Boom. As in: the current whisky boom. It is something we are experiencing right now. Even as we navigate this post-pandemic world it seems the whisky industry and its boom has remained intact.
As more and more distillers find themselves increasing their distilling capacity year on year, whisky production around the world is falling short as stocks and supplies cannot meet the demand of today’s whisky drinker. Pricing has climbed steadily over the past couple of years. The good times seem like they won’t end any time soon.
However, we can look back as recently as the 1980s, when the whisky industry faced a period of overproduction and overconfidence. Demand for whisky fell, as drinkers tended to favour clearer spirits or wines. The history of that decade makes for grim reading, considering the amount of distillery closures, with many sadly demolished. It makes you wonder if indeed we are heading toward another “crash” in whisky? How long can this boom time last?
Amid closures and overproduction, you’d think the last thing any investor would do would be to open a new whisky distillery in Scotland, never mind opening one on the Isle of Arran. At this stage in the 1990s, no one really anticipated the boom we are currently experiencing.
However, Harold Currie (former director of Chivas) founded Arran distillers, with the distillery opening in 1995 in Locranza. Locranza is a village on Arran, an oval-shaped island on the west coast of Scotland, located west of Glasgow, just east of Mull of Kintyre. Arran is a unique island steeped in a history of illicit distilling, with around 50 distilleries, with the last legally founded distillery (Lagg) closing in 1837.
It isn’t a distillery I have been lucky enough to visit but, looking into the island, it has a low population and seems a popular day trip location during the summer months for those folks based on the west coast. From what I hear, the roads are badly maintained throughout the island. Why, you ask, was a distillery ever built on the island?
“Arran water” was the term given to the illicit liquid that was smuggled across to the mainland at the height of the island’s distilling period. It was then regarded as the best that could be had. Any new distillery needs a good water source for production. So, when Harold Currie sought after a dependable source of water for the Arran distillery, he was helped by a local property owner and his geologist son. Having assessed the water from Loch na Davie, high up Gleann Eason Boirach to the east of Lochranza, they found it to be perfect for their purposes. Supposedly, it is the purest natural water source in Scotland. This water flow ran adjacent to the parcel of land Currie had acquired. It was here that the distillery would be built.
Now, I know that Arran has been covered on Malt in the past, but I felt that the story of the distillery and the history of the island lends itself perfectly to the unique character of the liquid in the Arran Core range… specifically, the Arran 10 year old. Jason did touch on the Arran rebranding here, but I feel a special mention of the branding change needs highlighting.
Looking closer at the label, under the sub-heading of “Single Malt Scotch Whisky,” we can ever so slightly see and feel braille! I haven’t come across such a thing on a whisky label before but think it’s significant and incredible. Arran is not only an affordable and accessible malt to the residents of the UK, but it’s further reached out in its accessibility to those who are visually impaired. The braille says “Arran Single Malt.”
A quick shout out to another maker for introducing such inclusivity for their brand: known Rhone wine producer Michel Chapoutier has paid tribute to his family’s viticulture past by releasing his first braille label in 1996. Since then, all wines for each vintage have been labelled in braille.
Not only are the folks at Arran articulating clearly on the label what’s in the bottle and their clear presentation, but it’s now including and respecting their customer base who are visually impaired. It’s subtle, as is the redesign that Arran have done here. I love it; well done Arran. Another subtle note is the logo design featured on the packaging, bottle label and bottle top, with an image of two eagles and a pot still. This is a nod to the pair of golden eagles that built their nest on a cliff near the distillery at the time of construction.
Like I mentioned above: with this boom we are in, the price of whisky is forever increasing. We chase those bottles that are in high demand, for the pursuit of flavour, experience, and value. Arran, and their 10-year-old, need commended for the standard price for the entry level and the value it brings to us the whisky drinker.
There’s a reason this bottling was nominated in the recent Online Scotch Whisky Awards (the OSWA’s) for “Best Entry Level Single Malt 2021” and “Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky 2021,” winning both categories! It goes to show how this presentation of 46% ABV, natural colour and non-chill filtering is captivating whisky connoisseurs. Arran are to be applauded.
There’s no mention on the bottle or packaging on the type of casks used during maturation. A quick search online gives mixed results, but it’s safe to assume it’s exclusively re-used bourbon casks. Nothing, to me, suggesting another type of cask used for the 10-year-old.
For full disclosure, this bottle was very generously given to me as a birthday present. But you can find it at most online speciality drink retailers. When writing this piece, Amazon UK have this bottle priced at £43.94 (not shipping to Northern Ireland though folks, thanks Brexit), Master of Malt for £37.10, The Whisky Exchange priced at £36.95, and Royal Mile Whiskies have it priced at £38.95.
Arran 10 Years Old – Review
On the nose: Soft and welcoming. Honey sweetness. Toasted malt. It reminds me of the topping of an apple crumble that’s just out of the oven. Tonnes of oats, slight spice with some cooked apple lingering in the background. Sticking with crumble, there’s a vanilla custard or maybe a custard cream biscuit present. Hint of citrus on the back end of the nose.
In the mouth: Pear drops on initial sip. Glorious mouthfeel and grip coming from the ABV. Dense vanilla and honey. The middle of the sip contains a biscuity and roasted malt note. There are sliced green apples and to me, a swell of orange rind as it rounds off. The finish is quite long. That citrus blast remains, with those malty elements and a hint of floral too. Some spice on the finish, I’d say cinnamon and a little ginger; more specifically: ginger nut biscuits.
I love this whisky. It’s so delicate and balanced that it’s a joy to sip. The fact that this malt is presented in such a way, in my opinion, is the standard of which all whiskies should base themselves and display on their core range. It’s easy to sip and doesn’t demand too much of your attention. But it has that complexity there if you want to investigate with a dram and really delve into the flavours on offer. Such a nice mouthfeel on this whisky, with a flavoursome finish that doesn’t want to give up. Well done Arran. This has been a joyful experience and I look forward to trying more of what the core range has to offer.