Category Archives: Arran

L’shanah Tovah! Happy new year! Some whisky suggestions for you…

Tonight starts the Jewish New Year – the holiday, as most of you know, is called Rosh Hashanah (which translated from Hebrew means: “Head of the year” or the “Start of the year”).

There are some traditional foods people eat during the new year:

  • Apples
  • Honey (dipping the apples in honey then eating the, is done as a symbolic way of welcoming the new year & hoping that it is a “sweet” one)
  • A round shaped Challah bread (round to symbolize the circle of life)

What I’d like to suggest is a whisky accompaniment or alternative to these foods.

Why an accompaniment?  Well, you might like to pair whisky with what you’re eating.  Why an alternative?  Maybe you’re not Jewish or maybe you are Jewish but don’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah or you’re not a traditionalist.  Or perhaps I’m just doing this for fun.  Either way, I think there are some good whisky equivilents to the three traditional foods so I wanted to share them with you:

To accompany or replace Apples:

Arran 14yo – Islands region – 46%ABV – $70 | £38 | €45

On the nose Big, big apples!  Wow!


Malty goodness.

Getting fruitier, this time a bit more tropical…mango and star fruit.

Caramel syrup.

A big fat fruity & juicy nose that makes me very happy!

On the mouth Fizzy-fizzy goodness (however I was hoping for a slightly chewier mouthfeel).

More floral in taste as compared to the nose.

Interesting…  Malt, top notch belgian beer (Duvel, my favorite).

Youthful notes – I’d love to taste what the new make spirit is like, my guess is that it’s strong personality is showing through to the final product.

Turkish delights minus the nuts.

Rose water.

A nice saltiness here.

Cereal notes.

Apple peels.  Dried apples.

Finish — Lasting, still fizzy.  A briny & fruity finish.


To accompany or replace Honey:

Balvenie 15yo Single Cask – Speyside – 47.8%ABV – 750ml – $55-65 | £47 | €55

On the nose The higher ABV for this one is dead on.  Most whiskies from the Balvenie are released at 43%ABV (in the US — 40%ABV elsewhere).

Big bright fruits peaches (in white wine) & cantaloupe.

Marzipan – sharp almond notes.

Thai yellow curry & lightly buttered couscous (even getting some lime leaf here).

And floating on top of it all, those classic Balvenie honeyed notes.

On the mouth Pure honey and citrus.

Great mouth feel – thick and sweet but not overly so.

The sweetness is pushed aside and now there a nice tapioca pudding quality to this.

Hints of water cured ginger.

A slight brininess to this.

Finish There’s a fizziness throughout my entire mouth and lingering citrus and honey notes.

A delicious nuttiness returns (reminiscent of the marzipan note from before though, less sharp).


To accompany or replace Challah:

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – 50%ABV – 750ml bottle – $20 | £25 | €30

On the nose Initial few whiffs are very deceiving offering up softer notes of buttered crumpets and dark chocolate.

After nosing is for a bit longer, however, the bite starts to kick in and great vanilla and blueberry notes (yay rye whiskey!) pop as do gingerbread cookies and cinnamon sticks.

A great nose though very stinging (I like that – it lets me know I’m still alive and kicking).

If the ABV weren’t so high I could continue to nose the shit out of this one.

On the mouth The entry here is soft (yes, even at 50% ABV) and the fluid feels, not tastes, feels like thick Kool-aid drink – take a Kool-Aid packet and add about 10% less water and that’s the feel you get.

Starts off like over-cooked butter then gets earthy.  Fresh soil and crystalized ginger – Oh, this is getting stronger, and stronger – alcohol infused flan – Oh, this is good.

Finish Long and longer.  Strong and stronger.

True, this last one may not have the notes of Challah bread but there are those bready notes which are just fantastic and the finish, with it being long & strong, represents my wish for you:

May you all “Live Long and Prosper”

(Leonard Nimoy is a Jew so I can get away with this).

1996 Arran Premier Sherry Single Cask exclusively for the US market

Islands Region – Single cask limited bottling, 165 bottles total (and interestingly low number of bottles from a single cask…), first-fill Oloroso Sherry, Cask # 1785 – 56%ABV – $125 (or so)

Apologies for letting a week or so pass by with out a post/review.  It’s that busy time of year where I’m out on the road; sales calls, trade shows, training seminars, etc…

OK, enough with the apologies, let’s get talking about whisky.  One thing I’d like to call to your attention on today’s post is the title of today’s post.  More specifically, the last five words in the title of today’s post: “…exclusively for the US market”.  While many brands out there seem to focus on special releases for Duty Free, the French market, etc…  Arran seems to be doing a bang up job sending the US some special release stuff.  Most notably, single cask releases.  True, the US did not get any of the “Icons of Arran” such as the Peacock, The Rowan Tree or The Westie.  And no, we did not see the beautiful “Sleeping Warrior“.

However, being that more and more single cask product (E.G. Single Ex-Bourbon, 8yo Sherry Cask bottling and today’s topic, the Premier Sherry Cask) is being sent our way, my guess/hope is that we’ll also start seeing more of the other “limited” releases sent our way – at least a small portion of the bottlings.  Fingers crossed!

A wise man once told me that the Arran spirit is perhaps too light and delicate to do well in a first fill sherry casks for an extended period of time.  This whisky is 15yo and was matured for that entire length of time in a first-fill Oloroso sherry butt.  Hmmm, let’s see how the spirit held up:

Color Really dark – perhaps the darkest I’ve seen in an Arran whisky.  Dark yet translucent, deep brown fluid.  Like an Oloroso sherry.  The picture of the bottle shown above does not do the liquid justice in the color department.

On the nose  Sticky cherry sauce followed by green apples – super fresh and very prominent.

Caramel and coriander notes are found here too.

Sherry soaked angel food cake (if there were such a thing).

Very hot and alcoholic nose.

Celery leaves then something slightly acrid (highly browned fruits perhaps) but yet… fitting and very pleasant in the context.

Water balloons (sans the water) – nice little rubbery notes.

On the mouth Chocolates and chilis and loads (loads!) of stewed prunes and chocolate sauce.

Assorted dried fruits and even a little banana.

Sugared and sweet black plums.

More apples and way in the back, some saltiness and even some notes of plum pudding (and… tobacco??).

Ooey melted caramel.  Really quite scrumptious.

Finish  Lasting warmth and just the right amount of drying.  Salty yet sweet.

In sum There’s a reason Arran has been making headlines and headway within the community of whisky drinks but this is not it.

Actually, this takes Arran in another direction but it only helps to show that the Arran spirit can do well in sherry casks — it can hold its own as a heavily sherried whisky.

I’d suggest this whisky as an after dinner treat.  It’s an indulgence – grab the bottle and a glass, hide yourself away with a book, maybe a warm fire and a little plate of turkish delights and, enjoy some YOU time.

Top notch stuff.  Arran, I tip my hat to you.

Special thanks goes out to Andy H for the sample!

Arran “Sleeping Warrior” limited bottling

Islands Region – Limited to 6,000 bottles – 54.9%ABV – $78 | £57

Day one of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society’s whisky tour will bring us to the Isle of Arran.  At only 15yrs, and as you might know, Arran is one of Scotland’s youngest distilleries.  Young as they are, the whiskies they’re releasing are top notch and they’re surely making a name for themselves.  A good, good name for themselves.

This whisky is limited and only 6,000 bottles were made available.  6,000 might sound like a lot of bottles but these releases really sell out quite fast.

According to Arran, “A donation from every bottle sold of The Sleeping Warrior will be made to The National Trust for Scotland to help maintain the footpaths on Goatfell, Arran’s highest peak, for the enjoyment of all.”

So, if you want to buy a new whisky and feel like you’re contributing to a good cause, this might be it.

On the nose  Quite obvious, this is an Arran whisky as it’s got a good deal of salt and brine upfront.

Melting milk chocolate with something bitter in here as well (perhaps some bitter sweet dark cherries).

Walnuts and breakfast food gristle sitting in the edges on the frying pan.

Blood oranges and to top it off, malt and lots of it!

On the mouth Tip-top mouthfeel!  Reminiscent of the mouthful I got on the 11yo, 15yr Arran Anniversary malt.

Warmed apple and caramel (or vice versa.  Either way, I’m reminded of a state fair caramel covered apple).

So. Very. Warming.

Nutty (let’s hope you don’t have any nut allergies!).

Oily, savory yet sweet.

Baked pears, cinnamon & nutmeg, salted caramels.  This is yummy.

Finish Milky cafe latte that warms you from head to toe on a cold late autumn of early winter night.

In sum Perfect for colder days when your loved ones aren’t around for you to snuggle up with.  Love the one you’re with – love this Arran!  I have to say, this is perhaps my 2nd favorite Arran after that 11yo, 15yr Anniversary Arran I mentioned earlier.

Special thanks goes out to Andy Hogan for the sample!

Arran 11yo Single ex-bourbon cask – Absolute deliciousness.

Islands Region – Cask #650 – 57.6%ABV – $85 | £46

Just over a month ago, the Connecticut chapter of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society (or at least a part of it) had the distinct honor of having Andy Hogan of the Arran Malt Distillery host a tasting for us.

Twenty-two people gathered together to taste, experience and explore a collection of Arran’s best whiskies.  We had some people trek a good way to be a part of our tasting.  Joe H from Boston and Stephen M from Providence (and of Malt Impostor fame) both drove about 2.5 hours to join us.  Thanks guys!! Great having you there!  Also, Andy flew all the way from Scotland to be with us – Thank you, Andy!!

Andy did a wonderfully fantastic job taking us through his whiskies; teaching us about Arran as well as the ins and outs of Scotch Whisky in general.  We learned, we laughed, we tasted, we had a blast.  Mr. Hogan brought with him 6 different whiskies: Arran 10yo, Arran 14yo, Machrie Moor (peated Arran whisky), Arran Amarone Cask, a very secret Arran whisky that’s never been bottled (but was totally delicious; perhaps the 2nd favorite of the night) and lastly, this here whisky — an 11yo Single Ex-bourbon cask (first fill).  This whisky was the easily favorite of the night.  I liked it so much I bought two bottles!

Here are my notes:

On the nose Intense notes of banana peels and salted green apple skins.

A bit of nail polish remover (in a nice way).

Fresh-fresh coconut shreds & chunks followed by spiced anjou pears and lemons.

Delicious warmed rice pudding.  Fresh, uncut green grass.

All of these notes are incredibly strong — this is a no holds barred nose.

I’ll have to take this one by the horns and ride the rodeo.  Next up, the taste…

On the mouth Chewy, thick, oily mouth feel with loads of warmed caramels and gooseberry jam.

Back to the grassy notes (fresh grass) but there’s a great note of sassafras in here – hey now!

Buttered butter beans and green beans.

Back to the savory chewy/candied notes: candied walnuts, toffee and salted caramels.

An intense malty & oaky note creeps in (not sure how I missed it from the start.  It basically slapped me in the face just now).

A good deal of vanilla as well.

FinishVery long with notes of malt and the sassafras I got on the palate.

In sum While delicious, this whisky is not to be taken lightly.  I might suggest it be diluted by a little bit of water if you feel you need it (however it is not required).  To be enjoyed at dusk just as it starts to get a little cooler and almost sweatery.

The Arran “Westie” – Icons of Arran III

Islands Region – 46%ABV – £41 – Limited to 6,000 bottles – not available in US stores.

I’m more of a cat man, really.  There’s something about dogs that I just can’t get behind.

Is it the drooling?  The constant need for attention?  The messy clean-ups of poop and pee-pee?  Wait a sec, sounds more like I’m describing one of my girls when they were infants (and I sort of like them…).

I do like dogs, please don’t get me wrong.  Perhaps it’s more a love for cats and NOT for dogs.  A good cat will hop upon your lap and purr away whilst you do whatever; watch TV, sip on a malt, work on your computer.  S/he’ll also not give a crap if you and the family need to go on vacation for a few days.  Just put out some fresh water and food and make sure there’s some clean kitty litter and poof, you’re on your way.

I can not argue, however, with Mr. James MacTaggart for choosing his dog Ruaraidh (pronounced Roo-Ree) as one of the icons of Arran; especially if I’ll be meeting them both this August!

The man loves his dog.  I can respect that.  I love Arran whiskies.  It’s a win-win.

If it were me however, the name of my Icon would be dedicated to my now passed cat: Asswípé (pronounced ass-we-pay, folks!).  To the left is a mock up of what the packaging would look like.

If you don’t know how to pronounce his name, calling the whisky “The Asswípé” might be taken as just plain rude.  I think I’d call it “Meow Malt”

So, what is the Arran “Westie”?  It’s a marriage of 22 ex-oloroso sherry refill casks bottled at 46%ABV and like ALL Arran whiskies, non-chill filtered and with no caramel coloring.

On the nose Immediately fruity with sour cherries and sugared mango.

Crushed walnuts, shell and all.

Back to the fruits: pineapple, tangerine and watermelon pith.

Very sweet nose.

This is a fun one to jam your schnoz in to.

Spongey and orangey angel food cake as well as some sort of waxy saltiness to it.

On the mouth Great mouthwatering entry that’s both warming and puckeringly sweet.

The perfect mixture that is sharp cheddar and dried apricots.

Incredibly malty and full of vanilla and caramels.

I keep picturing in my head a bowl full of vanilla bean ice cream with melted caramel – perhaps even some banana.

Maybe it’s in my head but I totally want banana splits right now.

Finish Malty, waxy medium length.

In sum A great example of how good Arran can be, even when they veer a bit from their house style (or what I envision their house style to be).  A solid any day/any time whisky but might work nice as a woodsy morning malt – wake up, get out of the camping tent, smell the fresh mountain air and pour a dram with your camping pals.  Start your morning right.

A big thank you goes out to Andy H for the sample!