Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Battle Of Arran: Tasting Independent Bottlers; Chapter 7 & The Single Cask's Arran 19 yrs

Arran Distillery was founded in 1995 by Harold Currie, and build as the only remaining distillery on the Isle of Arran. For a long haul the only widely available Arran expressions was a NAS expressions, first released in 1998 when the whisky had matured for three years.

At first Arran was build without a maltmill or visitor center. Arran simply bought their ready maid grist from outsiders until 2007 where their maltmill was installed; allowing them to produce their own malted barley. In 1997 their visitor center was build, which since has been awarded “distillery visitor experience of the year” two times in a row, in 2014 and 2015.

In 2009 a new warehouse with a total capacity of 3.000 casks was added to the old warehouse. Arran produces around 500,000 liters of whisky per year. Arran recently announced that they are building a second and new distillery of the south of the island, alongside a second visitor center and warehouses, which allows Arran to produce 1.2 million liters of whisky per year.  

You really had to get out of bed early, to catch up with all the different expressions Arran has released through the years, counting more limited edition releases than I can keep track of, including their most legendary The Devil’s Punchbowl; Chapter 1 – 3 and The Illicit Stills; Volume 1 – 3 (Part three haven’t been released yet), and have done a impressive series of double matured finished whiskies, like Port, Bordeaux, Rum, Cognac, Sherry, Amarone, Madeira, and plenty of more that I don’t really care to list here, but personally I was a big fan of the old Madeira Cask; The Illicit Stills vol.1 not so much.

But lately it seems that Arran has settled more down - sought off - and found its place, and have had the years to build its core range, now includes their 10, 14 & 18 years old, and their Robert Burns Single Malt and Robert Burns Blend (Arran is a patron of the World Burns Federation). Beside those, their yearly limited editions releases are their Machrie Moor Single Malt and Machrie Moor Single Malt Cask Strength Edition and their Bothy Quarter Cask Edition, and Oh, right now; Port, Sauternes, Madeira and Amarone Cask Finish. Not to forget their Lochranza Reserve NAS whisky. Well, never mind the “settled more down” sentence.  

Arran is owned by The Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd. Who basically are a group of private shareholders, with distillery manager James MacTaggart in front.

The Battle:

Both fighters are 19 year old and costs around $117 USD - which by the way is a very fair price for a 19 year old whisky. The Single Cask’s Arran clocks in at 45,8 % and are coming up against Chapter 7’s hard hitting Arran at none the less than 51,5 % ABV. Both whiskies are from a single cask, non chill-filtered/no added colouring, just as yours truly likes em.

On a side note;
All things considered, it’s pretty funny that Arran released their first ever 18 year old core range whisky last year (February 2016) the same year that Arran celebrated its 21st anniversary, and here we have Independent bottlers Chapter 7 & The Single Cask offering none the less than a 19 year old expressions of Arran.

Chapter 7. Cask 1381.
Arran 1996 – From a single Cask

Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Non Chill-Filtered/No added colouring

Distillery: Arran
Bottler: Chapter 7
Region: Islands
Age: 19 Years Old
Proof/ABV: 51,5%
Distilled: 1996
Dk price: $117USD/780Dkk.  
Release: Limited 269 bottles release.

Points: 88/100

Wonderful nose! No alcohol burn despite the high ABV. Very nutty upfront, newly picked hazelnuts to be exact. Followed by scents of sweet malt, hay and a bit of orange marmalade.
Hot and vanilla sweet at the same time. If wild blueberries were salty they would taste exactly like this Arran.

Star anise or maybe more like licorice root, that I’m usually not a big fan off, but its very well integrated here. Long finish that lingers on a salty note.  

Overall impression:
This cask works wonders, and I get why Chapter 7 picked this particular Arran over others. Despite its age and the high ABV, I don’t get that musty flavor that some older whiskies hold. There’s no unpleasant burn to be found at all, and the flavors complement each other perfectly. 

The Single Cask. Cask 1607
Arran 1996 – From a single Cask – 19 yrs

Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Non Chill-Filtered/No added colouring

Distillery: Arran
Bottler: The Single Cask
Region: Islands
Age: 19 Years Old
Proof/ABV: 45,8%
Distilled: 14-10-1996
Bottled: 16-06-2016
DK price: $113USD/750Dkk.  
Release: Limited 102 bottles release

Points: 72/100

A fistful of dry allspices and cardamom are dominating the nose.

Very earthly with herbal/grassy notes and a bit of tobacco leaves in the back seat.

It finishes on a medium long, unpleasant single sharp note of overly bitter black Ceylon tea.

Overall Impressions:
This Arran is simply to “down to earth” and its flavors to divided and pinned out for my liking. 

Conclusion (If Any):

Same amount of years in a barrel, from the same distillery and from a single cask, but Oh SO very different. It really is amazing how different a whisky from a single cask can be. If I didn’t already knew up front, that both whiskies are from the same distillery, I would never have bet my money on it. Chapter 7’s Arran is just my kind of whisky, where The Single Cask’s Arran just rubs me the wrong way. But up until 2009, where Arran’s new warehouse was finally build, a proportion of Arran’s casks were stored in Springbank’s warehouses, which I do believe plays and important factor on these two whiskies. I would really like to know which of the two warehouses Chapter 7 and The Single Cask bought their barrels from.

Reviews By: Hasse Berg

Photos by: (All rights reserved)

Son of Winston Churchill has kindly been granted permission to use the photos in this review.