Most whisky fans can point to a distillery, or even a single bottle, that they first fell in love with. For me it’s Arran Whisky and their 10 year old Scotch. My palate has evolved a lot since I first popped the cork on my bottle, but looking back on it now, it was the balance that must have really reeled me in.
My bottle of Arran 10 year is long gone. Only a 2 oz sample remains, which I saved for an eventual review. As is my single cask 14 year red wine bottling from Sierra Springs along with their non age-stated Quarter Cask and Sherry Cask expressions. Guess I need to do something about that soon.
This 10 year is mostly matured in ex-Bourbon casks, but there are a few ex-Sherry casks thrown in for good measure. It’s natural coloured, non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Oh Arran 10 year. I missed you! One of the most characterful 10-12 year single malts, for sure. Rich graham crackers with a drizzle of honey to start. Lots of malted cereal notes although not as strong in that department as the Deanston 12 year. A burst of tropical fruit flavours swoops in next. Very pineapple-forward with mandarine orange not too far behind. I’m even getting a touch of honeydew melon and mango. Now it’s time for some orchard fruit in the form of freshly cut Gala apples and pears. Dark chocolate-covered candied ginger is at the very end. There’s more in here, but honestly, I have to draw the line somewhere and go in for a sip!
Palate: This is an experience that is patient, more than anything else. Lots of orange vanilla cream and honey on the entry. Perfect combination of sweet and sour. This transitions to that malted cereal and graham cracker I got on the nose. (As an aside, I’m finding the graham cracker note surprising as it was something I didn’t experience in a big way when I was drinking this bottle. My palate was still developing when I was first drinking this one, I guess). The individual tropical fruits are a little hard to pick out as they are only dominant for a short while before the spices turn up during the second half of the development. Let’s be lazy and call it 100% tropical fruit juice and be done with it (spirit reviewers are allowed to be lazy once in a while, you know). The ginger and cinnamon tingle the tongue, but don’t drown out the other flavours. Poached pear with chocolate sauce shows up at the end. It’s pretty obvious that these are all first fill ex-Bourbon barrels. Re-fill casks simply don’t pack the punch that I’m experiencing here.
Finish: Poached pear, dark chocolate, ginger, and cracked black pepper are the stars of the show here. The spice is more dominant at the end of the finish, which takes a long time to fade.
With water added
This is candied pineapple dipped in dark chocolate on the nose, although the latter fades somewhat over time. There’s a meringue-like confectionery note that I didn’t get without water. I’m even getting kiwi. Intriguing! The only thing I’m disappointed about is the almost total absence of malted cereal and biscuit notes now. The entry is creamier and the candied ginger dipped in dark chocolate is doing some very heavy lifting. There’s still plenty of citrusy zing, yet I’m still craving that graham cracker character. Don’t get me wrong. This is still awesome though. I just need to let it go, I guess!
It’s hard to be objectively subjective about a whisky you truly love, if that makes any sense. It’s one thing for a craft distillery to hit the 10 year mark. Having been around for a lot longer than that, what Arran has perfected with this expression is just how masterfully it is blended. Yes, their distillate is top flight and their cask management is still very good, but blending plays a large part in the success of this whisky as well.
Now let’s talk about price. Scotch whisky price inflation is insane. However, there are still some distilleries, both craft and mainstream, that have decided not to severely gouge their customers. Arran is one of them. Their non-age stated expressions are great value, this 10 year is a steal, and even their 18 and 21 year old bottlings are still reasonable. And don’t forget about their single casks that have appeared here and there in Alberta. Sierra Springs’ 14 year red wine and ex-Bourbon single casks were superb. At between $55-70 CAD, this one is a no-brainer.