After last month’s excursion to Islay it is worthwhile staying in the west cost and in the islands. Arran is a unique island known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, for it has all of the scenery of Scotland, with mountains and lowlands, glens, lochs and royal castles. It lies nestled in the nook of the Firsth of Clyde, with Campbelltown on its west and Ayrshire on the main land to the east. It is from there we take this month ‘Malt of the Month’ – the Arran 1998 Vintage.
Arran has a long tradition of distilling but in days long past. There were more than 50 whisky distilleries on Arran, most of them illegal and carefully hidden from the eyes of the taxmen. The malt from Arran was shipped to the mainland and enjoyed by the gentry who regularly “took the Arran waters”. It was acclaimed at the time as the best in Scotland, only rivalled by those from the ‘Glen of Livet’. There are even legends of long-lost hoards of whisky buried to escape the Excise men. Such may be folk lore but the gravestones of men killed in struggles with the gaugers certainly are not. As well as the many illicit stills on the island, three legitimate distilleries are recorded, the last of them closing in 1835.
After 160 years, the guagers have been overcome and a new distillery has been established on the wee Isle. Arran Distillery opened in 1995 and lies below the high mountains in Lochranza Bay. A small distillery, all the equipment is contained in one room and on the same level. Its current operating capacity is 750,000 litres of pure alcohol. The visitor centre was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1997.
The water comes from Loch na Davie, 300 metres up in the hills behind Lochranza.(which means ‘Rowan tree river’ by the way).