May 152015
 

Arran 10 y.o.026

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

I took a flier on this one.  It’s not very often I buy whiskies this young anymore, but from time to time I need to inject a little perspective into the site beyond the often high end whiskies I am fortunate enough to try.  I tend to practically leap at any opportunity to taste and write-up some of the more ‘entry level’ offerings.  And $50 for an age-stated, unfiltered 46% malt is not a bad deal anyway.  This bargain was sweetened up a little more with the addition of a couple of bespoke tasting glasses snugged into the grossly oversized box that this bottle came in.  Neat little glasses too, but that’s incidental to what we’re here for.

Arran has really come into its own in the past couple of years.  The distillery now has a house style, a mature range of malts and a reputation that gets better by the day.  For a while I was nervous that they seemed to be more interested in novelty releases and odd finishes than in just turning out true ‘stand-the-test-of-time’ Scotch whisky, but they’ve managed to put my mind at ease and turn out a few back to basics releases that are truly of world class calibre.  I think I’ve said it here before: I can’t wait to try Arran at 25 or 30 years on.

But let’s forget the old and expensive for now and raise a glass (well…another one anyway) to finding a real gem in the lower rungs of the pricing ladder.  I can’t even pretend to not be excited about this one.  It’s a rare treat to find such an appealing young unpeated dram.  It’s a great showing for Arran and bodes extremely well for the future of this still fledgling distillery.  I think this may well be one of my favorite young whiskies now.  Easy and appealing.

Seems a good time to grab a few before the price goes up or the quality drops.

Nose:  Lovely nose.  Light and fruity.  Soft and creamy…like a banana cream pie.  Sweet and incredibly appealing.  Some black currents, ginger and a dusting of old pepper (none too fragrant).  Orange and apple.  A little bit of white chocolate.  Chewy fruit candies.  Apple and plum skins.  Can’t over how soft and custardy the nose is.

Palate:  Not as spectacular as the nose, but solid…very solid.  Some softly herbal Sauvignon Blanc notes.  Orange again.  Creamy with some nice spice notes.  A squeeze of lemon.  Some sort of pudding.  Bread pudding, maybe.  Quite some zip and zing here…really gets the tastebuds singing.  Could be an almost light fudgy note too.  And a little oak.

Thoughts:  If only the palate could stop stepping on the toes of the nose…this would be a real showstopper.  As it stands, still a brilliant example of entry level whisky.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:15 am
Jan 132015
 

Arran 17 y.o.102

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

Arran turns 20 this year.  That’s right.  20.  I know we’re all used to distilleries touting claims of antecedence and longevity, but Arran is a relative upstart in the Scotch whisky world.  The distillery was founded in 1993, released it’s first malt a couple years later and has since continued an evolution that has been both innovative and on an impressive upward trajectory.

Arran, it should be noted, is one of the heavyweights in the cask manipulation game.  They’ve engaged in malt maturation in a wide range of barrel types, put together quirky and unusual vattings and found angles to market these oddball releases (think Devil’s Punchbowl, the Peacock Edition, Millennium Casks, Machrie Moor, Moscatels, Madeiras, Pomerols, etc).  Sounds a little like Bruichladdich’s M.O., no?  None of this tomfoolery works, however, without a good base spirit, and fortunately Arran is another distillery that has managed to find a sweet spot with their distillate.  Good new make put into good barrels leads to great whisky.  And that is exactly what is happening here.

It’s already been a fun ride watching Arran mature and evolve into a respectable malt, and quite frankly, they’re only getting better.  The prospect of some really mature whisky from this distillery in another decade or so is enough to seriously whet the appetite if the character holds consistent.  Arran’s most mature expression to date is this 17 year old, but now that we’re into 2015 we should be seeing an 18 year old crop up at any time.  I know some whisky geeks that will be vulturously watching the clock tick down till the release of that one, just as lecherously as those out there who had their creepy Emma Watson birthday countdowns going.  (Bad joke, I know)

And this one?  Clean, elegant 17 year old malt.  As the warehouses on the Isle of Arran fill up over the years, and the blenders have more casks to choose from, I can see this whisky getting better and better.

Nose:  Some great fruity notes.  A little bit of orange and milk chocolate.  Some very soft vanilla cream notes.  A faint banana note.  Good granola.  Some citrus…almost lemon meringue pie-ish.  A touch of butterscotch.  Nice spiciness.  Great creamy nose.

Palate:  Some cinnamon on the tip of the tongue.  Apple and lemon.  Berry coulis.  Toasted marshmallow.  More spices and licorice too.  Some oak comes at the back, but not a strong influence.

Thoughts:  One of, if not the best Arran I’ve tried to date.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:29 am
Jan 012014
 

Arran Machrie Moor142

46% abv

Score:  72/100

 

Arran, in my humble opinion, is a distillery just coming of age.  Generally speaking, the usual coming of age for any malt would be about 10-12 years, but that doesn’t really seem like a proper state of maturity, if you ask me.  Kind of like handing out driver’s permits to preteens.  The true test of a whisky is what it does when it is old enough to vote, hit the bar and f*ck.  Crude, I know, but no less true for it.  In my tastes anyway.

Just this past year Arran released its first 16 year old whisky.  I’ve heard good things about it, but have yet to try it myself.  The only reason I bring this up is to raise the point that perhaps this particular whisky we’re about to chat about would actually succeed at a similar age.  As it is…well…not so much.

Machrie Moor is kinda like the proverbial ‘fat guy in a little coat’.  The peat just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the spirit itself.  Here we have Arran peated to about 14ppm.  Should be enough to provide a bit of a whomp (and it does), but not enough to overpower the underlying structure (hmmm…not so sure about that).  What I can be sure of though, is that this whisky is just not working.

Arran malts seem to be a bit of a fan favorite of late, but the distillery still hasn’t released a whisky that has ticked all the boxes for me as yet.  I’ve tried a bunch of their more novel finished releases, as well as the Peacock and Devil’s Punchbowl et al, but perhaps it’s the purist in me that longs to taste this malt in a pure and mature iteration.  Time to hunt that 16 year old, I think.  Until then…I think this is a bottle that will be finished by friends.  Not really my thing.

Nose:  Young, feisty and citric.  Almost juniper-like.  Grassy.  Quite new make-ish (read: far too young).  Vanilla.  Cleaning product of some sort.  Smoked apple and fresh wood.  Sweet earthy peat.  Coconut lotion.  Very ‘green’…almost pine-like.  Far too sharp and aggressive.

Palate:  Peat and nutty notes.  Ash and smoke.  Quite tart.  Dry pastry dough.  Some fishy notes.  o be honest…not a good drink.  Still seesawing, and definitely not balanced as yet.

Thoughts:  Served up far too young.  The nose borders on ‘ok’, but the palate is failing grades.  Splitting hairs maybe but, while I won’t say this is a bad whisky, I will say it’s not a very good one.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:18 pm
Jan 272013
 

Isle Of Arran The Devil’s Punchbowl055

52.3% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

When I was kid growing up, I recall hitting up the fountain pop stations in corner stores and restaurants and mixing all of the flavors together.  We called this vile concoction ‘swamp water’.  That same principle seems to be at play here for the Devil’s Punchbowl.  And I gotta admit…I embrace it with the same juvenile gleeful delight.

This bubbling cauldron of hellish delight was brewed up by marrying 24 casks distilled between 1996 and 2006 (13 sherry…11 of mixed ex-bourbon and peated malt, if rumour is to be believed.  With, of course, a little eye of newt).  The results are…predictably unpredictable, of course.

And ahhh…the marketing.  This is 1 of 6,660 bottles.  Clever.  How can you not score an extra point for that(*)?

Nose:  Slightly burnt caramel.  Mild organic peaty notes.  Orange and fudge.  Ginger chocolate.  Pear and dry tart sherry notes.  Quite creamy.  A bit of smoke, but understated.  The peat is subdued as well, I should add.

Palate:  A little more peat, heat and smoke here.  Again…caramel.  Maybe cocoa.  Citrus and some puckering red/purple fruit notes.  Kinda wine-ish.  Tart n’ Tinys candies.  Crabapple notes and oak threads towards the back.

(*) I do not say that in sincerity.  The hard and fast on ATW in regards to scoring is completely based on content.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:53 pm