This evening, I tasted for the first time an Arran 14 year-old, or any whisky from this distillery for that matter. That is the thing when you’re still quite a newbie in the whisky amateur world: you still have the joy of discovering something new for you, though you may have prejudice, but sometimes you’ll regret starting this late, especially with today’s prices and secondary market. Not that it’s a problem for this dram though, fortunately.
Being or more exactly becoming a whisky amateur, becoming passionate about whisky, is a double-edged sword. When you start, and I still consider myself starting after tasting around 350 different whiskies in my life, you can be amazed at the sheer choice of distilleries, bottles, blends, independent bottlers, maturations, finishes, everything.
In 2018, 128 distilleries were licenced to distil whisky in Scotland alone, with new ones opening every other week. And it’s just Scotland. It’s also booming in Ireland, Japan, the US of A, France, everywhere. So for someone wanting to discover all there is about whisky (and whiskey, and bourbon!), there’s so much choice, so many possibilities, so many reasons to have… a very bad relationship with your bank advisor.
You can also discover maturations, ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, virgin wood and many other not-always-great-ideas-woods. Or finishes. And you can also begin to do verticals, where you taste several releases from a single distillery to discover their range, or their spirit from independent bottlers.
However, being a newbie like me is also some kind of problem: you missed a lot, and I mean, A LOT. You missed the time when you could buy a Karuizawa for £150, or a Port Ellen, or any whisky from a now lost but mythic distillery now closed for ever (or not, as Diageo is reviving Brora and Port Ellen for example), and if you do want to get one, you have to be prepared to sell a kidney or two or three (do you have kids? 😉 ) to be able to afford one on secondary market (for example whisky auctions).
And since you didn’t taste much, you may have trouble identifying the core of a distillery, how is its distillate, it’s true nature hidden behind sometimes a wood way too active. Or even discerning what the heck is hidden in the nose or on the palate as you just smell and taste whisky and can’t distinguish much, since your nose, your palate and your memory are completely untrained.
And don’t start me on being an amateur whisky blogger as an hour ago I was staring at a blank page thinking about creating a “quick notes” category used when I don’t have the slightest idea what to write about before giving my tasting notes. Anyway, by chance I got an idea, and now let’s see to those notes!
Arran 14 year-old
The 14 year-old was in the middle of Arran’s stated age core range, between the 10 year-old and the 18 year-old, but disappeared from their new range since the design and range revamp. Bottled at 46%, it is non-chill filtered and natural-coloured. You can buy it in France for about 50€, or £45 in the UK, if you can still find it.
The color is Eiswein.
Aniseed candy cane! Eucalyptus, mint, vanilla swirl together in a refreshing way, before aniseed comes on the front again. Some floral notes are also present but I can’t name them, joined by wet grass and the smell of air after a storm.
The arrival is sweet but with a twist, like candied orange and ginger, then spices kick in with pepper and ginger. More bitter notes follow with oak, coffee, dark chocolate and a hint of grapefruit. It gets a bit more pepperish over time, with more oak and a touch of nutmeg on the back palate.
The finish is medium long, with pepper, grapefruit, and that aniseed candy from the nose.
I was quite surprised by the immediate aniseed candy cane nose that brought me back to when I was maybe 10 year-old and how much I loved (and still do) those aniseed candy cane. The nose is refreshing, with a good palate too and enough complexity to be a satisfying dram without being expensive. Many friends told me they liked Arran, now I understand why.
With thanks to Bouliii for the sample!