Seasonal Treat – Arran Gold Cream Liqueur 17%

Tis the season and all that! If I had been back in Canada this time of year, rich, spiced, liberally spiked egg nog would very likely be encountered at some point.

Thinking of this tempted me to try out the Arran Gold Liqueuer… and I’m so happy I did! This is no Bailey’s Irish cream… it is less cloyingly sweet (a good thing in my books!), full flavoured with a delightful whisky kick. It was just the right indulgence to get into the seasonal mood in Nurnberg

What do the folks at Arran have to say?

Since its launch in 2004, it has become incredibly popular and everyone who has tasted Arran Gold agrees that they would happily ditch their usual bland cream liqueur in favour of this deeply delicious treat. Made with a healthy dose of Arran, this is a cream liqueur where you can really taste the quality. Try it on its own chilled, with ice, in coffee or even as part of a pudding.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Toffee, creamy fudge
  • Palate – Chocolate, cassis, a wee touch of fresh mint
  • Finish – Sweetness, Honey.

I would tend to agree! Nothing to argue or add, just sip and enjoy it for what it is.

I picked up the Arran Gold from Dein Whisky for EUR 17 late 2021.

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Mini Malts – The Arran 14 year 46%

Once upon a time there were apparently several distilleries (or only three?) on the Isle of Arran, naturally these were unofficial away from the taxman’s eagle eyes… fast forward to 2016 when I picked up this mini and The Lochranza distillery was the only one found on the island and one of Scotland’s few independent distilleries. Or so the story goes

Opened in 1995, there is a growing interest in what Arran is producing. Much of what you may find plays around with different finishes… I spotted a ruby red Amarone wine finish at a Manitoba Liquor Mart and have coveted it ever since! A Port cask finish bottle sat in my whisky cabinet for over a year waiting patiently for an appropriate evening to sample.

In one of those twists, I actually sampled the cask finishes – Port and Amarone – before finally getting around to trying its traditional age statement avatars. Even more amusing is after acquiring this mini, I picked up a full bottle and used it to launch a special vertical tasting after an amazing trip to Lochranza distillery on Isle of Arran! Which has now also been joined by its “cousin” – Lagg distillery – both of which I had the pleasure of visiting late 2020.

So what happened to this mini? Well…. I brought it to our wee country home, together with the last drops of the full bottle and shared with a neighbour one fine evening. It was fascinating to contrast and compare the same vintage…

Here’s what we found…

The Arran 14 year 46%Arran 14 year

  • Colour – Rich amber gold, a shade darker than the later edition
  • Nose – Fruity like the full bottle but a deeper sherry influence, richer darker fruits, nutty, also shifted into sweet cinnamon apple pie, chased by caramel toffee
  • Palate – Delicious! Just like its later edition, it was smooth, full and most enjoyable with more of that sherry influence, orange with sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves joined by plump dates and hazelnuts
  • Finish – More sweet spices, satisfying

Overall it was simply enjoyable… a perfect sipping dram to sit back and relax, savouring. An absolute treat and cemented yet again how much I enjoy what the Lochranza distillery produces!

Here’s what the Arran folks had to say:

The Arran 14 year-old is an immensely popular part of our core range of Single Malt. It is a perfectly balanced marriage of both first fill Sherry and Bourbon casks and is a righly rewarding Single Malt with depth of character and zest. It captures perfectly all the fresh character of the Arran 10 year-old with an added layer of intensity and fruitiness.

  • Nose: Dried fruits, vanilla and toffee up front. With a little water a salty tang appears, with caramelised fruits indicating a depth of flavour to come.
  • Palate: An initial burst of brine leads onto warming toffee apples and hazelnuts. This is followed by dates, chocolate orange and spiced tea cake. The mouthfeel is overwhelmingly rich and weighty.
  • Finish: A trademark Arran finish with cinnamon spices leading back to where the experience began, with a classic island-style salty wave balancing the sweet fruit of the palate.

This sample was purchased in 2016 from London’s Whisky Exchange together with:

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Dynamic Duo 2 – Bunnahabhain 25 year vs Tobermory 20 year

For our next dynamic duo, we went to independent bottlers – both new to me! From what little I could find, both seem to be German based… and were chosen by our whisky guide to contrast and compare drams in their 20s from Islay and Island.

Now I must admit, I’ve had a mixed relationship with Bunnahabhain – particularly their older whiskies which haven’t always lived up to expectations. However I’m always game to be be pleasantly surprised!

Bunnahabhain 25 years Single Cask (2016) 47.7% (Wiebers Brothers)

  • Nose – Citrus, hay, honey and yoghurt, very light toffee, milky and a bit shy, mineral, musty
  • Palate – Surprisingly light and effervescent, then took a slight odd turn – was that sweet pickles?? Followed by some cayenne pepper, tangy, more of that mineral quality, a tough vegetal
  • Finish – Verbena and cayenne

This definitely fit into the category of “ya gotta work it”… what was interesting is how the empty glass held more aromas than when it held liquid.

I still haven’t been able to find any details on Wiebers Brothers with this having a mere 120 bottles. We aren’t sure when the bottle was originally opened however it is possible it was for some time or not… one never knows the impact of oxidation on a whisky’s character.

Tobermory 20 years (1996/2016) 58.8% (The Alambic Classique Collection)

  • Nose – Lemon balm, beeswax, fresh, sweet grass, honey, fresh raw cashew nut… it began evolving becoming fruitier
  • Palate – Quite a contrast to the aromas! Sweet spices, pink and white peppercorns, lots of character without heat, beautiful and well rounded, light cinnamon
  • Finish – Wonderful! The flavours just carry on and on and on….

Once upon a time, we discovered “mouth breathing” whisky – where you take a good waft of aromas then swig and then breath, seeing what the whisky has to say. In this case, it was like having a lovely aromatic hookah.

Some whiskies are all the nose with the palate a pale shadow, others are the reverse. That would be the case here – an absolute stunner on the palate – really outstanding. This is also one of those drams where just a little goes a very long way – particularly with that remarkable finish. A true class act.

Alambic Classique has been an importer and wholesaler of specialty spirits since 1981, and is also an independent bottler for rare and exclusive single malt whiskeys from Scotland. Our bottle was from their Special Vintage Selection – cask strength, uncolored and not chill-filtered.

What more do we know about this one? It a bourbon barrel from a single cask with 247 bottles.

If you haven’t already gathered so far  – the Tobermory was for us the clear winner!

What else did we explore that evening at The Union Jack in Berlin?

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Arran 25 year 46%

Late 2020 I had the pleasure of experiencing a wee sample of the Arran 25 year old at Lochranza Distillery. I didn’t take any tasting notes however remember it being an absolute stunner! It was a remarkable treat, so whilst I have nothing of my own to add, wanted to say congratulations for producing something truly special.

What follows is purely reproducing the distillery information – not my usual approach, but there you have it!

Arran’s 25 Year Old Single Malt

In this, our 25th year of production, we are delighted to present our official 25 year old which now joins our core range for the first time, and will be released in very limited quantities each year.

This 25 year old is truly the jewel in our crown. The whisky has been matured in ex-Sherry and Bourbon Casks and is bottled at 46% Vol without chill filtration or the addition of any colouring. Here’s a breakdown of the life span of the 1995 casks we selected for this very first batch:

Original 1995 Stock
35% ex-Sherry
65% ex-Bourbon

Re-casking
All stock re-casked into 1st Fill and Refill Sherry Hogsheads for 12 months prior to bottling

As one of the first of the new wave of distilleries to reach maturity, this is a proud moment for us to be able to share this landmark Single Malt with you all at the end of what has been a tremendously challenging year for everyone and a very exciting journey that started a quarter of a century ago.  We hope that you will join us in sharing a dram of this special Single Malt over these winter months to toast the continued success of our island story.

Arran 25yo Tasting Notes

  • Nose – Rich oak with a gentle nutmeg note. Sweeter aromas of baked ripe figs, sultanas and black cherries.
  • Palate – Fruit cake with toasted almonds and cinnamon. The juicy zestiness of oranges and mandarins mellows perfectly with manuka honey, muscovado sugar, baked apricots and an interesting white pepper note that provides even more complexity.
  • Finish – Creamy and spicy with dark chocolate, walnuts and dark fruits compote.

It was released on November 16, 2020 for £295 with 3,000 bottles and quickly sold out – with good reason!

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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: