Arran 19yo 1996/2016 “The Chosen One” (54.7%, OB, Limited Edition, for Whiskysite.nl, Sherry Hogshead #1390, 312 bottles)

One of the finer places to buy Whisky in the Netherlands is Whiskysite based in the town of Leiden. Excellent, wonderful looking store, good people, fair prices and a very handy Website which services the whole world. For me one of the go-to places. The same guys also host a Whisky festival called Whisky in Leiden. This years edition is next saturday on april 1st. No joke. If you are interested, I’m sure they will have room for you next year since this years edition is long sold out. Just like any real good festival, or retailer, the guys have special bottlings done for them. One of last years bottlings was a very old Arran. I can still remember Arran starting up, and here we have already a 19yo example of the Malt. I’m getting old.

Color: Gold.

Nose: First sniff and I’m guessing Fino Sherry casks. Nice Sherry note combined with nuts and wood. Mocha and a sweeter component in the background. Chewy toffee. As I said before, I never was a big fan of Fino cask Whiskies but just like Rhum Agricoles it is an acquired taste, and today, wow, I get it. They are very special. Vanilla and dried lemon powder, in part like in artificial sweets. Hints of high winds at sea, combined with cold dish water. Strange èh? But in reality not strange at all. Hints of wood come next, as well as some pencil shavings with floral notes and wood from cigar boxes. This smells very distinguished and luxury. Next a layer of cold fruitiness. Green and red apple skins, dried apricots and some dried basil as well. Sweet yoghurt. A promise of some fruity sweetness. Crushed beetle and rotting flower bulb, both a childhood memory. I’m sorry for the animal, I only did it once, by accident. Well balanced and none of the aromas presented here are overpowering. A quiet Arran. Toned down. Whispering. A sort of connoisseurs Whisky maybe. You need some experience to discover it all, as well as appreciate it fully. I hope I don’t sound arrogant now. If you are a novice, please buy it if you come across it, but wait a few years before opening it.

Taste: Half sweet and spicy. Nice wood-notes and soft nevertheless. Sweet fruit yoghurt. The stuff with peaches in it. White peach with a spicy bite. Warming. Mocha and hard coffee candy. Butterscotch and some aspartame sweetness. Pencil shavings. Again, well-balanced stuff and very tasty. If this would have been 5% lower in ABV, this would be dangerously drinkable and you’d finish the bottle way too quickly. Now it is slightly hot, which makes you appreciate it better and follow it up with a different Whisky. It’s almost as if the sweetness and the dryness of the wood are competing. one sip, and one manages to get all the attention, and in the next sip the other. Hints of Belgian Beer towards the finish. The finish itself is quite long.

Good cask strength Whisky from a nice (Fino) cask. No typical distillery character if you ask me, but also no particular aroma that manages to take the lead. Well balanced but with nothing really sticking out, making for a bit anonymous yet well-balanced Whisky.

Points: 86

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Arran “Batch 4” (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)

After the Bruichladdich that was bottled more than ten years ago, we move on to a more recent bottling distilled on a different Scottish Island. It’s an Arran. Well that’s about it, we don’t know a lot more. OK, let’s try a little harder then. It’s obviously an NAS Arran, that was bottled at 52%. It might be cask strength or not. Anything goes I guess. looking at the whole range, some big names, like Macallan, have pretty low ABV’s. We also don’t know the distillery date, but we do know this was bottled in 2014. We also don’t know if it’s a single cask bottling or not and what kind of cask was used, but I understand that most, if not all come from multiple casks. We also know that this was bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, yes that’s its name. We’ll call it TBWC to reduce the chance of getting RSI. TBWC can be linked to UK drinks retailer Master of Malt (MoM), just click on the link and you’ll see why. Since 2012 MoM started with their TBWC, issuing a lot of Single Malts and some other stuff in nice looking 50 cl bottles with comic book labels. This Arran reminds me of Tin Tin.

Arran Batch 4 (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)Color: White wine.

Nose: Malty and unusually fresh. Sweetish and fruity. Yellow fruits you get from candy. synthetic pineapple. Grainy and gritty, which gets less over time. Some citrus, lemon and lime, mixed in with a more creamy vanilla note. Already thinking refill Bourbon, are you? The whole seems pretty light and a bit young, but not in a way it should remind you of new make spirit. It’s overall pleasant, but not very complex nor does it evolve a lot, but yes its nice. Given some time and movement, to aireate the Whisky, more spicy notes from oak presents itself, as well as some floral notes, so now its nice and lovely. Whiffs of alcohol you get from smelling a well made wodka, and that is not the same as the new make spirit I mentioned earlier. So no off notes, and also nog big bomb in your glass. Restrained and elegant. Feminine if you allow me to say it.

Taste: Again fresh and fruity, malty and fresh. Toffee and vanilla, but also a sappy and leafy vegetal quality. Young wood? Paper and dried peach with ice-cream. Licorice and hazelnuts, with a hint of Cappuccino and mocha. I like the strength of this, especially combined with the profile it has, but it is a bit hot. It reminds me a bit of old bottlings of young Lowlanders.

Sure this may be from re-re-refill Bourbon casks, hence the color. Hell, maybe even the casks were tired. Sure, in many ways its simple and smells of alcohol. It doesn’t show a lot of evolution and so forth, but it’s so damn drinkable! OK, I’ll stop swearing now. I especially like the fact it does remind me of old Lowlanders, that is something that took me by surprise.

The bottle looks great, but sometimes that means that what’s inside is not so nice. This time however, TBWC have managed to source a very interesting and different take on Arran. Highly drinkable and in a way reminds me of yesteryear. Maybe its a profile for aficionado’s since the lowland style is almost gone, and is getting extinct. Therefore I can imagine a lot of people not liking this. Having said that, this is also not a typical Lowland style Whisky. It lacks a more pronounced citrussy feel and especially the grassy notes to be a true Lowlander. To be on the safe side: yes I know Arran is an Island and not part of Lowland.

Points: 85

Arran “Amarone Cask Finish” (50%, OB, Violet label, Circa 2012)

Here is the second Arran on these pages. Earlier I reviewed a pretty good 16yo and usually Single cask bottlings at Cask Strength are very good to. When they start to fiddle a bit with their Whiskies I tend to not like Arran that much any more. So I don’t have high hopes for this funky colored Amarone finished Arran…

Arran Amarone Cask Finish (50%, OB, Violet label, Circa 2012)Color: Salmon (Somewhere between orange, bronze, light red and pink). Very strange.

Nose: Malty and very winey. Wine gums. We know its Amarone wine, but it smells more like a less fruity, Ruby Port. Fruity and dusty, woody and vegetal. This is hardly Whisky, but it isn’t wine either. Very simple and the wine overpowers everything. It’s hard to discern anything. No sense in nosing this any further.

Taste: Sweet, milk chocolate mousse, hard fruity candy, but not wine gums. Pretty harsh. To sweet for my taste and its a bit anonymous. What is it actually? The finish has staying power, but is a bit, ehhh, unpleasant for my taste. Funky, but not terrible. Don’t get me wrong.

Yet not uncommon, this is more or less one of the strangest colored Whiskies of late You don’t expect to have Whisky in your glass as long as you don’t smell it. Actually the smell isn’t quite characteristic for a Single Malt either. The Amarone wine dominates the color, but not the nose and for the taste, well, you be the judge. I would recommended this to a bartender, because to me it seems an excellent spirit for a summery cocktail. Something has to be done with this…

Points: 74

Arran 16yo (46%, OB, Bourbon & Sherry Casks, 9000 bottles, 2013)

I always have mixed feelings considering Arran. It’s fairly new and I really like new enterprises like this. Mostly nice people with a lot of passion who start a distillery like this. Mice malt and so forth. A whisky I love to like. Just when it comes to tasting, and this sometimes happens, Arran usually does not gel with this taster. A Cask of Arran Single MaltLinkwood is another example. Luckily this also happens the other way around. For most people Teaninich is nothing out of the ordinary, but I really do like my Teaninichs… This will be my 18th Arran and I hope this is a good one. There were a couple of good ones in the past. It’s not all bad for me, you know. I remember a 1er Cru Bourgogne Cask Finish from 2006, and two different Single Casks from 2004. There are obviously more, but I have to admit, I haven tried a lot of the newer expressions for a while. Time to reacquaint myself with Arran and hopefully find out they got pretty good by now, I really would like that, no I would really love that! Color: Light gold. Nose: Wow that’s more like it! A nice clean and slightly spicy woody attack. Ginger. New carpets on the floor. After that a full sweetish nose that also is pretty floral. Flowers that is, not perfume. Very elegant. Some acetone, mocha and toffee in the nose, but powdery as well. Not a bad start… Taste: Sweet and perfectly woody. The sweetness drops off a bit, to show some slight hints of acidity, but the sweetness never relents, it keeps the whole in perfect balance. What a nice short sharp shock of spicy, maybe white peppery attack. And the wood is also very nice. The balance keeps up, but fades a bit in the finish, but who’s complaining! The finish is half long, and the wood aromas turn a bit into cardboard, not a lot, just a bit. Still a pretty good Arran. I love that. This is a nice Arran, and considering it’s age and the distillate being from the early years, I’m guessing the 16yo, if they keep making it, it will only get better and better. Not being posh, it’s already very good, but I would like to see Arran to be stellar. I would love to like that a lot. Points: 87 Thanks Richard for the sample!