Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Island Whisky, But Not That Island

Arran (SMWSA 121.38)

7 Year Old, 61.6% ABV

Color: Dark deep sherry
Nose: Sweet, but in a dark chocolaty kind of way. I read something that compared it to Christmas Cake (fruit cake) and I like that analogy
Taste: Pretty strong, full flavors for a seven year old whisky. Sweet again with some cherry fruitiness.
Finish: Short finish, more what you would expect from a young one
Overall: A wonderful surprise with both the color and the palate, both of which bely this Arran’s age. The tasting notes from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society included this perfect drinking tip: Find an excuse as soon as possible”. Thank you, I will.

So what about this Isle of Arran? Well, up until the 18th century, every island in Scotland made whisky. When the exporting of Highland Whisky was banned, bootlegging took over. But oddly enough only one legal distillery emerged on the island, Lochranza, even though Arran is located just off the Southwest Coast and not far from Glasgow. But that distillery closed in the 1830’s. It took until 1995 for a legal distillery to return to Arran, at Lochranza.

To help raise funds for the new distillery – and falling into the ultimate “wish I was there” category of a story – the owner issued $750 bonds to the public which would entitle them to five cases of whisky in 2001. The distillery face challenges. Every whisky must be aged at least three years, and even at that age, it’s typically only used in blends. However, Arran couldn’t the right party for their blends, so they had to wait. And wait. So, they opened visitor center, attracted tourists, and eventually bottled my sample (among others).

You may have noticed that the terms, “peaty” and “smoky” were not in my description of Arran, which is very unusual for an island whisky. That’s the route Arran has taken so far, and that makes it stand out a little bit among island competitors. For its distinctiveness, and it’s taste, Arran is worth a try.

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