Isle of Arran Distillery with Mariella Romano

by Evan

For our recent tasting focused on the the Isle of Arran Distillers, we were lucky enough to have Mariella Romano – Arran’s Global Brand Ambassador – lead us through the lineup.

The Isle of Arran has seen quite a few changes over the last three 25 years, at least when it comes to whisky. In 1995, just outside of Lochranza which is located at the northern tip of the island, the Isle of Arran’s first legal distillery in over a century opened. Now we are in 2019 and a second distillery has just opened on the island, this time at its southern edge in a town called Lagg.

The Lochranza distillery has always focused on distilling unpeated malt, with limited forays into peated malt happening during only very small amount of its operation. The Lagg Distillery, which is also owned by Isle of Arran Distillers, is heading into much more peated territory, making a burly, heavily peated new make spirit that comes off very earthy, fruity, and even mezcal like in style. Islay lovers will have to keep an eye out for futures releases from Lagg once it has whisky to release.

Here is the lineup that Mariella led us through:

Arran Amarone Cask Finish
Finished in Amarone casks sourced from the Veneto region of Italy, this Arran typically aged for a total of around 8 years old. Before finishing the Arran single malt these casks nurtured one of the richest, boldest & most sought after Italian wines. Its time in the barriques has given it a spicier, dark fruity character that marries well with Arran’s malt. 50% ABV.

Arran 18 Year Old
The 18 year old Arran was added to the distillery’s core range in 2016 for its 21st anniversary. Bottled at 46%, un-Chillfiltered and with no colouring added, the Arran 18 year old is created predominantly from carefully selected first and second-fill Ex-Sherry casks. Rich, fruity with some soft spices in style, the 18 year year old Arran represents a great value for its age.

Arran 21 Year Old First Release
The latest core release in the Arran core range is the 21 Year. Matured exclusively in ex-Sherry casks, and bottled at 46% without added colouring or chill-filtering. The first release is just 6,000 bottles blended from a total of 15 casks – all first fill ex-Sherry.

Arran Explorers Series Lochranza Castle
The 2nd release (aka Vol. 2) in the Arran Explorers Series is the Lochranza Castle 21 Year. This is a limited release of 9000 bottles, matured in Sherry Hogsheads and finished Amontillado Sherry Casks. Bottled at 47.2% ABV.

Arran 1996 KWM Cask 559 21 Year Old
One of a pair of new KWM Arran single casks, it was selected by and bottled exclusively for the shop. Distilled June 17th, 1996 and bottled on April 9 2018 at 55.3% after maturing in a Sherry Hogshead. Our first 21 year old single cask of Arran, this would be one of the oldest Arrans ever to come to Canada, save for the other cask we brought in which is 22 years of age!

Arran 1996 KWM Cask 56 – 22 Year Old
One of a pair of KWM Arran single casks, selected by and bottled exclusively for the shop. This 22 year old was distilled February 2nd, 1996, filled into a Sherry Hogshead and bottled on April 9th, 2018, at 51.3%. This is the oldest bottling of Arran whisky to come to Canada! 342 bottles total, though only a dozen or so remain at the time of this blog post!

Arran Machrie Moor
Averaging around 20PPM, it is a moderately peated single malt distilled at the Isle of Arran’s Lochranza distillery, aged entirely in ex-Bourbon casks. It takes the name Machrie Moor from the largest peat bog on the island, which also is an area used often for archaeological digs.

Finishing with the Machrie Moor allowed Mariella to segue into talking about the newly opened Lagg Distillery, giving us an idea of what to expect from the new distillery located on the Southern tip of the Isle of Arran. We are far away from whisky at this point (at least three years of course), but we did get a chance to look at new make spirit from the distillery.

To put it simply: Where the Lochranza Distillery is smooth, elegant and rich – the Lagg spirit is beastly. The malt used is heavily peated at around 50 to 60 PPM, putting it in the realm of Ardbeg. The spirit is distilled with a wide cut for the heart that leaves in plenty of oiliness and giving it a meaty, mezcal-like level of funkiness with a lot of peat and salt. It will be exciting to see how it evolves in cask!

Thank you to Mariella for leading us through a wonderful tasting. Thank you also to Peasant Cheese for providing the snacks and to finish thank you to those that attended.

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