Arran “Batch 3” (51.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 728 bottles, 50 cl)

As a volume, 50 cl should be just enough, or some would say, barely enough. I do the occasional bottleshare with friends, and half of a full bottle (35 cl), well that’s actually not enough for me, I believe that 50 cl is the bare minimum of acceptability. Earlier, way back in 2015, I actually reviewed Batch 4 of Arran from the same bottler. I have to admit, I totally forgot about that one. When backtracking a bit on my own website, I just found my review of Batch 4, which gave me quite the scare, since in this case the review for Batch 3 came first, an this introduction was the last bit to write. Both Batch 3 and Batch 4 have the same label, and for a moment there I though I’d written a review of the same Whisky again. Fortunately I didn’t, even though it would have been quite interesting to compare both reviews. That would have been a happy accident. Just to be clear, I would have posted this review anyway. Since I don’t remember Batch 4 any more, I can’t compare both to each other, which is quite unusual for me, since I usually do remember almost all Whiskies I’ve tried.

Color: White Wine, quite pale.

Nose: This has it all, tropical fruits, barley, bread, barley sugar, milk chocolate, hint of vanilla and very soft wood. Leafy. Lively. Fresh and also sweet smelling. Toffee and wine gums, and sometimes a bit like a Rum, but also a nice fresh golden Beer and Gin. What a remarkable combination of smells. Also a tiny flinty and smoky note, coming from, I guess, the toasted oak. It’s not very woody though, although over time, some more soft (virgin) oak moves in. Besides the big fruitiness, it is also somewhat perfumy and somewhat sweaty. Not soapy, mind you, it just smells so friendly and nice. Hints of fresh air, cow pasture and paper, only adding to the complexity. It may hardly have a colour, and yet it is a NAS bottling, but in no way does it smell like a young or under-matured Whisky. Amazing how much is going on in this one. No off-notes whatsoever. Wonderful smelling Malt.

Taste: Sweeter than expected and fruity. Vanilla, toffee and mango ice cream. Much simpler than the nose was. Fresh and lemony. Cold dishwater with lemon detergent and almonds. Wood shavings and sawdust. Fresh oak playing a larger role here than it did on the nose. I can feel the bitterness on the back of my tongue already. Very tasty and well balanced yet less complex. In a way this is a winter warmer. Despite all the fruit it isn’t a sunny Malt. Nice warmth when descending down the pipe. After the fruit moves away, the aftertaste also has this slight bitter lingering note, and present as well (finally it’s there, I’ve been expecting it for quite some time now) a slight soapy feel. The finish itself is medium at best, it doesn’t have a great length, and even the aftertaste leaves quite quickly, hinting at some youth. Still, what this Malt is able to offer, despite its supposed youth, it is amazing. If only the taste was as good as the nose was, than you’d be amazed what I would have scored this.

I didn’t buy Arran for a very long time, after a plethora of very young and initial releases, some of which already were very good. (Remember the Champagne finishes?) Not by choice or prejudice though, it just fell under the radar somehow. I bought this Arran at auction by chance. I wanted to buy a Boutique-y bottle, placed several lowish bids on some of them, and this was the only only one nobody seemed to care for and I was never overbid. So after a while is was Arran time on my lectern, and I opened this one, and it is great. Unexpected. NAS, very pale, so I didn’t expect all that much to be honest, yet this is a very good Arran. So after having tried this one, I immediately scored me some more Arran’s at auction. After this Arran, I’m not so sure 50 cl is acceptable to me any more. I fear this will be gone too soon.

Points: 87

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

Bowmore 26yo 1982/2009 (53.4%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 195 bottles)

And here is another Master of Malt bottling. Earlier I reviewed a reduced Tomatin, that was a true disappointment. I didn’t even know it’s possible to ruin a Tomatin, since usually I like Tomatins. So with this one I do worry a bit. This also is a Bowmore of the eighties, which quite often turn out to be your better hand-soap (lavender and violets come to mind). I once tried a 1989 Berry Bros. & Rudd bottling that made me physically ill. That was a first for me, so I tried that one half a year later and it happened again.

Color: Gold

Nose: Powdery and sweet. Not very Islay to be frank, hardly any peat or smoke. Lots of flowers though, soap, also some clay and thick, so it seems to have body. When freshly poured it is very closed. After a while some smoke trickles trough. Hey, waiting even longer there is peat too. All in minute quantities. Again not very Islay-ish. Is this really a Bowmore? Wet paper and a small hint of licorice. It’s not bad, but not very balanced either. Now we have sour oak. It’s fresh, fruity and floral, luckily not over the top lavender-soap eighties Bowmore.

Taste: Sweet and syrup, with ash and some wood. It actually attacks you in the beginning. The sweetness disintegrates quickly into something acidic. It’s like a syrup that shows, when stripped from your throat, some lemon. The attack is nice, and the middle is also quite nice, but bold tastes fade and leave you with a fairly dull and anonymous finish. What can this be, a strange and unusual Bowmore distillate in a Fino Sherry cask? Well, let’s leave it at that.

In the end it’s not a FWP-Bowmore from the eighties, but it also isn’t recognizable as a Bowmore either. It’s ok on the nose and when it enters your mouth is shows some promise. Halfway through though and especially the finish are a bit weak, which is a surprise after the bold body. But the most remarkable achievement is making and finding a Bowmore that has nothing to do with…Bowmore!

Points: 84

Tomatin 19yo 1989/2008 (40%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 399 bottles)

I caught a cold last week, which is very unfortunate when you try to write tasting notes. Fortunately my nose is back in business now, and in the process ‘got a rest’. Let’s start whisky reviewing again, with an example of a whisky that should be light and is ‘low’ in ABV.

There are two versions of this, one reduced to 40% ABV (this version) and one at cask strength, that was 57.6% ABV. This example was bottled by Master of Malt, maybe the biggest competition for The Whisky Exchange. Just have a look at their website for quite a nice collection, just don’t be fooled, a lot is sold out and stated as such. Looking around the net a bit, I already got a sense that the cask strength version should be much better. Those of you that are used to my reviews, know already that I don’t like reduction a lot, but I do admit that it sometimes cán work, let’s see if that is the case with this Tomatin.

Color:  White wine.

Nose: Toffee with some acidity. Seems sweet at first, but quickly turns into something dry. Cardboard like woodiness. Fern with a hint of licorice, toast and ash. Quite floral later on, but the cardboard doesn’t give way. Not bad, but atypical Tomatin, for this lacks the (tropical) fruityness, we all know. Apart from the cardboard it is powdery and slightly mouldy.

Taste: Again dry, woody and mouldy. Ear wax. Wood spice and slightly bitter. Watery. Nothing more to it really. I hope the cask strength version is (a lot) better, because this is nothing special. Maybe this was reduced to death? Very atypical for a Tomatin, since it lacks all forms of fruityness…

For me a completely uninteresting Tomatin. This must be a cask that was sold off for blending. Would be interesting to try the cask strength version though, because at 40% ABV… well you get the picture…

Points: 80