I’ll admit it, I simply fell in love with the Isle of Arran. Early September 2020, we spent a fabulous day driving all around the Island… prompted by my desire to visit the Lochranza distillery! It was so much fun discovering this microcosm of Scotland that we completed the circumference – even making it to Arran’s new Lagg distillery too.
I wanted something special from the distillery to commemorate our trip – a bottle that I could not buy anywhere else. There were so many to chose from, but this 23 year old single cask sherry, bottled at cask strength, caught my eye!
I very happily picked this up at the distillery shop and knew the biggest challenge would be my impatience to try it! Determined to share it in an evening tasting with fellow whisky enthusiasts in Mumbai, I sent the bottle home to India with my partner where it would wait…until some indeterminate time to taste…
Thankfully it wasn’t so long! Just a few months later, late January 2021, we cracked it open in a combined virtual / real life Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session.
Arran 23 year (29 May 1996/11 March 2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6% Bottle 245/283
We first sampled it ‘neat’ without a drop of water:
- Nose – Nuanced and subtle it grew in intensity, from light rose to rich mocha, caramel, cinnamon, clearly complex, rich, the aromas swirling in the glass combining to create a beautiful perfume – one even quipped “American Leather” after a men’s cologne…
- Palate – Wonderful! A spirited sherry… almost too much of a good thing! Fierce and forceful – there was rich toffee, coffee, chocolate, dates and rum raisins
- Finish – An intense long finish
My fellow tasters knew this clearly had a higher alcohol percent – likely cask strength. So we were encouraged to add water… how did it change?
- Nose – Enabled more of the dark fruits to emerge, caramel sweetness, fudge
- Palate – Ahh… opens it up and does wonders! Now we can really settle in with all those fabulous flavours, fruitier still full and quite fabulous
- Finish – Perfection! Remains long and lingering… dark fruits of dates, prunes, dried figs with cinnamon spice… rum raisin Christmas pudding
While intense, we found it had an absolutely phenomenal aroma and with water, the elements were lush, rich and indulgent but not overwhelming. Yes the heaviness remained but it was now balanced.
Even after setting it aside, contrasting and comparing, there was a compelling quality about this one – distinctive and definitely a sherry bomb! If anything, the aromas kept getting sweeter – it became like eating sugar or molasses!
In complete contrast, our ‘In Real Life’ Whisky Ladies thought it was like pineapple grilled on a campfire, perhaps even a single rum not whisky at all!
Could I see the rum? Absolutely! Having recently spent a lazy evening revisiting Jamaica’s Hampden 2010, I easily understood why there was speculation I had thrown a rum in – just to mix things up! As I poured a dash more without water, I completely appreciated the strong heavy rum-like quality – that peculiar powerful punch that comes from the unique conditions found in Luca Gargano‘s discoveries.
The colour alone was an indicator that this was something different with the 3rd sample…. while initially the 18 year (2nd) seemed quite similar in colour to the 14 year (1st), there was a subtle deepness to the gold… However nothing compared to the almost ruby red intensity of the 23 year (3rd).
Sitting back comparing all three side by side, there was no doubt the 2nd managed to strike a brilliant balance between age, intensity and flavour. Clearly complex, it was full bodied and flavourful without being overwhelming like the 23 year old. While those of us who sampled virtually eased into the cask strength with water, the 23 year old was a ‘miss’ for those who met in person. For all of us, the 14 year was easily the most accessible, the sherry influence more restrained. It was simply enjoyable without complication.
What do the folks at Arran have to say about this 23 year old?
A rare opportunity to purchase a bottling from one of our oldest Sherry Hogsheads. These precious and unusual bottling are in short supply and as such are a real treat for those who love a Sherry Cask matured Single Malt.
This particular Single Cask is a Sherry Hogshead from 1996. In the first years of production at Arran, Sherry Hogsheads were often used. We have an outstanding, but small collection of casks from this year still slumbering away in our warehouses. This cask was specially selected and liberated for our visitors to Lochranza and our online whisky shop by Master Blender James MacTaggart and is the perfect one for sipping and savouring.
- Nose – Toffee, fudge and caramelised lemon
- Palate – Delicious sweet spice and hazelnut
- Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Vanilla, Smooth, Hazelnut, Dark chocolate, Creamy.
After a long time, it was such a pleasure to sample a single distillery vertical – we could see the progression – building in intensity and complexity. A fabulous evening!
You can find here the detailed tasting notes for the other Arran‘s sampled together with the 23 year:
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