Chorlton – Orkney 15 year 57.1%

This is my 2nd Chorlton from the La Nouvelle Vague series… I’ll admit that I had high expectations however this one blew us away!

While the distillery is not explicitly named, considering there are only two distilleries on Orkney Island with quite different characters, and David mentions it is the more famous of the two, it will clearly be Highland Park rather than Scapa.

As for the whisky…. read on…

Orkney 15 years 57.1% 121 bottles

  • Colour – Deep copper
  • Nose – Smoked pork? Wow! What an active aroma – jumping all over the place in an amazingly powerful way the sweet smoke was initially predominant but not alone. From strawberries to cherries, hibiscus with a bouquet of flowers, citrus then shifted to red berries or French sweet red currents, a gorgeous dessert, underlaid with old wood, dark bitter chocolate, nutty, treacle and ham
  • Palate – Fabulous! Sweet, peat, generous berries, bitter coffee, absolutely flavour packed with so many layers, complex… all on the 1st sip. As we went in for our second sip, it was meaty, spicy, some french toast drowning in maple syrup, buttered brioche, caramelized banana, honeyed ham
  • Finish – Long and strong, phenomenal, with a rich mocha coffee initially which then also morphed from coffee and chocolate to cherry
  • Water – Needed? No. However is it also brilliant with water too? Yes. We found it was even more chocolatey

Even before opening, we started speculating about the cask given its incredibly dark hue and a mere 121 bottles from a hogshead barrel which typically would produce more than double!  And then we cracked it open and were amazed at the promise shown just from the cork alone – strawberries and bubblegum!

Then to have the kaleidoscope of aromas then richly complex palate and stellar finish? We were floored. Our experience went well beyond any expectation and was decidedly different than recent brushes with Highand Park.

When we set it aside and revisited it was equally enjoyable. This time with a new briney seaside quality we missed in our earlier exploration. It is clearly a whisky to savour and enjoy – over and over!What did David have to say?

This whisky (from the more famous of the two Orkney distilleries) has been matured in a very active cask, giving it the sort of hue you might expect from first-fill bourbon. The nose has waxy citrus, sea water and sticky cherry-flavour cough syrup alongside a lightly fragrant peat smoke. The palate is oily and chewy, with stewed red berries, smouldering wood, rose petals, herbal pastilles and a long coastal finish.

I purchased this in December 2020 for £75 plus tax and courier charges, back when it was still possible to get whiskies directly from the UK.

Here are two more from the La Nouvelle Vague series:

Plus the Chorlton‘s sampled til date from the L’Ancien Régime series:

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Arran Quarter Cask The Bothy Cask Strength 56.2%

Nearly a year ago I was in Scotland and one of the few distilleries I had the pleasure of visiting was Lochranza on Isle of Arran. It was a fabulous day trip with friends and well worth doing.

One whisky I tried there was their no age statement Quarter Cask – and absolutely loved it! However as I could only walk away with one bottle for Mumbai, chose one that was only available at the distillery – the gorgeous rich and intense 23 year old cask strength.

A few months later, I bought the Quarter Cask online in Germany with plans to bring it to India during my summer trip as a way to ’round out’ a no-age-statement trio – joining bottles of the Lochranza Estate and Port Finish already patiently waiting for a tasting session in my Mumbai whisky cabinet.

And then summer came with no chance of a trip home in sight, I decided to open this bottle and simply enjoy! Naturally sharing samples with my Whisky Ladies in Paris.

Whilst we had minis of the Arran vertical 14, 18, and 23-year-olds plus the Port finish, I chose to dive into this one as an appetizer before the mighty Chorlton cask strength Orkney and Loch Lomond.

So what did we think?

Arran Quarter Cask The Bothy Cask Strength 56.2%

  • Nose – Mmmm….. vanilla, sweet sponge cake, Barbados rum, fruity, honey caramelized nuts which then flipped through a combination of blanched white almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, coconut, back to honey, vanilla, pineapple upside-down cake, milk chocolate
  • Palate – A wonderful warming spice, nicely well-rounded, a much more “solid” character than anticipated from the dessert-like aromas, approachable yet with substance, oily, a touch of dark bitter chocolate, nutmeg – rich without being heavy, lightly fruity
  • Finish – Lingers with pineapple and honey, lovely and long
  • Water – While we didn’t think it needed, decided to try – and you should! It brought out buttery sweet brioche on the nose, reduced the nuttiness, amping up the fruitness, bringing out on the palate a citrus twist and orange marmalade without compromising the delicious finish

We loved it! The nose was so inviting and delicious, the palate is marvellously well balanced and the finish long and rewarding. What isn’t there to enjoy?

We set it aside for a revisit and was greeted by a delightful perfume on the nose, fabulous flavours on the palate – which much more citrus than we initially found. Loved it!

What do the folks at Arran have to say?

Our Quarter Cask expression is a complex, rich and intensely fruity Single Malt, a cask strength delight and the perfect partner to our Sherry Cask Single Malt!

The Arran Single Malt selected for this cask strength expression was initially matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels for 7 years before being transferred for secondary maturation into smaller Quarter casks also made of the finest American oak for a further 2 years. The process of transferring our whisky into the smaller 125 litre sized casks for their final 2 years of maturation produces far greater contact between the whisky & oak and a faster, more intense maturation.

The end result is a full-bodied expression of Arran Single Malt combining power and finesse full of rich vanilla sweetness and bold peppery spice. Bottling at natural Cask Strength without chill-filtration or artificial colouring of any sort presents this whisky in its purest form. Small casks would have been a common feature of the Arran whisky trade in the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries as they were easier to handle and transport around the island. With our much-loved Quarter Cask expression we proudly bring this tradition back to life.

Official distillery tasting notes:

  • Nose – Apple tart, pineapple brioche
  • Palate – The citrus hallmarks of Arran welcome you, and the sweet spice of cinnamon and vanilla promises a memorable dram.
  • Finish – Sweetness, Honey, Pineapple, Vanilla, Coconut.

To be honest, we didn’t read the official tasting notes however clearly we would completely agree!

This expression is available from the distillery for GBP 50 and I bought it in Germany for EUR 53.56.

Ad arran quarter cask bottle box product detail rebrand

What else have we recently tried from Arran?

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Arran Duo – Quarter Cask and Port Finish

Back at the start of 2021 I was in Mumbai, rebottling whiskies into miniatures for tasting in India and to bring some back to Europe. The Campbeltown and Arran sets were dutifully dispatched early February to Paris and we dove into the Campbeltown ones almost right away!

As for the Arran trio? Let’s just say we got distracted with all the other whiskies we had accumulated or had wandered their way to us!

So when I decided to “pop” over to Paris, I decided to augment the trio already with my fellow “Euro Whisky Ladies” with another duo…. this time bringing the additional drams by hand.

So what was in the original Lochranza vertical?

And what did I add to augment it?

Tasting notes for The Bothy are from this summer however the Port is from a few years ago. We haven’t yet revisited it, though no doubt will soon enough. It may be some time before we slowly but surely work our way through a few sets before the Arran drams. Ahh… a problem of plenty is not really a problem at all!

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Talisker 8 year 2009 48.4% (Old Particular)

Last in my Old Particular trio is a complete shift in character to the Isle of Skye with the peaty Talisker. Though technically part of their “Highland” region bottles, it is also an “Island” distillery.

Talisker 8 Year Old 2009 (cask 12578) 48.4%

  • Nose – Mmmm smoked meats, juicy fruits with a bit of brine
  • Palate – A nice smokey burn, touch of ash, a dash of sugary sweet
  • Finish – Cinnamon, then a nice campfire finish

It has been awhile since I’ve had a Talisker… and I gotta admit it hit the spot. Peat and sweet, nothing complicated but well balanced and just… worked. In truth, it disappeared too soon – always a good sign!

As for tasting notes? Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt had to say:

Part of Douglas Laing’s Old Particular series, this expression from Talisker was distilled in 2009 and bottled at 48.4% ABV, after 8 years of maturing in a refill hogshead. It is one of only 378 bottles produced. Of course, this whisky was bottled without colouring or chill-filtration..

  • Nose: Complex warming phenols alongside intense seaweed notes.
  • Palate: Both sweet and salty, maritime flavours are joined by slightly ashy notes and a touch of brown sugar.
  • Finish: Distinctly sooty on the finish, balancing by subtle sugar sweetness.

Would I agree? Overall yes!

And what about previous brushes with Talisker?

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Jura 12 year (2006) 48.4% (Old Particular)

I found myself in the mood for something uncomplicated… a dram to ease into an evening of sampling… The obvious choice from the Old Particular trio was to start with the Jura. From Jura Island, the distillery style tends towards lighter whiskies intended to support a blend. However more recently, there has been subtle peat added to the equation.

Jura 12 Year Old 2006 (cask 12966) 48.4% – Old Particular (Douglas Laing)

  • Nose – Cereal, butter biscuits or lemon curd cookies – a bit of sour, yet some citrus and sweet
  • Palate – A bit more substance than anticipated, can see the wood influence with a hint of bitterness, a bit salty… like lightly salted nuts and raisins.. is that a hint of toast?
  • Finish – Light spice, that nutty bitterness continued

Overall it hit the spot for something not too sweet, straight forward and a way of kicking off a tasting trio.

As for tasting notes? Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt had to say:

12 year old single malt from the Jura distillery, named after the island it resides on. This whisky was distilled in December 2006 and allowed to age in a refill hogshead for 12 years, then bottled in December 2018 by Douglas Laing for the Old Particular range. Only 357 bottles were produced.

  • Nose: Custard Cream biscuits, dried lemon and grapefruit peel, a hint of salted peanuts.
  • Palate: Soft oak and smoke appears up front, followed by citrus once again and sultanas.
  • Finish: Almond pastries, coriander and caramel.

Would I agree? More or less…

And what about previous brushes with Jura?

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Lochranza Vertical – Arran 23 year 52.6%

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.

Tasting notes:

  • 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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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Lochranza Vertical – Arran 18 year 46%

Next in our Arran age statement flight after the 14 year was an 18 year old! While the bottle we tasted from was purchased in 2018, it remains part of their core range, now in fresh new 2020 packaging. I understand that the style has remained consistent – playing with a range of Sherry casks to produce a fruity, tasty dram.

Arran 18 year 46%  

  • Nose – Wow! Quite the nose – initially sweet with heavy syrup, lots of sherry influence with this one, chocolate and coffee, mild cinnamon and back to dark fruits
  • Palate – Mmmm…. there is a real depth here, sherry berry, dark fruits with dates, sweetened prunes, vanilla, good dose of sweet spices – particularly cinnamon, some  allspice, even ginger… as we continued sipping, coffee became more and more prominent, joined by rum raisin cake
  • Finish – There was a debate on this – first sip it seemed a bit ‘short’ with so much going on initially that the finish was lost… but as we continued, realized it has quite a long flavourful finish full of lingering mocha, cinnamon chased by sea salt, even a bit of a citrus tang

If the 14 year old had a toffee sweetness, the 18 year old was mocha – a decadent coffee chocolate…. a kind of creamy dreamy desert. There was no doubt everything that was fabulous about the younger whisky was taken up a few notches with the 18 year. It had wonderful flavours that invites one to just sip, savour, rolling around on the tongue, simply enjoying.

While I tried with water, it isn’t needed though holds it own too with a drop or two. It does help bring out the orange marmalade fruitiness, however keep it in your glass long enough without water and that also comes forward too. I kept thinking of one of those fruit and nut chocolate bars! With just an extra kick of zesty orange… with a fresh pour, the dates are more prominent… much later there was even a bit of black licorice joining the various elements – lovely!

There was no doubt this was a favourite for many. It was indulgent without being overwhelming… a fully satisfying well rounded robust sherry influenced whisky.

What do the folks at Arran have to say about their 18 year old?

The Arran 18 year-old is the one of the most popular expressions in our core range of single malts and one of the oldest available.

The Arran 18 year-old is a wonderfully balanced expression of Arran Single Malt which displays the tremendous depth of character of our Distillery.

Caramelised citrus and tropical notes on a background of toasted oak have created an intense, well rounded dram with charm and personality. A luxurious mix of our finest aged Sherry Casks, this fully mature expression of Arran Single Malt is exceptional.

Official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Orchard fruits with syrup and toasted oak
  • Palate – Caramelised orange, dark chocolate, baked peaches
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Citrus, Baked peaches.

What else did we sample from Arran in our vertical flight?

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Do also check out the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog with the continuing adventures of the lovely ladies in India…

Lochranza Vertical – Arran 14 year 46%

Kicking off our Arran veritical flight was an 14 year old! Back in 2010 it was released to take a step up from the Arran 10 year and matured primarily in ex-bourbon casks. At the time, it was reasonably accessible in select travel retail around the world. In India, The Vault Fine Spirits brought this particular bottle to Mumbai Duty Free where I was happy to pick it up in 2018.

Prior to trying the official bottling, I had sampled The Whisky Exchange’s 14 year cask strength expression as part of a trio recommended by Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai. That one was intense and flavourful, taking a bit of time to open up to show off its full glory.

Naturally I was very curious to see what this official bottling would bring… we sampled it late January 2021 in two parallel sessions – one virtual and another in person – coming together at the end to contrast and compare our experiences.

I was enjoying life in the country so joined the virtual session… here is what we found…

Arran 14 year 46%  

  • Nose – Initially a bit musty, malty, vanilla, quite fruity, even a bit tropical with a touch of coconut oil, overall quite refreshing… as it continued to open up, the musty quality disappeared and it was just delightful fruits – some cooked apples, even a bit floral, with lots of lovely toffee
  • Palate – Mmmmm… smooth, balanced and well rounded with a nice fruity fullness, a bit of that coconut oil, orange spices, perhaps some light sherry influences with dried figs or dates
  • Finish – Peppery – black peppercorn specifically – initially seemed quite long, but after the next sip didn’t seem to have quite such a long strong staying power – still eminently pleasant though

At first whiff – we knew we were in for something good. And first sip? Ahhhhh finally a proper whisky. For some this was after months… even a year deprived of a decent dram.

I braved adding some water to see how it shifted the dram dynamic…

  • Nose – For me, at least, it brought out a nutty dimension, even some nasturtiums, kept the fruitiness on the nose
  • Palate – Initially a bit spicier, it retained its character with a malty fruity approach… even creamier and almost reminded me of a good masala chai chased by chocolate

Overall, we found it was an easy happy whisky – well crafted and friendly. Something  refreshing yet eminently satisfying.

And what about our ladies who sampled together in Mumbai rather than our virtual session? Complementary with a few different insights – like melon on the nose which we didn’t catch. For more insights, there will soon be detailed tasting notes on Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog.

Unfortunately you won’t find the official distillery tasting notes for the 14 year old any more as they have gone back to having the standard range go from the 10 year old to skip ahead to the 18 year.. So I’ll bring to you instead the The Vault tasting notes:

Dried fruits, vanilla and toffee upfront. With a little water, a salty tang appears along with caramelised fruits indicating a depth of flavour. The palate has an initial burst of brine leading onto warming toffee apples and hazlenuts. This is followed by dates, chocolate orange and spiced tea cake. The mouth feel is overwhelmingly rich and weighty.

The bottle had scant additional details – indicating it is from Batch No A14 L271016 From October 2016 – I have no idea if this is simply to keep our friends in customs happy along with the description of ingredients “Matured Potable Alcoholic Distillate, Water.” However it would seem to indicate this expression was from a 2016 batch ie the barrels were laid in 2001 or 2002.

The label did provide notes with:

The Arran 14 year is a smooth and richly rewarding expression of the Arran Malt bursting with character and complexity. The extra years of maturation have added a depth of sweetness, and spice to create a fully rounded and satisfying dram. 

Would we agree? Certainly. And did we like it? Absolutely! An undeniably enjoyable dram and a great way to open our tasting trio.

What else did we sample from Arran that particular evening?

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Arran Flight

Years ago I started to collect a flight from Arran… inspired by how much we enjoyed the Arran Port Cask and even more so by the Amarone Cask.

It began primarily as a combination of travel retail acquisitions however culminated in a fabulous day trip to Isle of Arran in September 2020… amusingly these Arran’s were paid with four currencies from four countries, collected over three years with the intention of sharing with a whisky group in Mumbai.

Unbelievably I’m back in India! Even more remarkable, I finally have a chance to share these bottles from Isle of Arran with friends. Naturally this will be done responsibly, virtually and all that… we do live in COVID times after all!

I decided to break the Arran exploration into two parts….

A vertical – doing a straightforward age progression…

  • Arran 14 year 46% – A balance of ex bourbon and ex sherry finish, likely from 2016, purchased early 2018 from Mumbai Duty Free for Rs 7,200 (approx EUR 80)
  • Arran 18 year 46% – A mix of sherry casks, picked up by a kind ‘whisky mule’ during his travels in October 2017 for USD 81 (approx EUR 67)
  • Arran 23 year (1996/2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6% – A single cask sherry which produced a mere 283 bottles, bottled at cask strength that I purchased in September 2020 directly from the Lochranza Distillery for GBP 145 (approx EUR 160)

I then kept in reserve for another time the additional expressions with no age statements…

  • Arran Lochranza Reserve 43% – A mix of ex bourbon and ex sherry casks, purchase late 2018 from Dubai’s Le Clos for AED 150 (approx EUR 34)
  • Arran Port Cask Finish 50% – As the name suggests, finished in a port cask, purchased early 2019 from Dubai’s Le Clos fro AED 180 (approx EUR 40)

The tricky choice was what to do with a small bottle hand filled from the new Lagg Distillery? Keep it back for the NAS expressions or throw a mini of a mini into the mix to give others a chance to try something unique? In the end, not having enough extra mini bottles clinched it – so it has again been stored to wait for another time.

  • Arran Peated (2020) 60.4% – 1st batch from a peated bourbon barrel, bottled by hand on 3 September 2020 at Lagg Distillery, purchased for GBP 30 for a 200 ml bottle (approx EUR 100 for a 700ml)

And with that, decision made, minis filled, packages dispatched, balance remaining in bottles sent to one of our Whisky Ladies who offered to host a few able to join in person – socially distanced – in her large living room. How lovely!

Notes to come – both here and on the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai‘s blog!

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Lagg Distillery – new kid on Isle of Arran

We didn’t actually plan to go to Lagg Distillery… our primary intent for a day in Isle of Arran was to spend time at the Lochranza Distillery and then explore a castle or two, maybe do some hiking.  However as we drove around the Island… we found ourselves passing Machir Moor, lunch at the golf club just up from Blackwaterfoot…. and there we were in Lagg… how could we simply drive past?

And yet in these strange COVID times, a visit to a distillery is a cautious and limited activity. Care is taken to reduce entry and minimize contact. Yet even with these restrictions, it was clear it would be worth stopping and spending a few moments getting a glimpse of might be possible when fully open.

What about a distillery tour? Alas not possible. A tasting? Not a proper sit down affair. However you can go to the rather lovely visitor centre’s shop. Here you can peruse books and art celebrating whisky and the island. Meander through a lovely assortment of whiskies and related paraphernalia.

And around the corner from this section was a generous range of Arran whiskies… including an opportunity to purchase some of the new Lagg distillery’s new make spirit, miniatures….

Alternatively… there is a whole wall of full bottles… just waiting to be taken home… with friendly staff happy to help share insights into the different expressions.

Or, best of all, a chance to pour your own 200ml bottle from a cask. I couldn’t resist… just haven’t decided if it will go home to hubby to Mumbai or join me back in Nurnberg.

It is a beautiful site and I can just picture enjoying a light bite in the bright central cafe area overlooking Alisa Craig, also known as Paddy’s milestone.

What about Arran samples? Though there were a few wee drops available at the shop to help decide what to buy, I skipped. However here are a  few notes from previous tasting experiences:

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