The Dramble’s web guru Danny is a huge fan of The Arran Malt – it’s very much his talisman whisky. Ever since I introduced him to the limited edition 18 year old (the distillery’s first to reach this level of maturity) a few years ago, he’s become both a convert, and a preacher for the quality of whisky being made over in Lochranza. His bottle collection shows this journey of discovery quite clearly. My experience with Arran goes back a few years earlier to when the distillery was still building up its stocks and starting to create its first core range. The first Arran 12 year old had rolled off the production line in 2008 - my introduction came two years later when the 14 year old was revealed.
First released in 2010, the Arran 14 year old is a marriage of both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask whiskies. It has slumbered for 12 years before being re-racked in a combination of first fill bourbon barrels and first fill sherry hogsheads – two thirds in to American oak and one third in to European oak. It’s bottled at the same ABV as the rest of the Arran core range – 46% ABV. An always popular expression, this has remained in the distillery’s portfolio of whiskies since its introduction. It’s currently available for £43.84 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Gentle and fresh. Immediate crème caramel and vanilla custard mingle with toffee-coated apples, bright citrus peels and slightly reduced berries. Damp wood earthiness, pine needles and a touch of minerality provide additional interesting aromas. Throughout there is a very slight coastal salinity and delicate inflections of dusty ginger. The addition of a few drops of water heightens the citrus notes especially, and adds in a spoonful of honey and a scattering of orange peels.
Taste: A viscous, but creamy arrival with more than enough weight. At the front of the palate, fruits – toffee apples and pears in particular. Then, vanilla and caramel, both underpinned with the delicate saltiness that was detected on the nose (I do love salted caramel in all its forms). Lightly reduced berries, nuttiness and leather provide signs of the sherry influence, but they’re restrained and supportive, rather than leading proceedings. Spiciness comes through stronger on the palate with ginger, tingly pepper and earthy nutmeg. Water again pronounces citrus peels, but also brings in some stony minerality that was detected on the nose.
Finish: Medium in length and offering a combination of dusty spices and herbal tea, bringing a very pleasant level of dryness to round things off.
I still remember my first experience of Arran 14 year old back in 2010. I was impressed then – I still am. This expression is a very solid step up from the entry-level Arran (currently the 10 year old), and whilst adding roughly an additional £10 to the price tag, more than justifies the cost through a combination of subtle but effective sherry cask influence, and admirable overall balance. The 14 year old is bright, fresh, and very evocative of the overall distillery character. If you’ve not yet experienced any bottlings from Arran, this one would probably be my recommendation as an ideal place to start.
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