The 10 years that Master Distiller James MacTaggart has been with Arran have passed quickly – the distillery has gained in stature and reputation, reached the milestone of introducing an 18 year old to its core range and are developing their plans to open a second distillery on the southern coast of the Isle of Arran at Lagg. In the meantime, the distillery is celebrating MacTaggart’s 10 years with the release of the ‘James MacTaggart Anniversary Single Malt’.
The Dramble interviewed MacTaggart yesterday and learnt about his fondness for bourbon barrels and their inherent sympathy for Arran’s malt spirit. It should therefore come as no surprise that the celebratory bottling focusses on just that – first fill bourbon. The bottle packaging is by-lined ‘Master of Distilling’ further evidencing the huge influence that MacTaggart has had on the development of the distillery and its whisky over the past decade. The Anniversary Single Malt is drawn from 10 year old first fill bourbon barrels that were filled in 2007 during MacTaggart’s first months at Arran – my how times flies. The release is a limited edition of 12,000 bottles that are non chill-filtered, naturally coloured and clock in at 54.2% ABV. It will be available shortly at a cost of £64.99.
Nose: Fresh, vibrant buttery vanilla, citrus and spice. Barley and toasted cereals are immediate and reinforced by a firm fruitiness – lime peels, coconut shavings and peaches. There is an enveloping creaminess from rich warm vanilla custard alongside yogurt and rice pudding. Cask spice is already discernible, a hint of pepper and dash of salt. The addition of water enhances the buttery notes further, but takes the pronounced edges away from the sharper vanilla and fruit aromas.
Taste: Barely up front and centre and supported ably by some rich biscuit notes, lemon meringue pie, honey and breakfast cereals. Fruitiness is still high on the agenda, but now a touch more tropical with melons and mangoes. The higher ABV helps deliver strong but sympathetic cask spicing with the salinity really dialled up a notch now. A dash of water further enhances the overall sweetness of the whisky and particularly emphasises citrus flavours.
Finish: Short to medium in length and accentuating barley, cask spice and underlying sweetness.
Isle of Arran’s James MacTaggart Anniversary Single Malt is a textbook way to celebrate the achievements of their Master Distiller, in that it showcases the quality of the Arran spirit alongside some of the first casks filled under his watch. The end result is a tasty and effective ex-bourbon whisky where the higher ABV really helps to deliver pronounced and punchy, but well-balanced flavour. Congratulations James – here’s to the next 10 years.
With thanks to Isle of Arran Distillery for the review sample.