Arran is often described as “Scotland in miniature,” but that moniker didn’t fully fit until 1995 when Isle of Arran Distillers opened as the island’s first legal whisky maker. Located just up the road from a romantic loch, with the ruins of Lochranza Castle moldering eerily on the shore, the distillery undertakes the entire process, from mashing to distillation, in a single large room—perfect for visitors to understand whisky making in-depth.
Among other qualities, Arran is known for its robust cask-finishing program, experimenting with everything from amarone to marsala; the best, like the port cask-finished, have gone on to become permanent offerings. A recent refresh across the lineup has added three non-age statement expressions—Barrel Reserve, The Bodega sherry cask-matured, and The Bothy quarter cask-matured—in addition to the core 10 year old, which represents the baseline for the distillery’s ripe fruit and clean malt flavors; there are also 18 and 21 year old offerings. In 2019, the company opened a second distillery, Lagg, on the island’s south side, dedicated to making only peated whisky; look for the first bottlings in a few years.
Although Arran is in the middle of the Firth of Clyde, getting there is easy. A train from Glasgow connects with the ferry to the island, and there’s surprisingly steady bus service to get around once you’re there. But because it’s not as popular a destination as larger islands such as Islay and Skye, Arran is relatively undiscovered—just like its whisky. For now, at least.
Arran 10 year old
92 points, 46% ABV, $60
Full-bodied and packed with flavors of crème brûlée, pipe tobacco, baking spices, and lemon.