooth and relax with rather than examine.

Water turned that on its head; lots of fresh green fruit, a good mix of character. It is still easy to drink but now more freshening than soothing, and with a touch of that creamy Arran character. Very enjoyable either way, and with lots of room to explore. Both defies Arran expectations and confirms them depending on how you take it. A very high quality whisky.

Background: Second of Independent Spirit‘s independent bottlings of whisky. This time an Arran bottling – one of 57 bottles, distilled in 1997 and aged for 17 years in a sherry puncheon. Bottled non chill filtered at cask strength this definitely caught my eye. The label may look identical to the last, Fettercairn bottling – but if you look closely the cape colour has changed. Huge difference. Drink while listening to a general mix of metal – around the thrash to death side of things.

Arran That Boutique-y Whisky Company Batch 4

Arran: That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Batch 4 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Nigh clear with a mix of green hints and vanilla toffee hue. Becomes hazy with water.

Viscosity: Very thin slow puckering.

Nose: Alcohol and crumpets. Rocks. Water adds heather and pepper.

Body: Warm to burning. Buttered toast. Lemon pancakes. Water makes much sweeter – golden syrup and vanilla pods. Touch of vanilla yogurt with lime as well. Fudge. More buttery.

Finish: Light lemon pancakes. Light oak. Butter. Water adds vanilla yogurt and toffee. Tins of tropical fruits.

Conclusion: I don’t think I have seen a whisky with the nose and body so much at odds for a long time. The nose is, well, a tad rough. Not just in the alcohol, that element disperses with water so isn’t that big a deal. It is the fact that it has touches of crushed rocks and pepper that kind of sticks out – it is not that appealing. Though there are soft crumpet notes in there as well, but it doesn’t quite balance.

So, how is the body? Well, neat it is mainly alcohol heat- so let’s skip straight to the part where I add the water shall we? Boom! Sweet golden syrup and vanilla pods – a real big sweetness over the kind of soft buttery base I associate with Arran, with a few lime high notes.

Unfortunately adding even more water brings the body more in line with the aroma, not heavily, but it brings out a slightly gritty character to the base. It lowers the sweetness but keeps the butteryness, which unfortunately is less capable at holding up against the newfound grit.

Still, if you keep the water on the lower end then it is a reasonable whisky that shows the strength of Arran well. Well, the body does anyway. Still, less is definitely more with water use here. Even at over 50% abv it turns far too quickly from where it works to where it is past the tipping point. It doesn’t really outdo the official bottlings i have tried – its main addition is the big sweetness with just a little water. Still, it does emphasise that buttery toast base, which is not something you see often.

So, solid body, bit of a bad aroma. Not stand out but solid enough.

Background: Ok, here we go “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. Not run into ” That Boutique-y Whisky Company” though a quick googling shows that their bottles have some pretty non standard cartoon like labels. Not bad. Arran has been a nice smooth, if not always that complex, whisky for me, so I thought this may be nice. Drunk whilst listening to the haunting Ritualz CDR.

Isle Of Arran Sunset

Isle Of Arran: Sunset (Scotland: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Golden brown. Moderate off white head. Reasonable amount of carbonation.

Nose: Ginger spice. Lime sorbet. Digestive biscuits. Lemongrass. Strawberry.

Body: Creamy texture. Strawberry. Gingerbread and light chilli spice. Bready. Light creamy lemon. Some bitterness.

Finish: Gingerbread. Cream. Light hop bitterness. Bready. Grassy. Lightly earthy.

Conclusion: This is both a mellow and yet also slightly spicy beer. Intriguing. The main texture and taste on this one is a slightly sweetened cream. You know, nothing too out of the normal for the sweeter end of the bitter fare (Sweeter end of bitter. That always looks odd…) While it is not unusual it is well done, with some nice strawberry and sorbet notes amongst the sweetness. Nowt special, but nice.

Then, well then comes the spicy notes – not like a curry spicy, like crushed gingerbread or a ginger sponge. Warming, but in an unobtrusive way – the warmth works in a similar way to how hops would normally be used. I said “would” as the more traditional hop notes seem to be quite reined in here.

So, yeah, mellow but spicy – behind that is a fairly simple and slightly grassy beer, however overall it is pretty nice. The ginger notes are not excessive – in fact it does not push any given note excessively, yet it gives a tasty experience while it slips down so easily. Even the earthy character, so common of British hops, is held back so to be present but not intrusive.

Balanced and satisfying. Not one to rave about, but well worth easy back with.

Background: With a name like sunset I kind of expected it to be an Amber ale. I was wrong. Anyway, this was part of a set of Arran beers that my Parents brought back from Scotland. Again, many thanks. I have a fun family. Best I know the Arran brewery and distillery are not linked, apart from being on the same Island.

Arran Machrie Moor

Isle of Arran: Machrie Moor (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 46% abv)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast middling sized streaks.

Nose: Smoke and peat. Dust. Honey glazed chicken. Tobacco. Chewy. Medicinal touch. Burnt beef.

Body: Light caramel. Rising tar and alcohol. Solid peat. Honey and toffee. Cinder toffee. Apricot and cream when water has been added. Burnt sugar.

Finish: Dry oak. Light sweet toffee and cinder toffee. Light apricot after water has been added.

Conclusion: This is by far a less booming whisky than the aroma would have you imagine. The aroma promises a real medicinal, smoky whisky, but actually delivers a surprisingly restrained expression – so much so I can’t even call it a restrained beast, just, well restrained.

I use the word “surprisingly” a lot in notes. I am easily surprised it seems.

The body has a kind of cinder toffee effect, calling to a smoky fire cooked, bonfire night feel, but with a big sweetness to it. There is a kind of burnt sugar feel that is much more of a notable aspect than the smoke – all burnt brown sugar, cinder toffee and the like. It is interesting but far from what the aroma would have you expect.

There are calls to the Arran house character with some soft apricot and cream notes, which gives a nice amount of complexity – however the peat doesn’t add enough to give it an edge over the more standard Arrans, and it covers up some of the style which makes those expression seem different. It is still an interesting mix, even if the split between aroma and body maxes it seem more a contrast than ever actually mixing.

Nice, but not a favourite – could make a nice Halloween or Bonfire Night whisky though.

Background: The final whisky of the (pre) Burns night whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. This is the (moderately) peated expression of the normally very creamy Arran malt. There is some tale attached to this, something about a dog, I have to admit by this point me ability to comprehend non whisky ideas may have been somewhat reduced. As before, this was a tutored group tasting so, despite my best efforts, I may have been influenced in my tasting notes.

The Arran Malt: 14 Years (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 14 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Golden grain.

Viscosity: Very slow to form streaks from the spirit. Very slow streaks and very thin when they do form.

Nose: Slightly smoky. Red cherries. Mustard seeds and shortbread. Slightly creamy. Watercress. Slight eggs. Water makes the eggs more obvious and slightly musty.

Body: Creamy. Blue berry crumble. Light sugar dusting. Thick texture. Slight milky chocolate. Sweeter with water. Golden syrup and banana syrup. Slight walnuts. Much creamier with water.

Finish: Milky chocolate and pepper. Shortbread again. Light oak. Water adds banana bread and pancake. Still peppery with water and more oak filled.

Conclusion: When I tried the Arran 10 a while back I already knew that this bottle was awaiting me and I was intrigued to see what a few extra years would do to it. So now it’s here, what do we find?

Still creamy, but now it’s got some body to it. It’s like it spent the last four years on an intensive fitness regime for flavour.  Lots of sweet and lightly fruity elements to the whisky with a light pepper influence rounding it off. Very easy drinking and great to go alongside a dessert. So this far in and I’m already pretty impressed.

Then there’s the whisky when you get water added in. It’s quite a shock, much sweeter and with a sudden banana influence. Again its dessert accompanying whisky, but now almost syrupy in nature. It’s more a change in pitch than in style, similar yet distinctly different.

This whisky is very much a pumped up version of the ten year, but it has aged marvellously, smoother and fuller in all aspects.  It is probably too sweet to be a general drinking whisky, but anywhere from dessert to late night snacks it would fit in the schedule nicely.

A single use, two style whisky to be enjoyed.

Background:  Isle of Arran is a comparatively new Island malt, and quite significantly different from the harsh and salty island archetype. I’d tried the ten year a while back, and before that had seen the whiskys influence on Brewdog’s Paradox beer, so despite being a relative newbie to the spirit I’ve still had a bit of history with the distillery.

This was a present from my parents for which I thank them muchly. In fact the first dram was sampled whilst watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. A fine way to spend Christmas day (New Doctor Who is one of the few good things about Christmas In My Opinion)

The Arran Malt: 10 year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 10 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light barley to grain.

Viscosity: Thick streaks form quickly and in multitude.

Nose: Lemon meringue first with a light alcohol tingle. Grain dust. Cream pots, the type used for coffee. Shredded wheat. Water makes dustier initially then opens to an almost finished coffee sup style.

Body:  Smooth with lime touches. Sweet and syrupy. Big cream influence, or maybe custard doughnuts.  Slight milky chocolate. A touch of water makes silky smooth and much creamier.  Spiced blood orange comes out in a welcome manner.

Finish: Barley and dry oak. Light milk chocolate that grows slowly. Water makes it punch out more. Lime alcohol and chocolate come to the fore.

Conclusion: Always take your time with whisky. It is hard to do sometimes. A 25ml measure is basically a spit in a glass, and a double in a bar can be more expensive that a threesome in a red  light district if you aren’t careful.

Not that I would know from personal experience of course.

But anyway, whisky is a spirit that rewards time taken to let the vapours warm and to get rid of that initial burn that can fill the glass.

Now I’m fairly sure most of the blogs readers already know this, but here and now with the Arran malt it really does come back to the forefront of your mind.  Initial impression is an alcohol burn nose, lime and grain body and oak finish.  Not that impressive

Take your time though. Look again.  Let it settle and it becomes so very creamy with a milk chocolate finish. Silk textured if you add water. It’s pretty much a custard doughnut whisky. The slight burn at the finish makes sure you don’t forget and think you are playing in Krispy Kreme territory here though.

Good texture. Not the greatest flavour range but heck of a grip for what it does deliver. Manages to do the cream texture and taste without getting sickly. So a good ten year, that may just need a bit longer in the barrel to get some more complexity to go with the texture.  I may just be saying that as I know I have a bottle of the 14 year awaiting me. Should be interesting to see how it goes.

Background:  I picked up this mini as I know I’ve got a bottle of the 14 year waiting for me whenever I visit the family back ooop north.  So I thought it may be worth seeing the baseline of the spirit first to get an idea of how it grows.  The Arran distillery is quiet a new one, a moment of research tells me it has only been open since 1995. Which means I’m older that the bloody distillery. Then again if the distillery was a person it couldn’t legally drink yet.

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