The Arran distillery is 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. 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.
An expanding range
Arran is a very innovative distillery but their core range reflects the small production capacity and the length of its young history. This consists of a 10 years old, this relatively new 12 years old, a cask strength version (called 100 proof) and an un-chillfiltered 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 is also planning some additional releases this year, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of production starting. This 12 years old is released at 46% ABV and should cost around £35 a bottle.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this Arran 12 years old is a deep gold and the nose is sumptuous and vey promising. There is an interesting combination of aromas - sweet toffee, vanilla, robust cereal grains, fresh fruits (think of apple and peach especially) and a hint of citrus (imagine lemon zest). On the palate, this feels lovely and creamy with plenty of cereal grain, vanilla and nuttiness present (think of hazelnuts). There is also a complex and pleasant mix of other underlying characters, such as honey, butterscotch, some tangy citrus zest (especially lemons), oak and a hint of wood spice (imagine a grate of nutmeg and some ginger). It feels thick and buttery and the finish is long and enjoyable. There is again an abundance of vanilla oakiness, cereals and butterscotch with the warming wood spices coming increasingly to the fore.
What's the verdict?
Arran 12 years old is a very enjoyable, well balanced and pleasant whisky. It combines a lovely creamy nature with some other complex characteristics and it is easy to see why the distillery have started to pick up awards for their whiskies. This would be a great choice for a beginner to the world of whisky as it is soft, has balanced sweetness and is easy drinking, yet with enough elements to keep the whisky connoisseur interested. This whisky gives you the real impression that Arran is coming of age as a distillery ... a very good dram.