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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

October 19, 2015


An Arran extravaganza

Arran had quite a coup with their very recent ‘book’, because of some very smart packaging, not too serious, and most possibly an excellent whisky. They’re gone the days when the young distillery was doing mostly wine finishings, which used to make any collection look like Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine. And frown some whisky lovers. But in retrospect, that was smart. After all, that’s also what Bruichladdich and Edradour have done after new owners had taken over. So, we’ll try the ‘book’, but first, a few other Arrans for good measure. Is this Whiskyfun or not?

Arran 13 yo 2001/2014 (55.9%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill oloroso hogshead, cask #102, 329 bottles)

Arran 13 yo 2001/2014 (55.9%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill oloroso hogshead, cask #102, 329 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: citrus! Orange juice, then more fresh barley, butterscotch, sultanas, and some kind of lemon-flavoured shortbread. Good definition, good freshness, I like that. With water: some praline, more cake-y notes, more barley. A very natural malt whisky. Mouth (neat): there’s some sherry left, but also, once again, plenty of oranges and shortbread, underlined with lemon and oak spices, especially white pepper. Cereals dipped into orange jam. Good solid body, perhaps a tad roughish but that’s most probably the high strength. With water: good barley-lemon interplay, plus quite some white pepper and ginger. Perhaps 2nd fill, but the oak hadn’t gotten inactive! Finish: long, rather grassier. More pepper as well, but the citrus keeps singing, especially in the aftertaste. Comments: a style that hints at a Midlander, say such as a Blair Athol. I find it very good, and it loves water. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Arran 14 yo 2000/2015 (55.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, bourbon, cask #2000/1106, 197 bottles)

Arran 14 yo 2000/2015 (55.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, bourbon, cask #2000/1106, 197 bottles) Four starsThis baby’s brand new. Colour: gold. Nose: this is going to be easy, it’s the Single Cask Nation, minus the sherry touches. Which makes it rather brighter and even fresher, but perhaps a wee tad simpler. But it’s no simple whisky mind you. Love the whiffs of crushed mint leaves and lemon balm! With water: fresh lemon-flavoured brioche. And very fresh baklavas. Mouth (neat): a blade without peat – but perhaps a touch of smoke. Vanilla and tangerines, some green tea, some barley goodness, and a whole bag of cider apples. The faint smoke gives this baby an ‘old Highlands’ style, perhaps more Pulteney than Blair Athol this time? With water: tense, lemony, now a bit chalky. Gained zestiness and precision, we’re almost sucking lemon drops. Finish: medium, very zesty. Comments: quality’s totally equivalent to that of the Single Cask Nation. Coming up with a different score would be pushing all this too far. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Arran 18 yo (46%, OB, sherry hogshead, 9000 bottles, +/-2015)

Arran 18 yo (46%, OB, sherry hogshead, 9000 bottles, +/-2015) Two stars and a half I guess this is a multi-vintage bottling, but not sure. Colour: straw. Nose: rather more ‘middle-of-the-road’ than the previous ones, that is to say more fully on grains, barley, bread, pastries. I also do seem to find a touch of asparagus cooking water – or cabbage – that makes it just a notch sulphury. I would not call this a nosing whisky. Mouth: we’re going more towards the TWE, but it’s got a buttery side this time, while the eggs; I mean, the asparagus aren’t totally gone. Too bad, because other parts are lovely, especially the marmalade and the orange cake. Café latte. Good body. Finish: medium, with a little burnt caramel. Ideas of struck matches. Comments: this one loses me a bit, I’m afraid. Really enjoyed some parts, but in my book, Arran can do much better, which the other ones have already shown. I think it’s these sherry casks… SGP:452 - 79 points.

Arran 18 yo 1996/2015 ‘The Island of Fidra’ (50.6%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #1300, 200 bottles)

Arran 18 yo 1996/2015 ‘The Island of Fidra’ (50.6%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #1300, 200 bottles) Four stars and a half Lockett Bros are new whisky bottlers (and established wine and spirit merchants). They’re located in North Berwick, Scotland. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh nice! The style is close to that of the TWE, so clean and chiselled, but it’s starting to display more subtle aromas that can only come with age in my opinion. I’d say citron liqueur, earthy spices (achiote? Coriander?), hessian… In fact, it may have become more coastal than younger Arrans. With water: pure barleyish freshness. Mouth (neat): yep. Clean lemons and grapefruits, a touch of custard, some minty spices, oranges, liquorice… I think it is a beauty. With water (not that that’s much needed): totally excellent. Fresh, orangey, fruity, and yet structured, malty… Finish: medium, a wee tad more caramely/candied. Which is far from being a flaw. Comments: well, it’s the first whisky from these Lockett Bros I’m tasting, but it seems that they’re doing pretty well. So far, ha-ha (sardonic laughter)… SGP:551 - 89 points.

So, and the new ‘book’? Don’t be so impatient, here it is!...

Arran ‘The Illicit Stills’ (56.4%, OB, Smugglers’ Series, 8,700 bottles, 2015)

Arran ‘The Illicit Stills’ (56.4%, OB, Smugglers’ Series, 8,700 bottles, 2015) Three stars I guess you’ve seen this bottle and the funny ‘carved’ book it comes with, Sergio-Leone-style. Indeed, viva spaghetti westerns!, but isn’t it amazing that they have to do all this, however smart and lovely and funny and perfectly executed it is, to sell us NAS whisky? Because indeed, I don’t seem to find any mentions of an age or of a vintage. So if it's not age-driven, maybe is it flavour-dirven (as they no say) - or is it only packaging-driven? Colour: gold. Nose: can you smoke fresh butter? Starts rather rounded, and, indeed, buttery (not butyric), but it tends to become smokier and smokier, with echoes of young modern Ardbeg. Hessian, perhaps, autumn leaves, a touch of antiseptic… With water: damp hessian, clean mud, porridge, smoke, plasticine. A lot of plasticine. Mouth (neat): a clean, ashy, pretty Islay-style dram, only a notch sweeter, but not quite in the Ardmore or peated-Benriach-style, although I do find peaches in syrup. Is that clear? With water: good sweet peat. Smoked tinned pears – or tinned smoked pears. Yes I know that doesn’t exist. Finish: medium, a tad more citrusy. Comments: I find this style a notch… say hesitant. Not quite a peater, and yet there’s some fairly loud peat, but it’s also got this sweet fruity profile, and yet… Ah another one that lost me. But very good it is. SGP:544 - 82 points.

I was expecting a little more from that one, so… let’s simply go on for a little while…

Arran 9 yo 2005/2015 (57.8%, OB for LMDW, sherry hogshead, cask #2005/037, 312 bottles)

Arran 9 yo 2005/2015 (57.8%, OB for LMDW, sherry hogshead, cask #2005/037, 312 bottles) Four stars First fill according to the colour. Colour: pale mahogany. Nose: balsamic vinegar and cellulose varnish for a start, then old Sauternes that went totally dry, then dry dried fruits (uh?) and quite some Spanish brandy. I mean the stuff they make around Jerez, of course. One of the brandy-est whiskies I could try so far. With water:  you are in Jerez! All we’re missing is a few croquettas, and perhaps a little jabugo. Mouth (neat): I have to say this works. Total bitter marmalade, plus bitter chocolate, plus cured ham, plus chewing tobacco combination. Extreme wham-bam sherry monster, extremely spectacular. With water: makes you speak Spanish – with an Andalusian accent. Heavy sherry, bitter oranges, liquorice. All that. Finish: very long. And sherried. Comments: sure it could have been just any unpeated distillery, and sure the sherry did all the work, but this style is right up my alley. Perhaps not yours? Huge young stuff. SGP:661 - 87 points.

Back to gentler cleanliness, I suppose…

Arran 14 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Arran 14 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars Loved the older official 14 yo (WF 87 around 2010). Colour: straw. Nose: pretty perfect clean barleyness, with some vanilla, a flowery touch, then a little damp earth and anything from a Corsican forest, that is to say myrtle, eucalyptus, mint, and caraway. Well not sure caraway freely grows in Corsica, have to check that next time I’m there. Mouth: excellent. I’ve often noticed that Arrans style could stem from Speyside, and this a good example. Orange in syrup, orange cake, vanilla cream, a touch of stewed pears, some maple syrup, some malt, some honey… All easy and good. Finish: medium, a little more candied/malty. I’ve sometimes called this style ‘Chivassy’, but I wouldn’t want to ruffle (even) more feathers over there in Scotland. Nah, too late… Comments: one of the super-blends. I mean, malts that blend drinkers should try. But warning, there’s no way back. Really very good imho. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Good, we’ve had seven, and eight has become my maximum. So, let’s choose #8 very carefully… (given that there’s no super-old Arran, for obvious reasons)… Plus, there’s a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on TV, so let’s be quick and fast…

Lochranza 18 yo 1996/2014 (52.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #1830, 506 bottles)

Lochranza 18 yo 1996/2014 (52.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #1830, 506 bottles) Four stars That’s right, the great people at Blackadder are calling Arran ‘Lochranza’. Wondering, if they ever bottle a blend by Arran, what will the name be? Colour: straw. Nose: a bit sauvignony at first nosing, with a faint acetic side, then quite some varnish, just like in the 2005 for LMDW. The sherry casks again? And then some mud, chalk, rotting leaves, humus… There’s always something happening in Blackadder’s whiskies. Oh, yeah, by the way, I’ve said that I would quote Black Adder each and every time I’m trying some whisky by Blackadder. How does this sound then: “Oh, God, God, God! What on earth was I drinking last night? My head feels like there's a Frenchman living in it.” Okay, maybe not the best one. With water: becomes gentler, rounder, smoother, sweeter, maltier… Mouth (neat): young fresh malt whisky, with a slightly sour side. You could call that ‘slightly yoghurty’. Raw barley, a touch of varnish yet again, some sharp lemon juice, and always quite some sauvignon blanc. With water: bingo, I knew we would tame it. Agave syrup, barley water, tarte tatin, muesli. Finish: quite long, on the same flavours. Very malty. Comments: very malty indeed. Malty beer. Lots happening, even if it hasn’t got the high definition that a few others had. SGP:551 - 85 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Arran I've tasted so far







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