Buttered smoked popcorn
Arran has really hit its stride in the last few years. Their early output was very good 'for a new boy' but you could literally see and taste the increase in swagger and confidence they had in their blossoming product line with the glorious, deftly handled rebrand (it really is a benchmark on how to rebrand in my book) and the upward swing in quality of their core range over the last few years. The Arran 10 is up there with Deanston's 12 as products that delivery truckloads of quality at a legitimately excellent price. These are the hallmarks of a quality brand... But there was always one thing amiss at Lochranza, the peated offering. Machrie Moor, Arran's peated malt, always felt like a the square peg and after the recent rebrand it was left out in the cold like a smoky vestigial tail. Thankfully whiskevolution was at work behind the scenes and Arran spawned a true, peated heir in the form of LAGG.
It's a little too early to know what this dedicated peated spirit will ultimately taste like (it only went into wood in October 2019), but the new make does give some tantalizing glimpses.
On the nose. Smoky. Heaps of smoke, and stewed fruit and buttered popcorn. It's not sweet like, say the tropical lychee-bomb and guava-bomb that Kavalan new make is. No, this is dense and ashy but there's fruit gum and grain mashed into it. It has a herbal and saline tinge, gone out bonfire ash, smoked meats. It's very round and rich it begs you to imagine what 10 years in either the inaugural sherry or bourbon casks will do to it. In short it smells really good.
In the mouth and it has muscle to spare, huge smoky arrival but it doesn't become overwhelming or acrid. It's got a similar muscular smoke to Ardbeg, it's not a farmyard peat, this is bonfires, chimneys, coal hearths, earthy, burnt butter and grist and dusty milk chocolate. There's a creaminess that rubs up against a prickle of ginger and then you realise that the whole thing is actually rather sweeter than you thought it was. The sweetness builds across the palate. It's very good for something that hasn't had any helping hands from a cask. For something so basic it actually covers a lot of ground and with a good, viscous mouth feel.
This bodes well. At the local whisky club, this went down surprisingly well with everyone who tried it (about 10 people). Obviously, its no guarantee that the end product will be stellar but I just can't help but feel that the first barrels out the door are going to be rather good. Let's hope they handle the pricing as deftly as the new make, it could be another whisky (and distiller) that drinkers take to their hearts for all the right reasons.