Provenance: Isle of Arran (Scotland)
Typology: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrells: Ex-Bourbon and ex -Sherry
Added coloring: No
Owner: Isle of Arran Distillery
Average price: € 115.00
Official website: www.arranwhisky.com
There isn’t only Islay in our hearts, and we discover that other islands are also part of Scotland, and where there’s a bit of land with pure flowing water, you’d think the Scots wouldn’t want to open a distillery there?
That’s (more or less) how the first distillery of the modern era was established on the island in 1995, as previously there had always been small, more or less legal whisky-making operations on the territory.
It was actually supposed to be established in 1994, but work was stopped because a pair of eagles decided that Lochranza (the site of the factory) was the most suitable place for them to nest. And rightly so, the pair ended up on the distillery’s logo.
On 25 July 1998 they poured “the island’s first legal whisky in 160 years”, and have not stopped since, so much so that they have recently opened a new label, Lagg, whose first (peated) fruits will be seen in a few years’ time.
Initially part of a limited edition consisting of four expressions (16, 17, 18 and 21 years), this one has since become part of the distillery’s core range: if in the limited edition the disclaimer was “matured in the best ex-Sherry casks”, now we also find a little wood soaked in Bourbon. Having only tried this expression, I can unfortunately not enlighten you on the differences.
I admit that the label, with all that gold, is rather gaudy, but then again, you buy bottles for their contents, so we pour this nectar of a beautiful deep gold (all the more persuasive, given its natural colour) and smell it. The 46 degrees are all there, but we are immediately hit with sweet scented notes of custard, vanilla, cherries, cinnamon and a hint of sea salt. Letting it breathe, the alcohol is tamed and apple pie with sultanas arrives. The Sherry is there, arm in arm with the Bourbon.
On the palate you find the same sweetness, very buttery and oily (the waves on the glass tend to descend with lazy slowness), the influence of the Sherry gains some points and the caramel becomes present. It’s not one of those portentous sherried, I imagine that the limited edition was in this sense tougher, here instead the Bourbon helps to enrich the nuances, letting the sultanas be accompanied by other fruity notes of peach and apple. Always present (but much less so than other marine whiskies) is the salinity in the background, the alcohol initially a little invasive.
Leaning the now empty glass, the flavours stay in the mouth for a long time, soft and clean, with a slight astringency.
Perfect with a dessert, most obviously apple pie but a strudel wouldn’t go amiss either. For those who have some qualms about sherried whiskies, this could be a good choice to taste their influence without being attacked: the double maturation in ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks has found a good balance, bringing the ‘best of both worlds’. However (and here’s why only an 82) from an 18-year-old I would have expected something more assertive, and a more tame alcohol.