I’ve fond memories of Arran—both the distillery and the island. My first visit amounted to a quick in-and-out experience, during a memorable sailing trip which I’ve referenced many times here on Words of Whisky.
A few years after I actually spent a couple of days on the island, this time together with my partner. It was at this point that the island left a lasting impression. We had time to drive and walk around and really explore Arran. I can feel myself relaxing just thinking about it.
James MacTaggart is undoubtedly one of the more recognisable names in the Scotch whisky industry, having spent much of his career at Bowmore before taking over as manager of Isle of Arran Distillery in 2007. He has since overseen the ascension of Arran to become a respected and successful single malt brand. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the distillery is universally loved, but it isn’t far off either.
After ten years of dedicated service, the distillery released a limited edition whisky to celebrate James MacTaggart’s first decade with the distillery. The whisky was a success, both commercially and critically. I suspect that’s why they released a successor, even though MacTaggart hasn’t reached his next milestone yet.
The second edition of Arran’s Master of Distilling series is a 12-year-old single malt, dubbed The Man with the Golden Glass. The whisky matured in Palo Cortado sherry casks handpicked in Spain by James MacTaggart himself. A total of 12,000 bottles were produced.
Arran 12 Years – Master of Distilling II (51.8%, OB, 2019)
Nose: Sweet and very clean, with notes of nougat and fudge, but also some stone fruits like nectarine, as well as a touch of honey, mocha and almond oil. Gentle and well-balanced, except for the burnt coffee beans aroma. Taste: Pretty viscous and winey, almost sauternes like. Dried apricots and figs, as well as a fair amount of walnut skins. It’s also somewhat aggressive and sometimes overtly spicy. Finish: Lingering spices. Shy notes of fruit. Medium in length.
Starts off well enough, but it lacks some integration on the palate. The alcohol is pretty aggressive, making it a seemingly hot and spicy dram. A little too hot sometimes.