Arran Distillery Tour and Tasting

Last weekend I was on the Isle of Arran for a relaxing overnight stay. Arran is a large ayrshire island fairly close to the mainland which is commonly a day trip location for Scottish people looking to experience some of the unique Scottish landscape.

Other than the distillery we visited the following great attractions:

We also took a drive to the bottom end of the island to a village called Lagg. This is where the second distillery is currently being built. When we went past there is a lot of ground work being done for the new distillery building. Additional warehouses for whisky maturation is also on the site and a couple of them seem close to completion.

Before the Tour

Before the tour we walked around the visitor centre which has been renovated earlier this year. The cafe area is on a mezzanine level above which is where we had lunch.

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The cafe was busy with both whisky tourists and locals looking for a family friendly relaxed weekend meal.

There is very few food options in Lochranza and even less dinner options. I can’t help feeling there must be a business case to extend the options hours of the cafe past 5pm and provide meals even to 8pm.

The Tour

The tour at Arran takes around 45 minutes and thankfully the sun came out for the first time all day. After the initial greeting and introduction by our guide our first taste of Arran whisky is handed around. While sipping on the Arran 14 we watched a marketing video about the distillery and its history. An updated version of the video we watched is available on their YouTube account.

The Arran 14 Year old is a lovely mellow sherried dram. It definitely reminds me of a Speyside dram. I have recently been enjoying the Tamdhu 10 so my best explanation is the Arran 14 is a less creamy more spicy version of the Tamdhu.

From here we enter the production building where the whisky is actually made. The process at Arran is condensed into a single floor in a building making an explanation of the process fairly simple for our guide. Arran has very recently had its stills replaced and capacity increased by 100%. Seeing such new stills was something new for me but I was also surprised at how small they are.

Below is a picture of the retired spirit still from the first 20 years of production in the grounds of the distillery. Notice the size of the pot at the bottom of the still which is definitely one of the smaller ones out their.

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And then the four new stills in gleaming copper.

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With the process of whisky production complete and a discussion on what casks are used at Arran it was back to the  bar. If you are interested in the process of making whisky see my blog post on the subject at How is Scotch Malt Whisky Made?

In the bar we discuss the core range of Arran products and try Arran Gold which is a very popular and creamy whisky liqueur.

The Tasting

After the tour we booked into an hour long tasting of four Arran malts in the tasting room. During the tasting we get to pick any four measures from the bar which include core bottles, limited edition bottles and special private cask bottles which aren’t for sale.

Between the two of us we tried:

  • The 18 Year Old
  • The 21st Anniversary Edition
  • The Amarone Finish
  • The Sauternes Finish
  • Private Cask – 7 Year Old for Arran Trust (unpeated malt matured in a ex peated arran cask)
  • Private Cask – 13 Year Old sherry cask owned by Glasgow Whisky Club
  • The Bothy – Batch 2
  • Machrie Moor Cask Strength

Highlights of the tasting included the Amarone finish, the Glasgow Whisky Club cask and the 21st Anniversay edition. The 21st is a great bottle but I would struggle to pay the £150 asking price if I am honest.

Once complete for the day the last port of call is the shop. The distillery cask at the moment is a 16 year old ex bourbon barrel bottled at cask strength. This is slightly younger than I was hoping to pick up since I had heard about 19 and 20 year old bottles being on sale in the past. Not to worry though it was happily picked up along with the Amarone finish and three bottles of the Arran Gold.

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Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my day out to the distillery. The visitor regularly picks up awards as a tourist attraction and you can see why. All the staff I encountered were knowledgeable, friendly and professional. As I had previously said though I would have went back for dinner at the distillery since eating out options are badly limited in Lochranza and the island as a whole.

 

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