Pouring the dram

An unexpected visit during a family holiday in the Isle of Arran… Indeed, the Single Malt Tour can be sometimes difficult to organise: distilleries are very often in remote places, times of the visit, circumstance (like being with kids),… At the time of the visit, it was the only distillery operating on the island, and surely, visiting the distillery and the brewery (and the cheese shop!) of the island is a must for a tourist, right? It’s said that 60,000 visitors are coming in this distillery every year. Let’s try the good old tactic with the partner: ‘ho, a distillery darling, I was unaware it was there, let’s have a look’. She did not buy it… And there was no tour at the time of arrival (the distillery has a visitor centre and a very nice coffee shop and restaurant, with an area for children, with toys!).

So let’s be bold and nice and ask to production staff if I can have a very quick tour… And sometimes it works! It’s a very small distillery, kind of boxed, everything is in the same place. The nice staff accommodated me a quick cheeky visit!

The capacity is 1.2M of pure alcohol per year, the distillery, on the Island producing region (our first one!), is producing unpeated spirit most of the year and roughly a month of peated spirit. The fermentation is rather long giving a very estery flavour to the spirit (2.5 days) with a rather small batch of 2.5T. It has definitely a craft feel.

Situated on the north of the island, in Lochranza, it’s a relatively new distiller: production started in 1995… Therefore, there is not yet a super premium 25/30 years old in the range, but it will surely come! It explains why the range is very much full of NAS pointing on the cask flavour or single casks and there is also a low ABV liqueur (with presumably young spirit),… But with the 10, 12, 14, 18 and 21 years old now full steam on, the cash must be coming in nicely and it seems promising enough for the owner to open another distillery on the island (in Lagg, on the south of the island, it actually starting operating in April 2019, and it also has a visitor centre). Fun fact, during the construction of the Arran distillery, Golden Eagles built their nest and the construction had to stop as it is an endangered specie.

It is owned by Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd, in essence founded by a former Chivas director and is privately owned. The extent of the investment and the amount of working capital needed must be incredible. But when you are starting selling with comfortable amount of stocks, this becomes a cash machine. Arran has a great history of whisky, it is said that, back in the days, there was 50 distilleries (not all of them were legally operating!).

Everything is in the same building so it makes the visit very quick, with a nice cosy atmosphere. Nothing we haven’t seen yet obviously: s mill, one mash tun, 5 wooden washbacks of 15,000L and two pairs of shiny copper stills (6,500L for the wash stills, 4,800L for the spirit stills). Nice clean and shiny.

The standard ABV seems to be 46% which is higher than the competition, especially for 10 to 14 years old. I had a dram of the both, back in the hotel. The 10 years old is a green and zesty dram, with a touch of smokiness. A hint of vanilla and caramel makes it actually very smooth. As per the 14, it feels very tropical and spicy with a honey, biscuit and vanilla finish. A complex, powerful and excellent dram.

A short, but good visit. A nice distillery producing and enjoyable dram and a nice visitor attraction with a great attention to details.

Further reading:

Arran Distillery Website: https://www.arranwhisky.com/

The Arran Distillery – ScotchWhisky.com: https://scotchwhisky.com/whiskypedia/1811/arran/

The Arran Distillery – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arran_distillery

Lagg Distillery officialy begins production: https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/latest-news/25415/lagg-distillery-officially-begins-production/

Arran Distillery – Whisky.com: https://www.whisky.com/whisky-database/distilleries/details/arran.html

Isle of Arran Distillery – Discover Scotland: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/arran/isleofarrandistillery/index.html

Arran Distillery – Flaviar: https://flaviar.com/arran/distillery

Arran Cheese Shop: http://arranscheeseshop.co.uk/

Arran Brewery: https://www.arranbrewery.co.uk/

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