Well 2014 is off to a flying start. Andy and I had a great break with our families and we certainly hope you did as well. And now – with livers cleansed, we embark on a new year of whisky exploration and appreciation. What better way to kick off our 2014 offerings than with a BIG whisky – and in that spirit we’re lashing out with none other than a cask-strength offering – the Arran 12 year old Cask Strength. For those who are unsure of what this means in a technical sense, we’ll cover that in a few paragraphs time. What it does mean is that this whisky is a whopper – both in flavour and in alcohol content. So hold on to your hats, have your comfiest chair ready and get ready for a whisky that demands attention.
The Arran distillery was founded in 1995, which makes it one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland. It was the first legal distillery on the Isle of Arran since 1837. It should be noted though, that more than 50 illegal stills were working in various hidden locations on the island in the early 19th century. So whisky production isn’t exactly in the experimental/developmental stage here. In fact, the Islands whisky producers (both legal and illicit) have enjoyed the reputation of producing some of the best whisky in Scotland. The islanders of Arran like to boast they have the purest water in Scotland and claim that this water, plus the warm ‘micro-climate’ are two contributing factors to the island’s reputation for great whisky. We’re not sure just how ‘warm’ the micro-climate is though, with the Isle of Arran’s average summer temperature hovering around 14 degrees C. But we are sure that with temperatures like this – the Isle of Arran offers an ideal dramming climate.
Arran is a truly independent distillery owned by a small group of share holders rather than a faceless corporation which is all too rare these days so worth supporting, especially when they produce such lovely whiskies.
This Arran 12 year old cask strength is special because it is a cask strength. It is 53.6% abv. All whiskies when they are put into casks, are stored at 63.5% abv. It is the number that the excise men decided on years ago, and that’s what is was, is and shall always be. But this whisky isn’t 63.5% its only 53.6%, so where did the rest go? Well the angels take their share, as the alcohol slowly evaporates out of the casks. The older a whisky is, the higher the angel’s share, the lower the alcohol percent. If the whisky gets too old if it gets below 40%, it can no longer be sold as whisky in Scotland. This is why 30+ years whiskies are so rare and so expensive.
The high alcohol of Arran 12 year old cask strength is obvious on the nose. The aromas are quite subdued when first poured into the glass, however add a little water and the aromas start to emerge. Taking the spirit in straight has a lot of heat and punch on the pallet. It is full intensity, and I found a little to much for me, although some like this strength. Adding a little water though makes the whisky more inviting – and full of fresh flavours like crispy apples and pears, rich aromatic spice, toffee and black tea.