Review No.29 – The Arran Machrie Moor Cask Strength

I have developed a bit of a soft spot for Arran over the past few months – they produce consistently good drams, aren’t averse to trying a wide array of cask maturations and finishes, and are one of the few distilleries in the past year to receive (mainly) positive feedback from the demanding whisky community on their rebranding and new bottle design.

Their peated expression, Machrie Moor, first filled glencairns in December 2010 and is part of the inspiration for Lagg Distillery, the Isle of Arran Distillers’ second distillery on Arran which will produce peated whisky and is located on the South of the island. As with every whisky, Machrie Moor comes with the industry standard romanticized cliches which tie the whisky to the island’s ancient past and legends.

On the west coast of the Isle of Arran lies a windswept and mystical peat bog called Machrie Moor. Bronze Age stone circles and standing stones are strewn across its barren, undulating terrain. One of the stone circles is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where sits a stone with a carved hole. The legendary warrior giant Fingal is said to have tethered his favourite dog Bran to this stone. This cask strength peated expression of the Arran Single Malt perfectly captures the rugged beauty and lore of the landscape. Unleash the legend that is Machrie Moor.

Arran Whisky

Although the marketing instils a vision of wild, untamed landscapes and sodden peat bogs, Machrie Moor isn’t very overpowering or complex, and, at around 20ppm, it is one of the lighter peated whiskies – slightly more than fellow Islander Talisker yet nowhere near heavyweights like Ardbeg. It’s bottled at a reasonable 56.2% and costs in-or-around £49 (dependant, of course, where you are buying it from). It’s also part of the whisky abbreviation trinity: NAS, NCF, NCA.

Well partnered with fresh home smoked mackarel

Rested in a Glencairn for 20 minutes because I was faffing about with the smoker.

Nose: An initial waft of tar is followed by damp and earthy forest floor. In the background fighting for recognition is the pleasant whiff of wood smoke. There’s citrus too with lemon and lime, and slightly sweet perfumed notes. There’s little on the nose that intimates the high ABV.

Palate: Aniseed balls and star anise. Faint notes of fennel too. There’s a blunted sweetness and the whisky doesn’t need an addition of water even at 56.2%. Towards the finish a grapefruit bitterness floats about. The smoke and peat is noticeable but fleeting.

Finish: Medium in length which mainly consists of the sweet aniseed lingering on the tongue and a smattering of peaty smoke.

This is a fairly decent peated offering from Arran which won’t be challenging the punchy peat monsters that exist, yet I’m sure that was never the intention. It gives us a good impression of the peaty expressions Arran hope to produce at Lagg in the coming years and if they are anyhting like the Machrie Moo then they are on the right path.

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