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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Arran 10 year old versus Arran 10 year old

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, it's been a long time since I focused on Arran single malt. But when I did, I found the whisky peaking in its official 10 and 14 year old expressions. The spirit sang clearest in the 10, while the oak merged perfectly at 14. At 16 and 18 years old, the standard releases already started to tilt too oaky. Single casks could shine when older, but that, of course, depended on the cask. Meanwhile, I saved money enjoying the best stuff, the 10 and 14. And then Arran discontinued the 14 year old in 2019.

So, here I am left with the Ten. I have one sample from my own bottle that I reviewed almost eight years ago. Back then it had "the new label". Now I have sample from the new new label bottling that arrived on USA shores in 2020. The two whiskies have the same 46%/NC/NCF presentation, but do they have the same cask make-up? I don't know. The older bottlings were a mix of bourbon and sherry casks, with many refills in the mix. The official website offers not even a smidgen of cask detail. Unofficial listings show both only "Bourbon", while others list "Bourbon casks, and a small amount of refill sherry casks". So I'm not sure how this will play out.

Arran 10 year old, bottled in 2014, 46%abv
(from my bottle)

pic source
Barley and oats show up first in the nose, followed by grapefruit, citronella candles, and yuzu peels, with moss and fresh rosemary in the background. A few drops of water intensify the fruits and grains, while adding a touch of guava.

Sweet, tart, and bitter citrus all arrive early in the palate, with the sweetness eventually winning out. It's very malty and slightly grassy, with some raw walnuts in the back. A few drops of water bring out the barley, raw nuts, and bitter citrus.

Tangy and bitter citrus mix with the malt in the finish, with a lot of raw barley in the aftertaste. It's all malt and grapefruit after a few drops of water.

This remains a very nice drink, even after exactly eight years in a sample bottle! As per my notes, the barley stays on top throughout, which is good because the spirit is excellent. It might even improve at about 43%abv, but shhhhhhhh. Don't tell Arran.

Arran 10 year old, bottled in 2020, 46%abv
actual bottle
(thanks to Doctors Springbank for the sample!)

A completely different nose here. It starts with a tangerine, raspberry, and cilantro salad, with roses, grasses, and cherry bubblegum appearing later. It becomes very herbal after a few drops of water, specifically dried savory herbs and paprika. But there's also a hint of nectarine in the midground.

The palate reads more sour than tangy. Wormwood bitterness meets cracked black peppercorns, and a hint of malt. It becomes less of a fight after a few drops of water, but it's still plenty bitter. The barley is rawer and some pencil shavings show up, but there's definitely a peachy note in the back.

It finishes with with grains, iron, and a grassy bitterness. A few drops of water turn it into a pile of bitter citrus peels and peppercorns.

This one is fiercer and sharper, in need of some level of complexity on the palate, though I'm impressed that the distillery went with such a ruffian for its 10 year old. The nose has that complexity and is endlessly sniffable, which brings up the rating.


I'm very surprised by the difference between these two batches. It doesn't seem like the same distillery. The 2020 feels more "Craft Whisky" and younger, but at least it's not full of new oak. Both whiskies open up with slight dilution, and both noses dazzle, but the 2014 bottling reads more honed and complete. I'd buy a bottle of the 2014 batch any day. Though I'd drink the 2020 bottling again, I have no interest in purchasing it.

Arran 10 year old, bottled 2014 - 85 (with water)
Arran 10 year old, bottled 2020 - 81 (with water)