TWE Cask Strength – Arran 14 year 55.5%

Next in our The Whisky Exchange Single Cask Strength evening was another Island whisky – this time from Arran distillery on the isle of Arran. This isn’t my 1st Arran sample and I’ve quite enjoyed what I’ve tried so far…. particularly both cask finishes – AmaronePort.

This particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as an affordable whisky that is an excellent example of Arran’s style.

Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185 of 197 55.5% (TWE)

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – We immediately noticed it has more “oomph!” than the Glen Moray, toasty, almost musty initially, then warm maple syrup, rum raisins, shifting into something pungent, an earthy yeasty quality, like wet fall leaves, some cinnamon and cloves, resin…
  • Palate – Wow! Cinnamon spice – both paprika and black pepper. There was no doubt this was a full on cask strength whisky.
  • Finish – Honey sweet, bourbon, spice, a bit unbalanced initially

There was initially a mixed reaction. Many of have had quite positive experiences with Arran so had high expectations which were not initially met.

But then as we discussed and debated, a funny thing happened. That whisky sitting in our glasses with a little patience began to open up. Making the doubters into converts who warmed up to the whisky as it warmed up to us, revealing apricots, chocolate, apple sauce, and an almost minty freshness.

Some added water whereas some did not. Which was a better option came down to personal preference with more leaning to without.

Bottom line is give this one time and it will reward you with a beautiful, fruity, balanced dram that is both rich, robust and complex. Well worth being just a bit patient.

The bottle provides succinct tasting notes of:

This single-bourbon-cask Arran whisky selected by The Whisky Exchange is loaded with aromas of pear drops, apple crumble and ripe peaches. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with brioche buns, a touch of lemon zest and manuka honey.

Rocky from the Whisky Exchange has this to say:

  • Nose: Complex nose with notes of spicy vanilla and cinnamon, coconut, honey and tropical mango and guava.
  • Palate: Warming and spicy at first with clove and black pepper prominent. Then the sweetness and the fruit start to come to the fore: honey, mango, pineapple and apricot.
  • Finish: Lightly sweet with honey and tropical fruit overtaken again by the spice.
  • Comment: Arran’s history began by bottling lots of single casks, and this is another example of a great one from the distillery. Classic Arran fruitiness, but with lots of spice – a complex and rewarding whisky.

This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 65. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2018.

What else did we sample in our Sukhinder Singh’s cask strength evening?

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Whisky Ladies TWE Cask Strength Night – Glen Moray, Arran, Ledaig

This was not our first evening devoted to high alcohol strength whiskies… Last time, our Diwali celebration featured Glenfarclas 105 60%, Chichibu 2009 63.1%, A’bunadh 35 (2011) 60.3% and we’ve certainly sampled other Cask Strength drams including our Bruichladdich peat progression session.

So what made this session distinctive? This time our selection had a decidedly independent bent, all purchased through The Whisky Exchange in June 2017, personally recommended by Sukhinder Singh as affordable quality drams:

  • Glen Moray 8 year 57.8% 251 Bottles (SMSW)
  • Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)
  • Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)

What did the ladies think? Read on over the next few days…

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Douglas Laing’s Island Blend Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

Our Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts explorations continued with the Island blend… this time from the Cask Strength edition.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

  • Nose – Had a similar yoghurt quality, yet with more character and oomph! than the Timorous Beastie, zest of lemon rind, barley, young, mild yet fruity – particularly melon, some smoked sweet bacon or other sweet meats, agave then quite a bit of brine
  • Palate – Nice spice, sweet, skirting on the surface, amazingly balanced, nothing harsh, a hint of pipe tobacco, honey, cherry bokum pickle, ginger, briney
  • Finish – Nice long finish, salted caramel, cinnamon, sawdust, for some too salty on the finish for many
  • Water – Opens up more, removes the edge, salty, adds a dash of cayenne, paprika, makes it smoother

There was a sense that this is from a similar ‘family’ as the Timorous Beastie however also had its unique variation, like siblings.

Many found Rock Oyster just like one would expect from the name, salty raw oysters, the feel of being on a boat, the distinctive pervasive smell of barnacles, a tidal pool of salty whisky.

At cask strength, it is also very deceptive, giving no hint of the power behind its smooth briney swish.

There was a clear divide between those who enjoy salty whiskies and those who do not care for this maritime style.

Here’s what they have to say:

Introducing Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster Cask Strength; the super-charged partner to the original Rock Oyster bottled at 57.4% ABV. Containing the finest Malt Whiskies from Scotland’s Whisky Islands, including those distilled on Islay, Arran, Orkney and Jura, this Limited Edition delivers a massive amplification of all those coastal qualities from the original Rock Oyster.

Tasting notes:

Anticipate a blast of sea air on the nose and a tempestuously oceanic storm on the palate. Rock Oyster Cask Strength delivers a big peat hit full of Islay phenols, iodine and coal dust, with a shake of pepper softening to a distinct honey sweetness from the Arran casks. The Isle of Jura brings waves of citrus and barley to the mix, and Orkney fetches up some salt from the deep.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the whisky blends explored?

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Worthy Whiskies – Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50%

As Whisky Ladies, we have started to explore cask finishes beyond the standard with a cognac cask Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 8 years and Brenne Estate Cask 40%, pinot noire with AWA Pinot Noire 42%, rum with Mackmyra, port with Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask.

This was our first foray with an Amarone cask finish. Amarone is rich Italian dry red wine made from partially dried grapes of the Corvina (45–95%), Rondinella (5–30%) and other red grape varieties (up to 25%). In Italian, the name Amarone literally means “the Great Bitter” as this helped distinguish it from the Recioto produced in the same region, which is sweeter in taste.

And what does finishing Arran whisky in ex Amarone casks do? Some pretty marvellous things…

Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50%

  • Nose – Light sweet cherry, a lovely sweet not candy sweet, restrained and nuanced, nothing dominant yet overall delicious
  • Palate – Yum! Starts with an interesting fresh layer, almost like sweet paan, or a Turkish Delight, some mint, a spice tingle here too yet with a light touch, super smooth and very easy to simply keep sipping
  • Finish – Subdued, cilantro, a light sweet finish

Normally we don’t remark much on colour however in this case we couldn’t help but observe how attractive this whisky is with its pink rose hue.

It was also absolutely perfect for a Sunday Sundowner – refreshing and delightful, sophisticated and utterly enjoyable. In short – it was dangerously drinkable. For many, this was the by far the preferred whisky of the evening… as it was just a perfect pick for the setting watching the sunset dip beyond the horizon of the Arabian sea.

It also very much falls into the category of whiskies that are not impossible to track down and reasonably affordable. While I’m not sure where our Whisky Lady picked it up in the UK, it is available from both Master of Malt & The Whisky Exchange for approximately $60. Believe it or not, I first spotted and coveted it in Winnipeg, Canada at the local liquor store!

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Worthy Whiskies” Sunday Sundowner?

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Worthy Whiskies – Mortlach, Arran Amarone, Lochside, Aultmore

We’ve had several attempts to hold a Whisky Ladies evening in Versova so when I suddenly found out I would be traveling to North America and it happened to be the same night, I simply had to ensure it was a flight after our session rather than reschedule yet again!

And it was completely worth it. Having a chance to overlook the Arabian sea as the sun set is indeed a lovely backdrop to sampling whiskies in wonderful company.

Particularly when this was a “Worthy Whiskies” session which brought together:

Tasting this time had a bit of a twist – the Lochside and Aultmore were previously sampled with another set of fellow whisky aficionados. The Whisky Ladies reaction to the Lochside was very much in synch, so I combined the tasting notes. Whereas the response to the Aultmore was curiously divided… prompting a completely different post

Just click on the links and read on… reactions and opinions welcome!

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The Arran Port Finish 50%

Funny how sometimes chance encounters lead to wonderful discoveries. I happened to meet a Scot who keeps criss-crossing between India, UK and other ports of call.

He ever so kindly offered (or did I weedle an offer?) to pick up something on his next trip to Edinburgh. He asked if there was anything specific I had in mind and rather than rattle of a series of well known options, suggested he take a peak at the list of whiskies tasted til date and surprise me!

That he did indeed… with my first Arran whisky from Lochranza in the Highlands.

This particularly bottle joined a special NAS evening with our original tasting group, sampled blind before the great reveal..

The Arran Port Finish 50%

  • Nose – Starts with tight dry berries, then rounds out into a bouquet of fruits, shifting from berries to summer orchard fruits then slipping into tangy citrus orange, finally settling into stewed fruits like plums with a drizzle of dark molasses, even a hint of toasted hazelnut, gives the impression of body just on the nose
  • Palate – After such a sweet nose, such an unexpected SPICE! With dried red sour plums or gooseberry. A nice oily element too.
  • Finish – Bitter spice finish, stays surprisingly long
  • Water – Adds a little something – much spicier in a good way that brings out a nice cinnamon spice

As we speculated what this whisky could be, we realized it didn’t neatly fit into standard categories. The colour had hints of ruby to the extent that one wondered if it was “suspect”…

With the reveal there was quite a bit of surprise – it was remarkably smooth for 50%, the port cask finish helped explained many of the different elements – including the colour which has nothing beyond the cask involved!

We even had a member quite familiar with Arran in our midst who hadn’t connected the style of the Port Finish with the standard age statement Arran’s or their peaty Machir Moor.

Here’s what else the Arran team have to say about this whisky:

After initially maturing in traditional oak casks for approximately 8 years, the Arran Single Malt in this bottling was finished in the highest quality Port wine casks from an artisan producer of this iconic Portuguese fortified wine. Our Master Distiller, James MacTaggart, has carefully monitored this period of secondary maturation to ensure the perfect balance is struck between the Port casks and the intrinsic sweet-fruity character of The Arran Malt. The end result is a Single Malt full of charm, complexity and quality and an extremely popular part of our range.

  • Colour: Deep Bronze
  • Nose: Vanilla spice and ripe citrus running into dried fruits and nuttiness. With a splash of water more depth of mandarin citrus with fudge and honeyed notes
  • Palate: Layered fruits and spice combine, with cinnamon baked apple wrestling with raisin and plum pudding. The dram opens out to reveal warming barley and a hint of sweet pear
  • Finish: A classic Single Malt with punch that dances on the palate. The trademark Arran barley-sweetness shines through the layers of complexity

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

Pssst – In Mumbai, you can get Arran 14, 18 & Machir Moor in India through The Vault.

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Whisky Exchange – Mini malts…

My June 2016 trip to London meant I brought back not only the delightful Finnish Teerenpeli… I also acquired an array of miscellaneous malt miniatures from The Whisky Exchange in Covent Garden, London.

Miniatures

What caught my fancy?

  • The Arran 14 year 46% – To contrast with a Port matured expression waiting to sample in a set of non-standard casks (i.e. not bourbon / sherry)
  • Auchroisk 1996/2014 46% (Gordon & MacPhail) – Tried a 20 year old last year however a G&MP bottling is always a good sign…
  • Glencadam 15 year 46% – Purely as have yet to try one from this distillery… later the Whisky Ladies also tried it
  • Glen Keith 1993/2011 46% (Gordon & MacPhail) – Ditto… haven’t tried so curious
  • Longrow Peated NAS 46% – Loved what I had years ago… couldn’t spare the space for a full bottle yet couldn’t resist a mini!
  • Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 year 40% – Again… simply curious… and know there are more from this range to explore…

Tune in over the coming weeks as some of these wee beauties will be revealed…

Thanks to my London whisky shopping companion, we’ve also dipped into a few other minis too:

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