If you’ve gotten anywhere beyond enjoying tastes of whisky into learning about it, you’ve probably learned that it’s not uncommon for a whisky distillery to get it’s name from the place it’s distilled – Aberlour, Jura and Dalwhinnie all fit this mold, as does Arran. Arran is a ~150 sq. mile island that sits between the Scottish mainland (due west of Kilmarnock) and the Campbeltown peninsula in the Firth of Clyde. Tourism and golf bring most of Arran’s visitors, and is accessible only by ferry. The island is considered by many to be “Scotland in Miniature,” with many of the country’s geology, geography and man-made features in more condensed space.
The distillery sits almost at the northern most point and is the only on the island. It is very new and very small, with only 2 stills onsite and open since 1995 and, although it sits below the traditional Highland/Lowland line, is considered to be a Highland whisky. With the spice and salt I get from many of their bottles, and being from Arran, I’d call a spade a spade and say it’s an Island whisky. 10yr, 12yr and 14yr age statements are available along with several special finishings and even some vintage product, currently rare in whisky but growing (Glenrothes and many Diageo whiskies all carry vintages). Overall, I’ve rarely been impressed by Arran whiskies. They seem to be searching for a flavor and their wood does little for it; and even less for the color. Being an aroma guy, the aroma of candied hazelnuts in the 14yr distillery bottling is not surprising – I usually expect that from distillate with early cut points. The use of sherry casks tries to give it a little back-bone but it just seems too little, too late.
That’s why I was so surprised by the Single Cask Nation‘s bottle of 12yr, which has a Pinot Noir cask finish.
The whisky has been bottled at a very-potent 54.8% and has not been chill filtered. Side by side with distillery bottlings (and even next to almost any other whisky) the liquid is very dark in color; almost a medium brown, but still in the amber spectrum of whisky. On aroma, it was like a raspberry chocolate sauce over a freshly-baked scone. Add a bit of water and stewed fruit really starts to come out. The taste backed that up – imagine a mini fruit tart and you’re close. There is a sulfur note, maybe metalic – almost like iron smelting, but it’s not overpowering; just enough to remind you that we’re talking about an island-style whisky finished in wine casks. The finish is long and spicy, paying homage to the salt-air island roots.
The Arran 12 Pinot Noir cask is available exclusively to members of the Single Cask Nation for $115. I wouldn’t call it a must-have, but it’s definitely unique and worth a taste. If you are an Arran fan, this offering is definitely special – I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Won’t you enjoy a dram with me?
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The Whisky Guy is an educator, host, blogger , habitual traveler and more, having worked in the whisk(e)y industry for over 10 years. He can be reached through the Contact page and you can find out more by visiting the About page. He always supports enjoying whisk(e)y responsibly.