This is not a single-cask bottling like other recent wine-finished releases, but the casks they selected are very good ones. Lovely antique amber color. The Madeira dovetails beautifully with the malt and oak, and it has matured nicely for a whisky less than ten years old. Lush notes of orange marmalade, raspberry tart, and panforte, all wrapped up in rich toffee and a dusting of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. A dry, resinous, spicy, tactile finish adds balance, complexity, and additional dimension. Smartly bottled at a higher strength. Some of these wine-finished Arran whiskies are impressive. This is one of them.
As Arran continues on its trajectory toward introducing an 18 year old expression, just 9,000 bottles of sherry cask-matured 17 year old have been released. Bottled at 46%, it has not been chill filtered. Sweet and fruity on the nose, with ripe pineapples, green apples, malt, and a hint of licorice. Luscious and nicely-textured on the palate. Lots of orchard fruits, sherry, and soft toffee. Mild spice and hedgerow fruitiness in the slightly drying, lengthy finish.
Chapter II of Arran’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl embraces whisky from a total of 27 casks. These are seventeen oloroso sherry hogsheads (from 1997 and ’98), six standard bourbon barrels (2002), and four peated bourbon casks (2004). Juicy dark berries, malt, and soft cinnamon on the nose. Robust and fruity on the palate, with more dark berries, plain chocolate, a suggestion of vanilla, and black pepper. Long and drying in the earthy, mildly smoky finish, with aniseed and licorice.
This expression is the culmination of Arran’s trilogy of 16, 17, and 18 year old releases, matured in sherry hogsheads. It is the oldest ‘house’ offering to date. Floral and fragrant on the nose, with soft fruits and marzipan. Balanced and rounded. Viscous and full-bodied on the palate, with fruit spices, vanilla, sweet sherry, orange marmalade, and finally raisins. Slowly drying to spicy plain chocolate and licorice. (9,000 bottles.)
Arran The Devil’s Punchbowl III The Fiendish Finale, 53.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
The third and final expression in Arran’s Devil’s Punchbowl trilogy of limited releases is a multi-age bottling, matured in eight oloroso sherry butts, eight French oak barriques, and five bourbon barrels. Only 6,660 bottles are available. Figs, dates, citrus fruits, and honey on the nose, with developing savory notes. Silky sherry, lively cinnamon, and red berries on the palate, with a hint of wood smoke. Lengthy in the finish, with spicy oak.
This 2017 edition is non-chill filtered and finished in Amarone dry Italian red wine casks. Slightly perfumed on the nose, with a suggestion of madeira, plus malt and ripe pears. Viscous in the mouth; earthy, with plum and dry blackcurrant, black coffee, and plain chocolate, balanced by notes of honey. Mouth-drying in the finish, with a touch of tannic oak.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Arran) 19 year old, 49.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $69
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, palm trees grow on Arran’s west coast. That prevailing sunny climate appears to have influenced this mature example from Lochranza: ripe, yellow summer fruits, lime zest, strong mixed spices, and notes of the sea, like sand brushed from seashells. Very approachable; this just oozes sunshine, bringing us the joys of sweet citrus, spices, marzipan, mango, and papaya. The finish is like slurping melted ice cream.
Following the 2015 limited edition release of 18 year old Arran single malt, an 18 year old has now been added to the core range. It is uncolored and non-chill filtered. The nose is bright with freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juices, honey, and vanilla fudge, plus a fleeting menthol note. The early palate mirrors the fresh fruit-laden nose, with developing ginger, honey, malt, and milk chocolate. Slowly drying in the finish, with plain chocolate, licorice, and charred oak.
The Millennium Casks is a non-chill filtered vatting of 45 Arran casks filled on December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000; 35 bourbon barrels and 10 sherry hogsheads. A spicy, floral nose with sherry, honey, coconut ice, orange, fudge, and ultimately raisin notes. Smooth and luscious on the palate, with apple pie and custard, plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Long and spicy in the finish, with oranges, a hint of black pepper, licorice, and drying oak. (7,800 bottles). £65
6,660 bottles of The Devil’s Punch Bowl have been released, and the component whiskies come from 24 casks filled between 1996 and 2006. They include a number of sherry butts, and some peated spirit is included in the mix. The nose offers soft, mellow malt, dried fruits, and milk chocolate. Silky smooth and deceptively drinkable at full strength, the palate is nutty and notably fruity, with ginger and brittle toffee. A hint of barbecue sauce in the sweet finish.
As it progresses toward the ultimate goal of an 18 year old expression in 2015, Arran has released a 16 year old, matured in 30
percent sherry hogsheads and 70 percent bourbon casks. The edition is limited to 9,000 bottles. The nose features malt, milk chocolate, and honey, with a citric edge. The palate mirrors the nose with more malt, honey, and milk chocolate, plus ginger, nutmeg, and spicy oak. Spiced fruits in the lengthy finish.
Isle of Arran distillers is now offering exclusive bottlings in the U.S. along the same lines as those already available in the UK, starting with 16 year old single cask, cask strength variants. Arran Premium Sherry Single Cask #1979 displays milk chocolate, vanilla, new leather, wood polish, and butterscotch on the nose. More vanilla in time. The palate is richly sherried, with espresso, fruit loaf, nutmeg, and old wood. Lively spices persist in the lingering, leathery finish.
Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 1996 (distilled at Arran), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $115
This expression was distilled during Arran’s second year of operation in September 1996 and bottled at 19 years of age. The single refill hogshead yielded 288 bottles. Sweet and malty on the slick nose, with honey, lively spices, and hints of pine. Ultimately, caramel and satsuma. Full on the palate, with juicy fruit, more malt and honey, and developing milk chocolate. Long and soft in the finish; lightly spiced, finally slightly citric, with a hint of brine and dry oak. £80
A limited edition of 12,000 bottles, this expression from Arran was initially matured in first-fill bourbon barrels before a secondary period of aging in American oak quarter casks, which accelerated maturation. A big hit of tinned peaches, then malt, cinnamon, vanilla, and caramel. Sweet and rounded on the palate, with lots of fresh fruit, notably pineapple, plus caramel, chili, and ginger. Relatively long in the fruity finish, with brittle toffee, new oak, and persistent spice. £55
Complex, dynamic, and well-balanced. Honeyed vanilla, bright fruit (lemon, tangerine, nectarine), sultana, green grapes, and banana bread, peppered with ginger and subtle, gripping grape skin. Great mouth-feel (from the oak), which adds another dimension. That’s what 46% and no chill-filtering will do for a whisky. One of the better Arran whiskies I’ve tasted. (Released in 2009. Sadly not available in the U.S.)£38
This U.S.-exclusive Premium Bourbon Single cask #2096 contrasts nicely with its sherry cask-matured sibling, and offers vanilla, cocoa powder, malt extract, ripe bananas, and spicy sultanas on the nose. The palate is smooth and spicy, with ginger snaps and developing butteriness. The finish is medium to long, with chili notes and citrus fruits at the last.
The ancient variety of barley known as bere that was used to make this Arran single malt was grown on Orkney and distilled in 2004. It was matured for eight years in bourbon barrels, and 5,800 bottles have been released. Very fruity on the nose, principally peaches, with vanilla and fudge, something slightly herbal, wet grass, and finally homemade lemonade. Oily mouthfeel, with fresh oak, cloves, and wild berries. An atypical Arran! The finish is drying and moreish. £48
The latest limited release in the Icons of Arran series was distilled in 1999 and matured in fourteen ex-bourbon barrels and seven sherry hogsheads. Initially launched in the UK, but global availability is anticipated. A sprinkling of coconut, vanilla, and spices, with pears, melons, and pineapple on the nose. Full and fruity on the palate, becoming maltier and nuttier. Sweet spices, especially stem ginger, and a hint of honey. Drying slowly in the very spicy finish (6,000 bottles). £42
Launched in 2006 as the first mainstream Arran bottling with an age statement, it is sweet and malty on the nose, with fresh-planed wood and toffee apples. The palate is fruity, with ripe banana, honey, vanilla, coconut, and wood spices. Spicy orchard fruits and malt in the relatively long finish. Well-balanced and eminently drinkable at this age. The quality has improved since earlier bottlings.
Arran Smugglers’ Series Vol. 1 The Illicit Stills, 56.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $123
Illicit Stills is the first in a trilogy of limited releases reflecting Arran’s distilling heritage. It includes unpeated Arran spirit, some of which has been aged in port pipes, along with amounts of medium-peated and heavily-peated whisky. Warm and rounded on the oily nose; figs and peat, before caramel and vanilla develop. Viscous in the mouth, with succulent orange and spicy peat. The finish is very long and peppery, with mouth-drying tannins. £85
This expression from the Isle of Arran distillery appeared in 2010 and one-third of the component whiskies were matured in European oak casks while two-thirds came from American oak. Very fragrant and perfumed on the nose, with peaches, brandy, and ginger snaps, plus vanilla and mild oak. Smooth and creamy on the palate, with spicy summer fruits, apricots, and hazelnuts. The lingering finish is spicy, biscuity, and slowly drying, with just a hint of salt.
This single sherry cask bottling from Arran was distilled on February 17th, 1997, being bottled on February 5th, 2014. The nose opens with a hint of malt vinegar, followed by sherry and sultanas. More floral with time. Full-bodied, with spicy sherry, figs, and raisins. Long and spicy in the finish, with fruity sherry to the end. (U.S. only)
The Arran Malt, Single Bourbon Cask, (Cask#1801), 1996 Vintage, 50.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Fresh and clean, with notes of vanilla, ripe barley, honey, caramel apple, and toasted coconut. Creamy and mouth-coating in texture, leading to a pleasingly dry, spicy oak finish. Very drinkable, yet satisfying. Quite nice.
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Arran) 12 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $63.00
Distilled in February 2000 and matured in a single refill hogshead, this example of Arran is part of the Provenance range which highlights the season of distillation on the bottle label. Malt, salt, milk chocolate, vanilla, and developing citrus notes on the fragrant nose. Quite full in the mouth, fruity and zesty, with a hint of grist. Long and softly spiced in the finish, with almonds and a final suggestion of aniseed. £40
Isle of Arran Distillers has introduced a second edition of its Orkney Bere expression, made with an ancient variety of barley still cultivated in the Orkney Islands and aged in bourbon barrels. It is a cask strength 10 year old variant, and 4,890 bottles are available. The nose is quite oily, with ripe peaches and pineapple cubes, plus developing floral notes. Viscous and sweet on the palate, with tangerines, caramel, and rich spices. The finish is lengthy, with coconut and milk chocolate-coated caramel.
The Arran Malt, Single Sherry Cask, (Cask#69), 1998 Vintage, 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Predominantly fruity -- the sherry cask is obvious, but it’s not heavy or dominant. Clean, bright orchard fruit blends in nicely with strawberry rhubarb pie, light toffee, dates, dark chocolate, and polished oak. Long, soothing, oily finish. Another solid effort from this young distillery.
Arran first introduced its peated Machrie Moor variant some five years ago; since then it has become a firm favorite. Late 2014 saw the appearance of the first cask strength edition of Machrie Moor, limited to 6,000 bottles. Wood smoke, warm tar, and emerging new leather on the bold nose. Sweet peat and spices on the palate, barbecue sauce, and black pepper. Long in the finish: vanilla, with sweet smoke and chili.
This is the second batch of Arran 12 year old in cask strength format, and it contains a higher percentage of sherry cask-matured whisky than the first. The out-turn is just over 13,000 bottles. Fresh and sweet on the nose after an initial note of resin, with oats and hot butter. Full-bodied, syrupy and sweet on the palate, with apricots, ripe bananas, nutmeg, and walnuts. The finish majors in plain chocolate, maraschino cherries, and a suggestion of smoky sherry.
Bottled in 2015, this expression from Arran distillery was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels. Ripe apple and tinned peaches on the early nose, icing sugar, a hint of mint, and soft toffee. Lively spices and pear drops on the palate, with vanilla and cocoa. The finish is medium in length, with a twist of lemon and cocoa powder.
Arran distillery has been making peated batches of spirit since 2004, and this NAS bottling is the fifth release of that spirit, peated to 20 ppm. The outturn is 12,000 bottles. Nutty peat, spicy malt, toffee, and lemon on the mildly savory nose. Vibrant on the palate, with lots of citrus fruit. A bonfire smokiness develops steadily, with spice, nuts, and plain chocolate through to the relatively long finish, which features a persistent citric note.
A fruity-sweet whisky (but still quite light and lively), with notes of orange marmalade, lemon meringue pie, and apricot. There’s also an underlying vanilla maltiness that is balanced nicely by oak spice on the finish. A respectable effort for a 10 year old and versatile enough to drink any time of the day (but I would prefer it before dinner).
Reddish amber color. Aromas of honey drenched fruit, toffee, and fudge. Medium to heavy in body. Rich and sweet in flavor (toffee, fudge, caramel), with interwoven notes of rich, ripe fruit. Lingering toffee sweetness on the finish.
Style: Highland (Isle of Arran) single malt scotch Color: Straw Gold Aroma: Youthful. Pears in syrup, honeysuckle, and vanilla with a hint of caramel and citrus. Palate: Vibrant, somewhat youthful flavors that echo its aroma, finishing slightly sweet and a little fiery (because of its age).
General Comments: The lack of chill-filtering certainly makes this whisky more flavorful and dynamic than its filtered brethren. It also tastes a little more mature. This shows how a whisky can be affected by chill-filtering. I expect this whisky to continue improving with additional aging. Price: low $40s. Available nationwide.
Bright gold color. Sweet pear, caramel apples, vanilla, and fudge on the nose. Light to medium in body. On the palate, there is more fruit (pear, citrus) and sweet malt (vanilla, caramel, and toffee), with a gently sweet finish.
Style: Highland (Isle of Arran) single malt Scotch whisky. Price: high $30s. Available nationwide.
Again there is no age statement, and this one is still on the youthful side, but it is richer (some sherry cask aging in the mix?) and expresses more flavors-and deeper flavors-than the one mentioned above. It is still quite young, but it tastes more mature than its age (which is probably six years at the most). There's not much Island character here.
Nice to see Arran making it to 12 years old. Creamy on the palate and soothing in nature, with layers of sweetness (maple and butterscotch syrup, vanilla cream) and fruit (caramel apple, fried banana). Soft, congenial finish. A low-level yet persistent nutty/burnt rubber note detracts from what would otherwise be a very fun, pleasantly sweet whisky. (Note: at the time of publication, the whisky was not yet available in the U.S. Price above is UK price, converted to dollars).
This Robert Burns World Federation Arran Single Island Malt is the Calvados or Poire Williams of the whisky world. There's no age statement on this whisky, but it has the classic aromas and flavors of sweet pears prominent in very young distilled spirits. The vanilla notes, along with its pale color, suggest a used bourbon cask. I suppose one could treat it as an aperitif, and possibly chill it down or serve it on the rocks.