Starting with Batch #3 Arran switched their 12 Year Cask Strength release from all sherry casks to a mix of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks. While they stopped giving information about the relative proportion of each cask type, they have settled into a steady pattern of first-fill ex-sherry butts, refill ex-sherry hogsheads, and first-fill ex-bourbon barrels for the components.
This whisky was bottled at 52.9% without coloring or chill filtration.
Thanks to my mother for letting me snag a sample after I gifted her this bottle for Christmas.
Arran 12 Year Cask Strength Batch #5
Nose: strong but not overwhelming bourbon cask influence (caramel, oak, vanilla), clean Arran malt, subtle sherry, light floral notes. After adding a few drops of water the sherry is amplified and integrates with the other notes, an earthy dankness, fresh apples, Middle Eastern-associated spice notes, and a touch of cured meat appear, the oak is a bit stronger, and it is drier overall,
Taste: malt and wood sweetness throughout, undergirding oak, wood spices, floral notes, and slightly dank sherry appear around the middle, creamy caramel and dark chocolate with a bit of pineapple near the back. After dilution the sherry comes in immediately and is much stronger, while retaining the creamy malt and bourbon cask character underneath, and the wood becomes spicier.
Finish: sherry residue, sweet malt, bittersweet oak, dark chocolate, floral/herbal
In comparison to Batch #2, the bourbon casks in this version are very noticeable. There's more vanilla and the malt is a more significant component as there is less sherry influence to cover it up. Overall this puts it more in line with their standard 10 Year and 14 Year expressions, which are also combinations of sherry and bourbon casks. While I think they've achieved an excellent balance and the sherry can be amplified by adding a touch of water, if you were a fan of the more sherry-driven earlier releases this might not hit the mark quite as well. On the other hand, I tried the two batches side by side when the bottle were first opened and Batch 5 was much more drinkable from the start, whereas Batch 2 needed a number of months to settle down from its initial furnace blast of alcohol heat. Part of me wishes that they would do separate all-sherry and all-bourbon cask strength expressions as a replacement for the young-ish sherry and bourbon single casks that they released about five years ago, but this is a totally decent compromise. In an industry that has been dropping age statements left and right, I commend Arran for putting out something that clearly competes with NAS cask strength expressions from other distilleries at a competitive price.