My London Whisky Show tasting companion and I are both fans of Arran whiskies. The Lochranza distillery’s un-peated “Arran” style – both their core range and limited editions!
However whilst I’ve known of their peated “Machrie Moor” for years, haven’t adequately explored these expressions. Since 2019, Lochranza stopped using peat, choosing instead to dedicate their new Lagg distillery to a peat style. This means Machrie Moor will become a thing of the past. So we skipped over many familiar friends on offer, to try this duo of their standard Machrie Moor and cask strength.
Machrie Moor 46%
- Nose – Peat and sweet, fresh with that special kinda peat that combines smoked meats, crispy bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup
- Palate – Started spicy, then mellowed out with hints of the underlying fruity character
- Finish – Cinamon and smoke
This may seem surprising, but my impression from a light sniff, swish, and spit was that Machrie Moor was surprisingly mild and modest.
What more do they have to say about this expression?
On the west coast of the Isle of Arran lies a windswept and mystical peat bog called Machrie Moor. Bronze Age stone circles and standing stones are strewn across its barren, undulating terrain. One of the stone circles is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where sits a stone with a carved hole. The legendary warrior giant Fingal is said to have tethered his favourite dog Bran to this stone. This peated expression of the Arran Single Malt perfectly captures the rugged beauty and lore of the landscape. Unleash the legend that is Machrie Moor.
And their official tasting notes?
- Nose – Light smoke and citrus
- Palate – Dried grass, peat smoke and hints of vanilla and tropical fruit.
- Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Peat, Pineapple.
We then moved on to the cask strength expression…
Machrie Moor Cask Strength 56.2%
- Nose – At first fruity then shifted into meaty peat with smoked ham or pastrami
- Palate – A fiery spice! Which initially masked the stewed fruits
Unlike the milder Machrie Moor 46%, this was a powerhouse and initially a bit imbalanced. However, I have a strong suspicion that a dash of water would make all the difference – something that we skipped in our quick zip-through!
What more do they have to say?
- Nose – Citrus notes with a background of peat and a puff of smoke immediately apparent
- Palate – A robust dram with the typical orchard fruits of Arran coming to the fore over a layer of toasted brioche and red berries
- Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Chocolate, Vanilla, Coconut.
Both were interesting to try, however, have to admit, we remain partial to their un-peated expressions. Curious about these other Arran explorations? Just read on…
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There we were – one hot sweaty April evening in Mumbai – about to kick off a tasting with a random yet remarkable range of whiskies. Just like with fine dining, it helps to have an “amuse-bouche” to whet the appetite, so we needed a whisky to ease into our evening.
I considered a few options before settling on the Arran no age statement – Lochranza Reserve. Launched in 2014, it was intended to be part of the core range as the ‘entry’ dram replacing the Arran Original, easily accessible – in terms of flavour profile, price, and availability in travel retail. Today in 2022? It has joined the Limited Edition section with just a few bottles remaining… though if purchased in the UK it is still quite reasonable – at a mere £25.
So what did we think?
Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%
- Nose – Hmmm… after a slightly musty start, becomes a clean, classic whisky with green apples, dry leaves and toasted oats, dry desiccated coconut, citrus, a hint of honey… also a herbal element – rosemary or thyme? Or a touch of cardamon?
- Palate – A light spice, slightly salty and initially a bit astringent, it then shifted into more of that citrus joined by crunchy tart green apples, oak, and a dash of cream, nicely coats your tongue
- Finish – Pink peppercorns, slightly bitter, chased by bourbon vanilla
- Water – One would think with such a low ABV there is no need… however a splash of cool water brings out the orchard fruits and citrus after the initial spice hit settles down
Whilst the nose had a honey sweetness on the palate it deepened into a creamy caramel toffee and milk chocolate, smooth and straightforward. We weren’t expecting anything complex, however, I will admit that I had anticipated something a bit lighter. Even still, this hit the spot as a teaser of tastings to come!
What do the folks at Arran have to say about their Lochranza Reserve?
Our Lochranza Reserve is back for a short time only as the very last bottles of this edition.
This light, fresh and fruity Single Malt is bottled at 43% and is delicious on its own, with a splash of water or a bit of ice. It is the perfect Single Malt for mixing and is a marriage of both Sherry and Bourbon matured casks.
Official distillery tasting notes:
- Nose – Vanilla and lemon
- Palate – Fresh Island notes. A touch of salt and sweetness
- Finish – Citrus. Vanilla. Salty.
What else have we tried from Arran? Rather a lot as this distillery has become a clear favourite with a few of us:
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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 in early 2019 from Dubai’s Le Clos for 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, the decision was made, minis filled, packages dispatched, the 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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