Here at Caskstrength, we have a distinct soft spot for the Arran distillery.
Back in 2011, when we decided to embark on our epic journey into the A-Z of Whisk(e)y, we began with A for Arran- a particularly fine 14 year old expression in our opinion, which quickly sold out.
The Arran itself was deliciously light in character, full of orchard fruit, caramel malt and zest. When looking at the range of Arrans available We wouldn't hesitate to recommend the 10 year old to anyone looking to experience a single malt for the very first time (a steal at around £30) and the 14 year old continues to develop the distinctly fruity softness to another degree.
In fact, we came to associate Arran with the flavours of summer, despite there being a host of other more robust offerings including a host of sherry and wine finishes available, alongside the lighted peated Machrie Moor and the spicy, slightly spirity Devil's Punch Bowl.
The distillery's newest offering, a 17 year old, is the oldest expression to date (continuing the countdown to next year's 18 year old, after the official release of a 16 year old last year) and marks another turning point in the its very own spirited journey. But rather than focus on the full fat, buttery rich sweetness of first fill bourbon to give all those lovely light summery notes, this release is made up from sherry hogsheads.
So where does it fit into the canon of current releases?
Well, the good(ish) news is that it isn't a million miles from any of the previous ones...
Arran - 17 Year Old - 46% - RRP £65
Nose: Undeniably sweet from the get go, with a clean malty cereal note, tangy orange zest, a hint of golden syrup, some hazelnuts and a little liquorice. It isn't the most complex 17 year old you're likely to encounter and shares a lot of the hallmarks with the distillery's younger expressions.
Palate: Slightly sharp initially, but with a return of the orange zest, a little spiced sugar syrup, more chopped nuts, fragrant marzipan and green apple. Given time, the orchard fruits we have come to expect develop with soft white peaches and pears coming to the fore. Again, it isn't the boldest palate you'll encounter, but it is certainly in-keeping with the Arran we have grown to love.
Finish: Slightly short, with lingering chopped hazelnuts and a touch of liquorice.
Overall: Anyone hanging on for Arran's ascent into the realms of deep, dark complexity will be sorely disappointed. But in our opinion, that is unlikely to happen any time soon. The distillery has set its stall out as a characteristically light, easy drinking whisky and, wait for it... they have easily achieved this again with the 17 year old. For the price, you are getting a very dependable and well made whisky (given the cost of the numerous No Age Statement whiskies out there). It may lack the bold touches other distilleries achieve at this age but with spring definitely joyfully bounding around like a puppy full of penny sweets, whiskies like this most certainly come into their own.