Isle of Arran is a relative youngster on the single malt scene. A private venture, the distillery began turning out malt in 1995. Like all young distilleries, they had to pay the bills with releases of young whisky at high prices, none of which met with much critical success. However, when their malt hit the age of 10, the distillery began to see some recognition in the form of awards. Arran has followed up its younger releases with a rash of second-maturation expressions (finishes) that rival Glenmorangie and Springbank put together: Moscatel, Marsala (really?), rum, Champagne, and so on. The distillery standard 10-year, however, is a boring old vatting of ex-bourbon and (at a slightly smaller proportion) sherry. Like a good independent distillery with a free spirit (see what I did there?), Arran bottles all of its malts without chill-filtration, and without adding any coloring. They also bottle everything (except cask-strength releases) at a respectable 46% ABV. The 10 year-old has been made without the use of peat, although some peat is likely present naturally in the water.
Nose: Green apple. Light raisins. Tart raspberry. Pomegranate. Intriguing set of fruits on the nose – good tartness and nice, if light, complexity.
Palate: Creamy! Nice texture. Tartness. Some dried citrus notes – remind me of The Dalmore. There’s a good bit of complexity on the tongue, where some malts just get washed out by the alcohol.
Finish: Orange peel. Not bitter! On the short side. Some warm cereal sugars.
With Water: Sweeter on the nose, more malt sugar, but some oaky bitterness appears on the finish.
Overall: Great value! You could do a lot worse with $45. The mature lack of bitterness plus interesting tartness in the nose and on the palate is a winning combination. This is the sort of malt that you’ll try as a novelty, and then come back to for its quality. Score another one for the little independent distilleries!