The Isle of Arran is easy to overlook when exploring a map of distilleries off the Southwest coast of Scotland. It’s nestled near Islay and Campbeltown—both home to distilleries with major cult followings. Despite its proximity to its more famous neighbors, The Arran distillery in Lochranza has been quietly putting out quality whisky for a long time. In 2018, a new limited edition range called The Explorers Series was launched. Each expression is named after a scenic location on the Isle of Arran and the packaging features picturesque artwork of each landmark in the series.
The first release in this range is named after Brodick Bay, located on the east coast of the island. The artwork on the box and label does a pretty great job of depicting the natural beauty of this location.
What about the whisky though? This release carries a 20 year age statement and was matured in both ex-bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry hogsheads before being finished in Oloroso Sherry butts from Jerez. Brodick Bay was limited to 9000 bottles and is bottled at 49.8% ABV. These early releases have become collectors items (like seemingly everything these days) as the series has progressed over the years. Does the quality of the whisky match the quality of the ornate packaging and surprisingly heavy bottle?
|Nose||Fresh, ripe blueberries and blackberries, grape stems, cotton candy, waxy, hint of salted caramel, some light clove, malt, raisin, hint of dried coconut, light oak, and just a bit of potpourri. With water, orange citrus, a slight grassy note, some nuttiness and a more forward caramel sweetness.|
|Taste||Pear, melon, vanilla, light brown sugar, cinnamon, red grapes, some nice earthiness, hazelnut, graham cracker, much deeper oak, a touch of chocolate, plum. With water, some salinity, more berries, and a juiciness that really pulls everything together nicely.|
|Finish||Long, rich, and deeper in flavor, orange, tart cherry danish, ginger, more clove, stewed fruits. With water, spicy oak, cherries, even more orange, and fudge.|
|Overall Thoughts||I usually review a whisky on two different days and spend about 30-45 minutes each time. This one took me close an hour on two separate occasions because there was so much to unpack here. Arran has quietly slipped under the radar for a long time but with releases like this, their days of underappreciation are numbered. This release displays a masterful integration of ex-sherry casks that are used to round out the great work already being done by the ex-bourbon barrels. I could seriously nose this for days. The longer you spend exploring this whisky, the more you’ll find. Highly recommended.|