Arran has long been one of my favorite distilleries (it was a lot of fun to visit back in 2013) and the quality of their entry-level 10 Year (well, I think they have an NAS release now, but it's not available in the US) has been a significant part of that. I opened a new bottle for a whisky tasting I held a few months ago as an example of an island whisky that doesn't fit the usual mold of Talisker, Highland Park, or Ledaig.
The 10 Year is made from whisky aged in ex-sherry casks, though I'm guessing that they're all or almost all refill casks as the sherry influence is very mild. It has always been bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration. This bottle appears to have been bottled on 10/05/11, so the flavor profile may have shifted slightly in more recent releases as they have a deeper stock to work with.
Arran 10 Year
Nose: gentle floral-inflected sherry notes over creamy fresh (slightly green) malt, mild oak, raspberries, apples, a bit musky with a touch of Ivory soap, lemon/lime peel, vanilla, cotton candy, and mint. After adding a few drops of water, it become more malt- and oak-focused, reading more like a bourbon cask malt.
Taste: malt sweetness with a thin layer of musky sherry and floral overtones up top, berries and fresh raisins near the front, becoming more malty with a touch of oak around the middle. After dilution it becomes sweeter up front but less sweet at the back, with the sherry fading a bit until the end, with the oak waxing and the malt gets some roasted flavor, making it darker overall.
Finish: malt, sherry residue, grain/oak bitterness, vanilla
While this whisky can occasionally come off as a bit youthful, I think that the somewhat spare nature is fitting with the distillery's philosophy of letting their spirit shine through any cask influence. Arran has almost always put out malt-forward whiskies, which is somewhat rare in the current paradigm of wood-driven releases. I think this would be a good choice for people who enjoy whiskies like Balvenie Doublewood as they both have a similar level of sherry influence.
In comparison to my first go with Arran 10 Year, I didn't find any peat this time and I think that's both because I'm much more tolerate of peat flavors now so my threshold is higher and because I may have been mistaking some of the fresh barley character for peat. I also didn't get any brine, but who knows why. Otherwise my notes from three and a half years ago are pretty consistent, which suggests that Arran 10 Year is a whisky I'll keep coming back to and enjoying, even as I try more new things.
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