This whisky is a eagerly anticipated new release from the Arran distillery - one of the youngest single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland. It was founded by an independent group called the Isle of Arran Distillers Limited in 1993 and production began in 1995, with the first single malt whisky released in 1998. The distillery is located on the isle of Arran, near to the village of Lochranza. It became the first legal distillery on the island since the 1840s. The island lies between the Campbeltown peninsula and the west Lowland coast.
The Isle of Arran Distillers Limited decided to employ traditional whisky production methods rather than modern day mechanised alternatives and Arran is one of Scotland's smaller distilleries as a result, producing approximately 750,000 litres per year. Arran's visitor centre is one of Scotland's most visited, despite its relatively remote location, due to the island being served by frequent ferries from the west coast and being within relatively easy reach of Glasgow.
An expanding range
Arran is a very innovative distillery but their core range reflects this, although the small production capacity and the short length of its history limits quantities. The range consists of 10 and 12 years old, the cask strength 100 proof and an un-chill filtered version. In addition to this, they have been experimenting with maturation in different casks, including European wine casks and these are released periodically as limited editions. The distillery has also released some additional bottlings this year, such as the recent 15th anniversary special and this new 14 years old (only released on 11 August 2010). This new whisky is released at 46% ABV, should cost around £40 a bottle from specialist whisky retailers or Arran's website and represents the oldest whisky that the distillery has released to date.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a bright gold and the nose is clean, fresh and vibrant. It is very perfumed with plenty of sweet honey, vanilla and coconut notes up front. Following these are further aromas that give pleasant depth to the nose - distinct oak (think of wood shavings) and cereal grains, some dried grasses (imagine hay), brown sugar and hints of dried fruit (especially sultanas) and peach. It is a very promising start. On the palate, this whisky feels silky, fresh and juicy. The flavour profile is driven by the vanilla and honey from the nose and these are backed up by plenty of cereal and wood spice notes (think of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger). There are other notes detectable including nuts (imagine almond and coconut), some dried pear and apple and a hint of saltiness. The balance is almost perfect. The finish begins sweetly with the brown sugar, vanilla and honey prominent before becoming dry and particularly grainy and grassy (think of hay again). The wood spices, especially nutmeg, comes through right at the end.
What's the verdict?
This is one of the best new whiskies of 2010 that we have tasted to date. Why? The superb balance of the aromas and flavours in the whisky and the obvious use of quality casking are two reasons. Another is that it is released at a strength (46% ABV) that seems to do it maximum justice and create that balance. The Arran whiskies just seem to be getting better and better with increased maturation. Gone are the sharper, more citrus notes of some of the younger releases to be replaced by sumptuous, richer and softer characteristics. If you love your Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Glenmorangie style single malts, then you have to search out this Arran 14 years old ... it's a cracking dram.