It seems like everyone in Scotland is getting in on the brand refresh game these days, including Arran — no longer “The Arran” — which is one of just a few whiskies found on the Isle of Arran, a small island nestled between Campbeltown and Glasgow.
Despite the refreshed and re-labeled range, Arran continues to field a wide range of single malts and blends (including two confusingly named after Robert Burns) and even a cream liqueur. We’re just dipping a toe in the lineup today, including fresh looks at three of its most widely available whiskies.
Arran Barrel Reserve – “American oak, natural colour.” NAS single malt aged in bourbon barrels. A bit brash on the nose, slightly musty at times, but overall straightforward — with a strong focus on cereal and a lesser emphasis on the barrel. The palate is quite a bit sharper than expected, and had I not known otherwise I would have guessed there was a touch of sherry influence in this bottling due to the rush of citrus peel and a lingering lemon character. That fades with time as it develops on the palate, eventually revealing a more smoldering character of sesame oil, sandalwood, and a pinch of pepper. Gently salty — just barely — with a slightly tarry finish. It’s a fine whisky considering the price, but it’s nowhere near as evocative as Arran’s other expressions can be. 86 proof. B / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]
Arran 10 Years Old (2022) – We last reviewed this whisky in 2012. Today the whisky is sweeter than I recall, the honey and nougat characteristics more immediate and vibrant on both nose and palate. Fresh, heathery granary notes give the palate a sense of the earth, with rolling notes of sweet breakfast cereal, a spritz of grapefruit peel, and just the lightest hint of rosemary. Definitely nutty on the finish, though my mention of almond notes 10 years prior is less distinct today, perhaps owing to the healthy slug of sweet honey that gives the whisky its exuberance. A light touch of green herbs returns on the finish — again, evoking rosemary. Arran 10 may not be overwhelming in its complexity — but it is, to be sure, tough to put down. It’s a stellar base for elevated Scotch cocktails, too. 92 proof. A- / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]
Arran Robert Burns Single Malt – Another NAS single malt, vatted from a variety of casks of different ages. Immediately a bit earthier than the prior releases, here we find Arran tempering the sweetness and letting the barrel do a little more of the talking. Despite its approachable 43% abv, the whisky hits the nose with a touch of booziness, gently winey with notes of tanned leather and baking spice evident. Again, lots of cereal is prominent, but here it’s more brooding and aromatically dense. The palate offers no surprises, a big cereal bomb with gentle, honey-laced sweetness, a leathery kick on the back end, and a note of tobacco and some pungent green herbs on the finish. Take the Barrel Reserve and slap it around a bit with oak staves and you’ve got the idea: It’s got more going on, yet somehow this expression is a bit less expensive. 86 proof. B+ / $43 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]