...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Single Malt Report: The Arran Malt, Single Bourbon Cask #77

Between 2007 and 2011, the Isle of Arran Distillery bottled individual ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks.  The single cask releases helped fill out the still very young distillery's product range, which included an NAS starter malt, a 10 year old, and some NAS wine-finished whiskies.  The prices of the SCs were relatively reasonable and widely distributed which allowed non-insider whisky fans to try Arran's whisky at full strength.

Arran ascends my Top Distilleries list each time I try another one of their products.  Their 10 year old is very good.  I'm crazy about their 14 year old (which I'll review at some point before the century is over).  And I found their wine-finishes to be better integrated than Glenmorangie's.  To my great glee, I obtained a pair of samples of the aforementioned single Bourbon and Sherry casks via a swap with Mr. Chemistry of the Cocktail.

Today, I'm writing about the Bourbon cask.  Tomorrow(?), I'll have a post about the Sherry cask.  I stupidly discarded the Bourbon cask sample's label before getting picture of it.  In its place, here's a photo of two-row barley:

DistilleryIsle of Arran Distillery
Type: Single Malt
Ownership: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
Region: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Age: July 19, 1999 to November 19, 2010 (11 years)
Maturation: ex-Bourbon cask
Cask: 77  (Please note:  There is another cask #77 that has been bottled by Arran.  That one was a nine year old single Sherry cask release.  Here's a link to that one for more information.)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.0%
Bottle: 123 out of 206

The color is amber waves of (barley) grain.  The nose starts with a lot of grain goodness:  porridge, oats, and hot barley cereal.  There's a little bit of oak swimming around in there too, think buttered white bread along with hints of caramel and vanilla.  Then there's lime peel, fresh milk, and sweaty skin (if you need me to specify "in a good way" then what kind of hedonist are you?!).  After 20 minutes, more oak spice starts to show up.  After 30 minutes, fresh peaches and fresh cucumber.  Lots of barley in the palate too.  Some yeast and mint.  A hint of something Tobermory-ish (yes, "in a good way" if you're a fan of the current Tobermory 10).  Lemony with a light spicy zip.  Meanwhile, the alcohol heat is mild considering the ABV.  The sweetness is reserved.  But lots of toasty grains, which continue into the finish.  Some anise, fresh mushrooms, slightly salty and savory, and then tropical fruit juices slip in at the end.  But it's mostly malt malt malt.

A little more oak appears in the nose, in the form of unburned barbecue wood chips, though there is a hint of char as well.  Lots of citrus, cardamom, and peach yogurt.  The fruits roll over into the palate.  There's also black peppercorn, sweet cream, chocolate malt, and lemon cream pie.  The finish is sweeter with more of that chocolate malt, along with orange candy.

This whisky falls into one of my favorite categories: nearly naked malt.  Arran makes some great spirit; they're clearly not afraid of it standing so far upstage that it's almost in the crowd.  It doesn't need water, but if you want the whisky to unleash more oak and sweetness, a few drops is the way to go. Personally, I'd keep it neat in order to revel in the barley-ness.  (Also, as per Jordan, be careful not to add too much water because it makes the whisky go a little weird.)

There are a number of other official Arran single bourbon casks out there and I've been told good stuff about them as well.  If you can find this at its original price ($70-$80), I'd be hard-pressed to tell you a better non-peated cask strength whisky at its age in this price point.

Here are the caveats:
-- This ain't no sherry cask.  In fact, there's even very little American oak influence showing up on the nose and palate.
-- There's lots of barley.
-- Though there are no ugly spirit notes, it is a young malt.

If you find any of the above troublesome, then I'd recommend you try it before you buy it.  On the other hand, I'm keeping an eye out for this whisky if the price is right.

Availability - Disappearing, though may be at some specialty retailers
Pricing - $70-$100
Rating - 89


  1. Not sure if my first comment went through: this sounds good but I'm wondering about the comment at the end that "there's little American oak involved". I assume you mean that there's little wood influence of any kind, not that it was matured in something else, right?

    1. Good point, my wording was a little vague. Yeah, there's little wood influence. I'll update this. Thanks.