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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Single Malt Report: Arran 10 year old

Until very recently, I didn't know much about the Arran Distillery, other than the following:
1.) It's located on the Isle of Arran.
2.) It's a new distillery, opened in 1995.
3.) Their distributor's local rep is very cool.
4.) The Arran 14 year old is delicious and their 15yr single sherry cask isn't half bad, either.

And that was about it.  Here's some more useful information from Charles MacLean's Whiskypedia:
The Isle of Arran Distillery was the brain-child of Harold Currie, former Managing Director of Chivas Brothers and later of Campbell Distillers.  Some money was raised by a novel 'bond-holder' scheme which invited subscribers to invest by guaranteeing them a certain amount of whisky -- five cases of blended whisky in 1998, five cases of Arran Founder's Reserve in 2001, all for 450GBP. The distillery, which stands above the picturesque village and sea loch of Lochranza, opened in 1995.
I love that setup.  Ten cases of whisky for 450GBP?!  In addition to helping support a brand new small distillery, you're getting $6-$12 a bottle of brand new mystery booze.

With his background in Speyside malt production, Currie went with a whisky closer in nature to that fruity type than some of the other isles' styles.  And he opened his facility at the perfect time to catch a piece of this current whisky boom.  In addition to the 10 and 14 year olds, there's an NAS "Robbie Burns" single malt, a good number of single cask releases, some wine-finished bottlings, a peated Machrie Moor, and a limited (and pricey) new 16 year old.

A few stores in LA have minis of the Arran 10yr in stock, so finding a taste of it wasn't much trouble.  I really wish other whisky producers would go the mini route in the US.  As you'll see in this post, the sale of this mini will likely lead to the sale of at least one 750mL bottle.

Distillery: Isle of Arran Distillery
Type: Single Malt
Ownership: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: 70% second-fill sherry casks, 30% a mix of ex-bourbon and first-fill sherry casks
Region: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No.
Colored? No.

Color -- Light gold (what refill-sherry-cask-matured whisky actually looks like)

Nose -- Malty! Lightly spiced with a hint of dried stone fruits. Yeast, lots of grains, bready.  Vanilla, Werther's Originals, very light on the wine, and a little bit of a maritime note too.  After some time there's melon or tropical fruit juice along with a bit of anise.

Palate -- Bready here too. The ABV and lack of filtration gives it a good zing and a creamy texture.  Some citrus, vanilla, and American oak char.  Maybe even some bourbon, but almost no sherry.  Butter and hay.

Finish -- The vanilla picks up some force here.  Salt and cracked black peppercorns.  Some gin-like herbal notes show up after awhile along with a little bitterness.

Sugary fruit juice (cherries and peaches) develops in the nose.  Brown sugar, cinnamon, and grapefruit join the barley in the palate.  The finish gets much drier.

I appreciate Arran's approach with this whisky, similarly to how I enjoy Glen Garioch's 12 year old -- bottled at a higher strength with no filtration and fashioned so that the malt shines.  According to Dominic Roskrow's 1001 Whiskies, 70% of this malt is aged in second-fill sherry casks with the rest a mix of former bourbon barrels and first-fill sherries.  What impresses my nose and palate is that the wine takes a distant backseat to the oak and spirit -- that's the very reason I prefer refill-sherry-maturation to first fills.

Finally, it's priced in Laphroaig 10yr territory.  While the fact that young malts are being priced at $45 stinks, consider Arran runs a much smaller operation and keeps more whisky in its whisky than most others in this price range.  Or maybe you can just grab a mini when you find one and see if Arran 10yr suits your needs.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $35-$50
Rating - 87