On the way to the Campbeltown Festival 2019, we hop over to Arran, now home to two distilleries.
Lochranza village possesses nearly all of life’s crucial needs/services such as a ferry port, an Italian restaurant, a golf course, a castle, a camp sight and most importantly, a distillery! Add a curry house & the supermarket of your choosing and the ‘British Isles dream’ would surely be complete!
After a look round the distillery shop, we ask to try Arran’s exclusives as well as their new make spirit. With thanks to kilted Campbell Laing, we are in luck!
Arran New make spirit  63% WB77
- C: Light & clean yet complex on the nose. There’s body too and even a semblance of a mouthfeel. Fabulous spirit.
Arran 2007/2019 11yo Ob. Distillery Exclusive bourbon cask #828 [btl #48/214] 58.4% WB86
- C: That first-fill cask sure does talk but the family resemblance alongside the new make is clear. Honest, clean dram.
Scores 83 points
Arran 1997/2019 21yo Ob. Distillery Exclusive sherry cask #1083 [btl #248/273] 53.9% WB86
- C: A simple, all-sherry cask whisky that’s reluctant to open up. Pricey too at £180.
Scores 81 points
Fortunately, Campbell was able to squeeze us in on the back of the afternoon tour, led by Mark.
In 1825, there were three legal distilleries on Arran including one situated at Lagg. The distillery at Lagg was the last to close leaving Arran distillery-less by 1837. When the Arran Distillery at Lochranza was established in 1995, it was the island’s first legitimate distillery in over 150 years.
The emergence of the Arran Distillery in 1995 was the beginning of the new wave of distilleries now popping up with increased frequency in the new millennium. At the time, Arran was the first distillery to be established in Scotland for 20 years.
The desire for Arran Distillery founder Harold Currie [SW], was to make a Speyside-style whisky on the island, with a character similar to Macallan. Since Harold’s death in 2016, the distillery has been overseen by his youngest son Paul Currie, also managing director of Lakes Distillery [report to follow].
When Arran was built, they planned for 40000 visitors per year. Last year , we were told they received visitor numbers exceeding 120,000. Whilst visitor numbers are increasing however, production is dropping. We hear there is a storage issue, but mainly it’s because resources are being re-focused on Lagg Distillery.
Our tour starts with a dram & a video. After an ominous start, the video turns out to be a good ‘un, much of it centred around the progress at Lagg:
- C: This consists of an undisclosed bourbon > sherry ratio but it tastes like an all-bourbon matured barley sugar dram with a firm honey & citric tannic-dry bitter hit note on the palate. Many quibbles are addressed with water.
Scores 79 neat, 82 points with water.
Back at the bar, we get offered two more expressions from the core range.
- C: Well worth the maturation jump from 10 to 14 years. Both this and the 10yo share the sour citrus & barley sugar character. Additionally, cocoa notes [amongst others], help shape the form and honeyed bitter lemon finish. We are told the 14yo is likely to be discontinued, so grab your bottle while you can.
Scores 83 points
- C: I had this in March and liked it very much [Blog87]. This appears to be a softer/tamer batch [or bottle], with a shorter finish.
Scores 85 points
It’s pleasing to see Arran largely resisting the varied smoke & mirrors cask finishes currently being over-deployed in Scotland and beyond. Their spirit is excellent and deserves decent maturation from more refill casks.
Whilst on the island, we sneak into Lagg which a few weeks ago [end of May 2019], was still a building site. We get a quick glimpse of the still house [left] and warehousing [right], before being escorted out by hard hats.
Lagg Distillery is situated very near to the remnants of the last remaining distillery on Arran that closed in 1837. The new distillery will make peated whisky in keeping with the previous distillery’s style.