Funny story. Wait, not really. Funny. Maybe sad.
I’m fascinated by different casks. I’m intrigued by anyone who is trying new and different things in life. Why? Because while I may not always agree with the mentality behind a business/individual who does something different, I can tip my hat (if I wore one) to them for attempting something different.
Yes, sometimes the road less traveled isn’t because it’s dangerous or couldn’t be done before or is a horrible idea. This isn’t so much that situation.
So I like multi reviews. And I like besting my old “scores” quite a bit. In the past I’ve done multi reviews of over 10, with a BenRiach being about 12. I thought I’d beat it.
And then I went to far, amassing 33 Arran samples. I originally was told by some to attempt to do it as a gigantic multi-review. After reviewing 16 of them (and almost all OBs I have access to), I realized that was both a) crazy and b) insane.
As such, here’s the first part, just 16.
Isle of Arran distillery was founded in 1994 by a former director of Chivas by the name of Harold Currie. And while he didn’t discover radiation like others of his lineage, he did start something interesting.
In the past 23 years the distillery has seen it be the most legal distillery ever on Arran, aged their product in Springbank (due to legal issues with extending their warehouses), offered private casks, and now created a revolutionary warehouse to get to casks easier (no Snow Phoenixes happening here).
Arran is now owned by private shareholders and the managing director, Euan Mitchel. 21st anniversary recently happened on June 2016, with the distillery celebrating when it was created rather than the incorporation date. They’re now working on a second distillery in Lagg, which is currently being built.
The reason I’m interested in these guys is because of all the different casks they use, the peated and unpeated malt, the dedication to honouring Robert Burns in releasing 2 special editions, and the sheer amount of single casks out there.
So let’s see how these initial ones taste, shall we?
Up first we have Arran 10.
Entry level malt, aged in ex-bourbon casks that once fought in the great “Anthropomorphic made up wars of 2022”. In a move that surprises no one, this was officially launched in 2006, 10 years after they were up and running.
Colour: 10Y 9/6
Nose: Mango, white pepper, carrot, craisin, pear, butter
Interesting fruit on the nose. Actually the nose is a lot more than I was expecting from a 10 year old, non cask strength whisky.
Needs a little time to get some pepper off the nose, but otherwise it’s sweet notes galore with a nice balance of earth.
Taste: Lemon oil, peppermint, jujubes, wax, pear, caramel
Good mouthfeel. They didn’t screw it up with filtering or lowering the alcohol content by too much.
The flavour, if I was having this blind, would be a more amped up Clynelish. With more sweets. Maybe a Clynelish cocktail. Yeah, that one.
Finish: Honey, key lime, cayenne, butter, sprite-y youth, cloves, lemon
Honey note that I’m all in on. Really loving it, but there there’s the youth. If the nose is more complex, the finish slaps you and reminds you that this is young. Lots of citrus, sprite-y notes.
Not my favourite part, but not super rough.
Conclusion: Honestly surprised at this dram. I have had a few non-finished Arrans before, and usually they were just okay. This does it’s own thing, with sweet, wood, and earth elements.
Finish needs some work. That’s the part of this whisky that needs the finish. If the nose is beyond in years, the finish is acting like half it’s age. Which is cute when it’s a grandmother, not to much a teen, if you catch my drift.
Arran 12 Cask Strength Batch #1 is pretty straight forward. 2 more years than the the 10, cask strength, comes out in batches, and this one happened to be made up of first and second fill sherry casks.
So while I had it twice because I was doing things in order of age, it doesn’t really make sense. So I give my order a 3/10. I should know better next time.
Let’s see how the whisky tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the time of this review
Cask Type: 1st & 2nd fill Sherry Hogsheads
Batch # 1
Outrun: 12,000 bottles
Colour: 10YR 6/6
Nose: Orange, dusty, mango, nutty, strawberry
Congrats on getting past all the different information and making it to actual tasting notes!
Initial nose is, unsurprisingly, very sherry dominant. Lots of fruit notes. Not too much otherwise, which is too bad. Water adds more fruit. The sherry has taken over here. Abandon all hope (joking, of course).
Taste: Marmelade, lemon-lime soda, mango lassie, butter, peach
Okay, some of the Arran profile is here now. It’s not just overproof sherry now. Which is a huge relief, as I’ve had enough whiskies that have hit that point. But enough about them.
This has a nice orange and mango flavour. I know that Orange can come out normally with Arran, so the sherry hasn’t taken over, or rather given it more sweetness to deliver a mango flavour. Nice mouth feel as well.
I’m not the biggest fan of orange though. So please note, if you are, add some points to my score.
That said, I wish there was some spice here. It’s fruit and butter. And while that’s great when I have scurvy and am underweight, not so much here.
Finish: Brown sugar, peanut, butter, caramel, mint, ginger, lime, nutmeg
And now we have the right blend of sherry influence and actual whisky and the spice I was looking for. It needs time or water to really bring it out. More butter, more brown sugar.
Not to sound like a dick (too late), but all the fruit from before is gone now. Dammit. Needed spice and fruit.
Conclusion: Good first try, if I’m being honest. I think this suffers from some hiccups: The first fill sherry dominates the nose too much. The taste needs spice. The finish loses the fruit but gains it. I like the finish, but feel it could be better.
This continues to exemplify the profile, and I feel like future batches, which use less first-fill sherry, will be better and have more balance. So I’ll try and hunt those down.
Arran 14 is a fairly new whisky to the lineup. At one point they had a 12 year old whisky that wasn’t cask strength. Then they took that whisky, and finished it in fresh bourbon and sherry hogsheads for 2 years. So we’re looking at something close to the 10, but with 2 more years and then a proper finish.
You know, like going to a masseuse and getting the “birthday special”. That’s right: Extra cocoa butter. Good times.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: $94.95 CAD at the LCBO
Colour: 10YR 7/6
Nose: Mango, pineapple, butter, white raspberry, orange, caramel, pudding, clove
At first I’m concerned this is going to go the way of the previous 12 CS, however given a few more seconds (god I’m impatient when I drink) it has more of the butter/caramel notes. And spice! Great, that was what we were looking for before.
There’s some tartness to the nose. Could be a deal breaker for some.
Taste: Ginger, plum, floral, macadamia nut, peach, mineral, caramel
Sadly after the initial ginger hit, there’s not spice here, which I feel could have helped it. The mineral note is interesting. Doesn’t really evolve too much. All in all a step up given the 2 more years.
Floral is interesting here. Nice development.
Finish: Pineapple, lemon pepper, caramel, ginger, mineral
Tartness comes back, there’s some pepper and ginger, we’re working here and then… gone. Like your boyfriend who needs milk it’s not coming back, no matter how much weight you lose.
Mineral note is there too. That usually teases more fruit or something to come, but regardless of waiting, nothing shows up.
Conclusion: I think this is a slight upgrade to the 12 cask strength. Reason being is this at least had some spice on the taste. The nose is improved as well. More whisky like, all in all.
I like this, however I keep looking back to the 10 year and really enjoying it more. It’s a hard balance on what to do with the sherry casks with this malt. The sherry can just be so dominant.
Let’s see what 2 more years does, shall we?
Arran 16 was released as the oldest (at the time) release from Arran. Remember, we’re working with a young distillery here. It’s like watching history. But not in that boring way like we did in, oh, let’s say 1997 (nothing happened that year, right?)
Not a single cask (those come much later, be patient), this is made up of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. No colouring, no cill filtration.
Almost like Arran has been reading my rants. Brilliant. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the time of this review
Cask Types: Ex-bourbon and sherry casks
Number of bottles: 9,000
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Persimmon, plum, dusty, pineapple syrup, white cake, wood
Floral, dusty, and lots of sweet fruits. Sweetness intensifies as time goes on. May be a downer for some. For me? Makes me want to make a cake. Granted mostly everything does, so that may be moot.
The dust element here throws you off a little bit. The wood seems a little raw.
Taste: Caramel, dust, lemon oil, cumin, pineapple, light mineral
And almost like I knew what the next line was, the dust comes back. I’ve had it in a few drams (and no, not mine, I’m cleaning my glasses, thank you). The caramel fades as time goes on, some mineral comes out, and overall the pineapple takes over.
I have to say I’m liking the 14 so far more. Nice mouth feel on this one though.
Finish: Caramel, red wine vinegar, wood, ginger, orange, mineral, lemon
Sharp finish. Ironically, a sharp finish that hits you like a dull ax. Very acidic, lots of wood, and not really balanced.
Not my thing at the end of the day.
Conclusion: I feel like the sherry casks used weren’t my thing, which typically means Oloroso. Or rather maybe this malt doesn’t do well at the 16 year mark. This was acidic, had lots of dust, and overall didn’t really do it for me.
I know this is a limited release, thus I give it somewhat of a pass. And the nose was quite nice, so it gets points back. However I wouldn’t recommend hunting it down, and just being happy with the 14 or the 18.
Arran 18 comes in two types: There’s the limited edition 18 (which this is), and there’s the standard 18, which this isn’t.
From what I can gather, once they knew this was a good whisky and once they were able to ensure they could make it again, Arran made the smart move and added it to their core range. From what I gather, the main difference is the 18 Limited edition was only sherry casks, where as the new one is ex-bourbon casks as well.
Let’s see what 2 years and only sherry does, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the time of this review
Cask Types: Ex-sherry
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Plum, mango, heather, strawberry, salad, yeast, pear, royal icing
Bigger nose than before. Lots of fruit on this, however balanced with a good amount of sweet grass/heather. Some yeast and greens to balance it all out. Just like your mother wanted. You should call her.
Taste: Mint, banana, pecan, caramel, mineral
The spice of the mint goes really well with the nuttiness and the fruit here. That mineral note that I’m starting to think is a regular in Arran (for better or for worse) shows up later. It’s not too overwhelming, and given the rounded nature, works here.
Finish: Overripe peach, mint, walnut, arugula, dry, spice cake
Nutty. Lots of fruit, dry, and then some sweetness. Finish is like Autumn on steroids, which you do not want to see. Pumpkin lattes everywhere.
The great thing is the mint connects the taste and the finish. I feel other drams before this one were missing that element.
Conclusion: This feels like they’ve hit their stride. The whole thing feels connected. Yes, the taste is mostly fruit, but the mint and mineral helps make it more complex. The finish doesn’t just die, isn’t too acidic, and has fixed the issues we had way back with the Arran 10 (remember that? We were so young then).
This was my favourite of the bunch. By a lot? Not really. And that may be a downside. Maybe not. I really enjoyed the nose the more I had, and I feel it’s a solid dram. Quite the achievement, and great to see how the whisky has grown.
Thanks to someone I unfortunately can’t remember for this sample. Yes, it was put into a Bowmore 12 bottle. No, it’s not actually Bowmore 12. Yes, I’m sure.
A few questions pop up in people’s minds when they see the Robert Burns whiskies. First off, there’s no distillery that directly takes credit on the label. Second, who is Robert Burns? And third, what do they taste like?
I hope to answer some of those questions.
This bottling, which I’m naming Arran Robert Burns Single Malt for simplicity and sorting, is actually made by Arran. But why? Because the founder of Arran is part of the World Burns federation.
No, that federation doesn’t just want to see the world burn. That’s a different federation. I just had the name wrong, copied incorrectly from somewhere else. It’s actually the Robert Burns World Federation.
The Robert Burns World Federation is dedicated to teaching the world about the life, poetry, and other works of Robert Burns. In addition, they support culture in Scotland, the Scottish language, preservation of buildings that are connected to Burns, and various Burns clubs.
See, they just want to see the world Burns. Important distinction.
Robert Burns is celebrated worldwide for his many works, with Scotland viewing him as a source of pride as a poet. I could more in depth, however this is already quite long. We all have to thank him for writing Auld Lang Syne, at the end of the day, and Tam O Shanter.
Suffice to say, as a member of the Robert Burns World Federation, Arran releases this yearly to help celebrate Burns’ birthday in January. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: $49.95 CAD at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Lemon, malt, pineapple, mineral, grass, basil
Light nose. Acidic forward. Lots of pineapple and lemon on the nose. Some simple malt as well. With some mineral notes in there.
Hard to pick up much on this one. Takes a good time nosing it is required, like enjoying a good poem. You will get more out of the poem, sadly.
Taste: Fake lemon/lemon gelatin, margarine, watery, orange drink, earth
Lots of watery and fake notes here. Which may be good if you didn’t grow up in a home with real products. I’m a millennial, so it was 50/50.
Quite water, simple notes as well. I don’t mind the lemon gelatin flavours, which is prominent, however I wish it was given more time to develop, as lemon like this is usually a more interesting dessert note.
Finish: Nutty, cumin, earth, lemon, ginger
Generic nuts in my mouth is a statement I’d make lots of jokes about, however since we’re dealing with a famous poet, I’ll lay off out of respect.
Anyway, very simple notes here. Lots of earth, generic lemon, and finally some spice.
Conclusion: I think you buy this not for the dram inside, but the speak of the man on the outside. For me, Burns nights is celebrated yearly in multiple places, as I live in Canada. For others it may not be as easy to have some of that Scottish pride, and this is an inexpensive way to celebrate it.
However I feel the product isn’t that great. Sure, it’s not horrible, but it’s mostly simple lemon flavours. The taste is watery, there’s an earthy finish, and all in all it’s kinda boring. If you’re not a Scotch fan, it’s perfect as that once a year dram. Otherwise skip.
Thanks to /u/kilrathi for this sample.
If you’ve read through everything, it may be time to take a break. We have quite a few to go through, and we’re just getting to the “Cask Finish” line.
No? Or maybe you did. Either way, resting is good for you. Helps the taste buds.
Up first, we have Arran Madeira Cask Finish. As you can guess, this was aged in ex-Bourbon casks and then dedicated to Satan. Oh, wait, I mean finished in Madeira casks. We’ll get to the Satan ones soon.
They didn’t say if this was the dry or sweet Madeira, as usual. And for those who don’t know, Madeira is a fortified wine made on the islands of Madeira in Portugal.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: Not currently available (according to the LCBO search) at the LCBO
Cask Finish: Madeira Casks
Colour: 7.5YR 5/10
Nose: Dried peach, papaya, caramel, banana, cherry, grass
Light nose. Which is concerning. Water/time doesn’t coach too much out. Some more grass, maybe.
Fruit forward. The wine has taken to the dram quite a bit, which is what I prefer from Arran. Not enough to make it not a whisky, though some may find too much fruit.
Taste: Strawberry, old banana, vanilla floral, German beer/floral hops, birch sap
Now we have lots of flavour. Really dry, floral, old fruit, and an odd flavour I normally associate with German beer the 1 time a year I have it.
Finish: Tobacco, pear, ginger tea, coconut, cookies & cream chocolate bar, almond
Finish is dry again, and really shows off the different way “dry” can be used with a dram. There’s white chocolate, spice, tobacco, and even some almond. Quite interesting. It may be too much, but still fun to pick apart.
Conclusion: Unbalanced, but in a good way. I think if the nose had been better, this would have been one of the best Arrans so far. It’s quite fruity, very dry, and nice to sip on. It really forces you to pick all the different elements apart.
Yes, it’s not really the kind of dram I’d normally go for, as some of the flavours aren’t really my thing, however it does them so well that I can’t say it’s a good malt. Great job, here’s hoping other finishes do just as well.
Received this from my wife as an Xmas gift.
Arran Port Cask Finish is up next. Why did my wife buy me this one, blind? Well, for one, it was the only one available at the LCBO at the time. Two, I had some interesting finished malts from Arran, and finally, I’m biased as fuck when it comes to port casks.
So that’d be why. Also I asked for it. But for those reasons.
Finally got around to opening it up. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Currently not available, and can’t remember what it was selling for 2 years ago.
Cask Finish: Port Casks
Colour: 7.5YR 8/8
Nose: Blackberry jam, orange peel, cranberry, brown sugar, rosemary
Lots of fruits. Quite tart, good amount of acidity, and wood. Reminds me of a cranberry sauce that’s had more herbal elements and then someone threw in creme de cassis.
We know that guy isn’t being asked back, but it’s still interesting.
Taste: Cardamon, mint, anise, plum, dry pear
Spice. Lots of spice. Someone check with the Dutch East India company, because all of their spice has been taken away.
The spice must flow? Dune is bankrupt, all the spice is here.
What I’m saying is you have to give this time or it’ll be too much spice.
Finish: Fennel, orange, ginger, turnip, honey, cassia buds
This is more balanced, and I enjoy the mixture of earthy sweet notes, acidity, and spice.
That said: Turnips are buried underground really far because they aren’t meant to be eaten. And the flavour here isn’t making me a happy person.
Conclusion: A nice, overall okay port influence dram. There’s worse out there, there’s better. This lacked the chocolate notes I associate with it, and was more fruit and spice forward. I like those things, so I’m happy I have a full bottle.
The finish could have used some tweaking. It has this earth bomb in the middle that shows up and slaps your mom. Which is a bad thing for most people.
Try before you buy.
Thanks to /u/lasidar for this sample.
Arran Sauternes Cask Finish is a funny sample. You see, lasidar was not a fan of this one. So any time we hung out and had “kill bottles”, it showed up. The first time, I realized that I should save it for this eventual large review.
And then I skipped reviewing it 3 more times, each time with lasidar offering me more and more.
Also I’m bipolar when it comes to Sauternes casks. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. I personally think this is partially due to my own feelings about them and partially due to the quality of the casks.
So of course, the new “finishes” whisky has one. And it’s part of their standard finish line. So let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: $93.95 CAD at the LCBO
Cask Finish: Sauternes Casks
Colour: 10YR 8/8
Nose: Meyer lemon, orange, custard, wood, butter, pineapple
Sweeter lemon, which is standard for Sauternes casks that I’ve had. It’s sweet, fruit forward, and somewhat creamy.
So far so good. I can’t see why I put this off. Really nice nose. In no way am I building this up as a comedic method I’ve used too many times. Certainly not.
Taste: Lemon pepper, candy, caramel, basil, olive oil
That’s an odd flavour. Very hot, lemon flavoured, and some odd earth notes that aren’t doing it favours.
Like half the dram wants to be sweet and citrus, half wants to be earthy and pasta rich, and the lemon pepper is sitting in the middle trying to talk it all out.
As a heads up, this doesn’t end up happy.
Finish: Almond/marzipan, salt, lemon candy, pear, ginger
I like almond/marzipan flavours, and having this one here is a bonus.
There’s a strong salt flavour, too much lemon, and it turns out that “sweet” won. Sweet and salty should work, and doesn’t here.
Conclusion: It’s a whole bunch of “this should work” and then the finish and taste goes “no, it doesn’t”. I liked the nose. It was nice, took the best parts of a Sauternes influenced whisky.
The taste was odd and didn’t really work. The finish is nice, but short and overall there’s too much lemon candy in it.
Really this is one of those “skip” ones. I think Sauternes needs to be added to either something peated or something old. It can’t lead the section, but it’s a good second chair.
So awhile ago, I was asked a simple question: Have I had a whisky that was finished in a sparkling wine cask?
And I looked through my detailed list, as I’m want to do, and noticed I had not. So I looked around for a whisky that had it.
Kismet is a mean, mean bitch, and I don’t just mean that because I think she’s a woman, but because I happened upon Arran Grand Cru Champagne Cask Finish.
This is a limited edition of the cask finishes out there. It’s cask strength. It’s part of the now defunct “Single Cask Malt Series”. And somehow I ended up with a dram of it (that somehow was Master of Malt).
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Cask # 20
Number of bottles: 307
Cask Finish: Grand Cru Champagne casks
Colour: 2.5Y 8/10
Nose: Yeast, lemon loaf, allspice, ginger ale, tempura batter, butterscotch cake
Okay, based on the yeast, this is Champagne casks, right off the bat. Hits you like making your own bread, and a lot of it.
Eventually a baked-cake and lemon flavour becomes dominant, and then it mellows out nicely. Good amount of spice, nice cake notes, and a fried light note (as opposed to other fried things that come from Scotland).
Taste: Lemon-lime soda, quinine, butter/caramel, cashew, lemon candy
Starts out pretty standard. Honestly started to wonder if it was worth it. Then there’s these interesting bitter notes that are nicely balanced. And that’s odd for me. This is the bitterness I enjoy in Champagne.
So of course it works here. Oh, also, I’m biased towards Champagne. Sorry I forgot to mention that. I like the traditional method over Italian or other methods of sparkling wine.
Finish: Yeast, canned pear, lemonade, ginger candy, soft pretzel
Again, big yeast, and then citrus. That’s the standard. But it’s more developed on the finish. The yeast becomes pretzel, spice becomes ginger candies (okay that’s not that far) and lemon becomes lemonade and beats the shit out of my car.
Nice development. And luckily I don’t own a car.
Conclusion: This is an odd dram. Somewhere between a whisky with sweet, nutty, and buttery notes, and a bitter, effervescent citrus filled wine.
It’s odd, to say the least. If you are a bitter fan, this is for you. It doesn’t rise to high, and I can see that as both a positive and a negative. It doesn’t stop being a whisky, was balanced, and didn’t overdo anything crazy.
Kinda want to try more of these.
Still here? Wow, colour me surprised. I thought you’d have just unliked or downvoted or burned the link. Nice, take a break.
We’re now onto the 2015 bottling of Arran’s peated malt. This is their standard malt, of which they peat, is named after the peat bog on the Western part of the Island. It’s peated to 20ppm.
From 2014, Arran started bringing out a cask strength version. So by fluke chance, I ended up with both the cask strength and regular version from 2015.
Sometimes I just fluke out. And yeah, this isn’t a joke. I’m being super honest here. I just ended up buying these blind and finding out later. Cause I’m not perfect.
So up first, we have Arran Machrie Moor Sixth Edition.
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the moment
Number of Bottles: 15,000
Colour: 5Y 9/4
Nose: Cocoa, pear, caramelized BBQ, salt, old banana, strawberry
Nice nose. Decent development of the peat beyond, well, just peat, and it’s more cocoa, caramelized BBQ.
So this isn’t quite Talisker, and it’s not quite a peated Glen Garioch, and it’s not an Islay. It’s closer to Talisker and Glen Garioch. It has the salt from Talisker, but it’s closer to Glen Garioch with the fruit rather than the strong peat.
Taste: Salt, pear syrup, molasses, smoke, butter
More salt, some of the pear I’m used to with Arran, and molasses and butter from them to. But it doesn’t deliver on what the nose was promising. The individual parts haven’t come together to deliver beyond what they were.
Finish: Apple, cinnamon, smoke, brown sugar, butter, lemon
Finish starts up with a new sorta apple turnover thing going on. I mean, I’m not going to turn down an apple turnover, cause fatty loves his sugar, but damn man…. this kinda comes out of nowhere and is disjoint.
Conclusion: So it’s not my favourite. Or rather I don’t know if peat works well here. I think the nose is well developed. The taste is simplistic and falls short. The finish tries this who other thing and loses most of the peat save for some cinnamon.
I don’t hate the finish, but… yeah, I’d go back to the drawing board on this one. Or maybe cask strength is what it needs.
Arran Machrie Moor Cask Strength – Second Edition is the same year as the above, but at cask strength. So same doggo, but not a pupper.
I’m internet cool now, right?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Number of Bottles: 9,000
Colour: 5Y 9/4
Nose: Smoke, pear, orange, cinnamon butter, pear, cereal
So the strength has lowered the complexity however shown a lot of pear (note I wrote it twice, that means it was quite evident and totally not because I’m a fool). Lots of cereal that didn’t show up before, and the interesting thing is the butter, orange, and cinnamon here are better integrated.
Sure, I miss the great flavour of the BBQ, but this is showing me some more. Water brings it closer to the above.
Taste: Caramel, peat, grass, anise, cereal, cinnamon toast
This doesn’t fall apart like the above. It’s more in line with the nose. Which I’m finding I like better than a really good nose and then a let down. Granted I had that a lot in my dating life in high school, so those of you who had a healthy past may differ.
Finish: Brown butter, orange, caramel, pear, peat
Finish avoids the whole apple pie, and gives us more peat and more caramel. I think this finish is nice and works well with the others.
Conclusion: This is the Arran malt of butter, nuttiness, and orange that is given help with peat, where as the lower abv. ends up being all over the place. Sure, the nose takes to a lower abv. better, but beyond that it’s a mess. The Cask Strength, even with some water down to 50-53%, is the more consistent, and therefore by my bullshit reasoning, the better malt.
Thanks to /u/lvl1dramacenter for this sample.
Ever start a trilogy at the end? Well, never thought I’d be one to do it, but granted I’m typically not this sad, so oh well, I screwed up this time.
Granted I did see Mallrats before watching Clerks. Does that count? No? Oh, a lot of people did that. Ignore me.
Where am I going with this? Well I’m trying to say I only got my hands on Arran The Devil’s Punch Bowl Chapter III – The Fiendish Finale. Not chapter 1, or chapter 2, no, just chapter 3, the finale. So I won’t really know who that one guy is in this or why he’s angry at that guy or why there’s Ewoks.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a three part series of a vatting of different casks/malts from Arran. Why the name? Because there’s a glacial depression near Brodick named that. Brodick is on the Isle of Arran, if you’re wondering. The whiskies date between 1996 and 2006, so this includes whiskies from when the distillery started.
This specific whisky includes whiskies from 8 Sherry butts, 8 French oak barriques, and 5 bourbon barrels.
Let’s see how they did, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Number of Bottles: 6660
Cask Types: Ex-bourbon, French oak barrique, & ex-sherry cask
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Canned peach, ginger, daisy, strawberry vodka, lemon zest, pear, potpourri
Floral, fruity, and somewhat boozy nose. Nothing about this screams the Devil to me. I demand my goat back.
Wait, I didn’t have to sacrifice a goat for this? WTF mate?
Sweeter nose, maybe a little too sweet. The floral elements try to balance it, but it smells like a sorority girls purple jesus drink. That’s both a good and bad thing. It’s well developed, but it’s also really, really sweet.
Taste: Floral, strawberry, pear brandy, ginger, cinnamon, butter
I know there was some peated malt added to Chapter I. I don’t know about Chapter III. I’m going to assume some of it was, what with the cinnamon note. More floral parts, less developed though. Pear brandy note is nice.
Finish: Lemon rind, watermelon, orange, brown sugar, floral, grape
And more of the same, but super sour/bitter on the first go. Gotta give this time/water for the finish not to slap you around like you owe it money.
Conclusion: Nice. Good marketing. Not really a great malt. Or rather, it’s an alright malt, it’s a smart idea, and overall I don’t hate it. It’s floral, has some sweet notes, and the sherry and bourbon casks back each other up. Heck, even the cinnamon note wasn’t out of this world.
But overall this has the same profile as some others, and doesn’t really wow me. It’s interesting, and I like it better than some others, but I’m not sad to see Chapter I and II go.
Until I of course find them and have an existential crisis with if I should pay for a dram or not.
Arran The Bothy Quarter Cask is another special, limited edition whisky from Arran with a name that needs to be explained and comes out in batches. Hey, look, that’s the section you’re in! YAY!
This is your typical Arran (various vintages) that were finished for 18 months in American oak quarter casks. In the 18th and 19th century, these smaller quarter casks were favoured for logistic reasons.
Because that’s the one thing the Pirates of the Carribean movies are missing: The love of logistics when it comes to ship routes for smugglers.
Bothy doesn’t reference the casks though: It’s actually a shelter in the Scottish mountains, or a semi-legal drinking den on the Isle of Lewis.
Pretty much it’s free, basic living that started in Scotland. Beyond that, I’m getting confused. Let’s drink.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Batch # 1
Number of Bottles: 12,000
Cask Types: Ex-bourbon, then finished for 18 months in American oak quarter casks
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Butter, tangerine, pine, butterscotch, juniper, cherrywood, basil
Goes from the standard Arran to more wood notes. It’s almost like a gin in some ways, with all the botanical notes. Really nice addition to the standard.
Taste: Tangerine, caramel, bay leaf, sandalwood, unripe pineapple
So the orange has gone more tart, and that tartness brings on tropical fruits, and then there’s the left over herbal element, and then there’s this sandalwood note.
I have to say, this is a unique quarter cask. It’s gone kinda crazy here and mish mashed with the ex-bourbon influence.
Finish: Buttered popcorn, pine, lemon bitters, cherrywood, chocolate, citrus
Big buttery note with some airiness, wood, and bitter notes. All over the place, and then chocolate shows up like “Hey, heard you were looking for me in the future, what’s up” and I’m confused because that’s a call back to a previous review that was drank in the future.
It’s a good finish when it causes a temporal paradox.
Conclusion: So this takes that normal orange note, makes it better (tangerines for life, yo), adds an odd botanical element, and then continues the wood forward, herbal elements with Arran. I have to say that of the bunch, this is the one I hope they continue doing.
Seriously, if you’re not wood shy (giggle), this is the malt for you. It’s quite unique, and solid. It may have too much wood, for me. But it would also be really good if you love bourbon, because it has some things that I enjoy in bourbon, and that may work.
So as soon as they were done with the Devil, Arran started snuggling up with Smugglers’. Which is an upgrade, depending on your religion.
In the 18th and 19th century, Arran has a less-than-legal distillation racket going. Granted most rackets aren’t legal, save for the tennis ones.
The first out in this less biblical series is Arran Smugglers’ Series Vol. I – The Illicit Stills. Much like their pact with the Devil, above, this whisky is a vatting of different malts from Arran. Included in this specific one is unpeated, peated, ex-bourbon, and port cask whiskies. As well as some others.
You never know what Smugglers’ will bring in.
I feel I deserve a reward for that line. But when I went to collect it, people would jump me.
And what good is a reward if you’re not around to spend it?
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold Out
Number of Bottles: 8,700
Cask Types: Multiple peated and unpeated malt, ex-bourbon casks and port pipes
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Pineapple, vanilla milkshake, cloves, honey tangerine, nutmeg
Close to the Arran profile. The orange note here has gone through some stuff. Dodged the authorities, if you will. Nice amount of spice here as well that grows as time goes on. Vanilla from the ex-bourbon takes center stage. Hard to tell if the pineapple is because of the port or not.
Taste: Apple, cinnamon, tangerine, cloves, nutmeg
Not a bad dram. But I was really digging the big vanilla note on the nose, and then it runs out, being all “Don’t everyone thank me at once” and I’m like “You’re a dick”.
Lots of spice here. Heavy on spice, some would say. I’m one of those some, though I do enjoy spice.
Finish: Clove, blondies, pastry, butter, nutmeg
Finish has some of that developed vanilla, though it’s more of a pastry/baked butter/flour thing. Yeah, I smuggled those slashes in.
Spice is balanced by the baking at the end. Lot better. The smoke that I pick up here has changed into spice at the end. Nice use of the peated malt.
Conclusion: It’s okay. Slightly better than the Devil’s finale, above. The nose shows promise, with lots and lots of complexity and improvement on the standard Arran profile. So if someone gives you this dram, I say: “Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don’t care what you smell! ”
The taste is nice, but again I wanted more vanilla that was missing. I feel like the peated malt took over too much here.
However the finish was nice, more developed, and gave me that vanilla kick. It’s a fun dram, and nice to have. I’d recommend getting a glass before buying.
Arran Smugglers’ Series Vol. II – The High Seas is the second in this series. Vol. III isn’t out yet, and I’ll be lucky to get a sample.
So this one is again a vatting of multiple malts. In this case, we have a combination of rum casks and first-fill bourbon casks.
Oh, and it comes in a big ole book… which /u/devoz ended up with in our split. Granted he didn’t like it so much, so maybe I won out there?
Oh well, better not get cocky.
Price: Sold Out
Number of Bottles: 8,700
Cask Types: Combination of malts that were aged in rum casks and first fill bourbon barrels
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Asparagus, custard, tropical fruits, lemon, daikon, honey, non alcoholic vanilla
Vegetal, some creaminess to this one. Has a lot of earthy notes.
Something on the last note: So my parents bought the wrong type of vanilla, the kind without alcohol in it. Didn’t like it. The smell is odd. It has a vanilla base but the alcohol missing leaves it somewhat muted and mentally not right.
Granted they said the same about me.
Odd mixture here. The tropical fruits and the earth are at odds.
Taste: Caramel, pineapple, pear brandy, butterscotch, orange madeleine
Nicely developed taste. Little hot, though water helps bring out more sweetness. This has some heat to it that you get from brandy. Nice flavours.
The Arran-Orange is here, but it’s more baked into the cookie part.
I’m a wordsmith.
Finish: Pineapple, cedar, cumin, butter, rosemary, lemongrass, orange rind
Finish is quite wood heavy, with more and more earth coming up. Again I’m having trouble reconciling the earth and the tropical fruits part. The fruit makes the earth seem more bitter, and the earth makes the fruit too sweet. It’s kinda a mess.
Conclusion: Good drams, poor execution, if I’m being fair. Which I feel I am, but then again, of course I’d feel that way. I feel the issue here is the same issue I have with a lot of rum casks: The rum casks themselves aren’t in the greatest condition, and it takes a master hand to make them really shine.
I feel like the first-fill was used here to try and balance out some holes in the rum casks. Which leads to a mish mash of things going on. All the flavours are big, easy to distinguish, and none are bad. It’s the mixture of them that I take umbrage (yes, umbrage) with.
Oh well, maybe the next one will smuggle it’s ways into my heart.
Scotch reviews #628-643, Island review #51-66, Whisky Network review #1068-1083
1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die review #330-336 (Arran 10, 12, 14, Machrie Moor, Madeira Cask Finish, Port Cask Finish, Sauternes Cask Finish)