Review No.16 – Arran 20 Year Old Explorer Series Volume 1 Brodick Bay

Welcome back to the whisky blog that uses a pet dog on a zero-hours contract for poorly taken photos, which, on the evidence provided, don’t seem to be improving. However, Elsie’s Sports Direct-like existence isn’t in vain, particularly given the exposure she enjoys to all 15 16 17 readers.

Today’s review is from The Arran Explorer Series, which is a Limited Edition run of 3 releases with each representing a part of Arran’s famous scenery. The first release represents Brodick Bay, described by the distillery itself:

As the ferry across the firth of Clyde nears its destination, the visitor will be granted a first glimpse of ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the Isle of Arran. The broad sweep of Brodick Bay, backed by dense woodland of Scots pine, is guarded by the island’s highest peak, Goat Fell. With its varied terrain of sandy beach, verdant field, impenetrable forest and craggy mountain pass, this magical island affords the traveller a wide choice of outdoor pursuits.

Isle of Arran Distillers

Arran is one of Scotland’s independent distilleries, founded in 1994, and was the Island’s only distillery until 2019 when Lagg Distillery (also owned by Isle of Arran Distillers) opened – quite a fall in numbers considering there had been up to 50 illegal distilleries during the 1800s and whisky, albeit illicitly, had been such a vibrant industry.

Most of their whisky is now used for their varied Single Malt core range, however a wee bit finds its way in to their blends (Lochranza Blend, Robert Burns Blend, and their Cream Liquer), and they use traditional distilling methods including wooden washabcks and copper stills.

I will begin with Volume 1 for two reasons: adhering to chronological order, and because it’s the only one I own.

This Single Malt is a 20 Year Old that was matured in bourbon barrels and sherry hogsheads, before being finished in oloroso sherry butts. Visually it’s a delight, with the stocky bottle carefully slotting snugly in to an appealing presentation tin, and both the bottle and the tin are emblazoned with modernist artwork depicting the scenic views of Brodick Bay. It’s easy and appealing on the eye, so hopefully the whisky complements the packaging.

Red cushion…it’s just poor lighting.

So, what have we got? Well, the dram is a wee bit lighter than I expected, so let’s call it a subtle amber. It has been bottled at 49.8%, and it’s also NCF and NCA. Each Volume is limited to a release of 9000 bottles and I received this bottle as a gift.

Nose: Fresh, fruity, and soft. I pick up orange and citrus initially, but I also get a faint maple syrup and waffles waft every now and again. There’s certainly a sweetness, presumably the bourbon influence, and the sherry is more of an accompaniment and for me is quite restrained, rather than being a full-frontal profile and focal point. 8/10

Palate: My subtle first impression is of meat, possibly a burnt scent? Maybe I am having a stroke. There’s a bit of pepper too, yet it’s all very distant and makes way for some ample vanilla and fudge, raisins and plums, dark chocolate and rich cocoa. 7.5/10

Finish: A nice embrace of a finish. Long and delicate. The lingering spice is the perfect bedfellow for the warming and sweet mouthfeel. 8/10

Total: 23.5/30

My experience with Arran’s Single Malts is limited and, as such, this is really the first one I have sat down with to take my time over and enjoy. It’s a very consistent dram – what it does well, it does very well, but it’s not setting off enough fireworks for me to consider parting with £130 for Volume 2. I suspect I will try and get a hold of the Lochranza Castle via a sample swap, should the opportunity arise.


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