Turning 21 years old is a big deal. The awkward teenage years are behind you, you’ve survived the transition into young adulthood and are finding your feet at university. In the US this age is of utmost importance, as you can legally go out for a drink in a bar. Over here… well… erm… you can sit in the passenger seat of a car and teach a learner driver. Rock ‘n’ roll. For a distillery, turning 21 is a huge milestone. The early years of growing the brand and gathering a following are behind you. The worries you had about what the mature spirit was going to taste like, and if it was going to be any good, are long gone. Your flagship 10yo or 12yo is now an established expression and the last ‘big one’ was your 18th birthday which saw you stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys of the industry. At 21, you’re looking onwards and upwards at the rest of your life, wondering where to go next. With Isle of Arran Distillers, they have a new distillery on the island in the making. But before that happens, they want to celebrate reaching this landmark, and have done so by releasing a 21st Anniversary bottling.
This whisky is a vatting of several ex-oloroso sherry hogsheads which were all filled within the first three years of production. James McTaggart, master distiller, said, “I have chosen a selection of our oldest ex-oloroso Sherry Hogsheads. It has been a pleasure to nurture the maturation of this precious spirit and see it become the most fitting dram with which to toast our 21st Anniversary.” Isle of Arran Distillers’ MD, Euan Mitchell, commented, “When the first spirit ran from the stills in June 1995, it set in motion the start of a two-decade journey for the Arran Malt. We are tremendously proud of what the distillery has achieved. Our focus on crafting high quality whisky has to lead to many successes from award-wins to record exports to territories across the world. For this anniversary expression, we wanted the bottling to be totally different from our core range. The decanter style adds a tactile and luxurious element to the pack and distinguishes it as landmark in the maturation of the Arran Malt.” Bottled at a 52.6% ABV and limited to 5,988 bottles, this sounds like an excellent way of celebrating one’s 21st birthday.
Arran 21st Anniversary
5,988 bottles only
£150 – available soon
Nose: Apricots, dried banana and mango flakes, sweet apples, orange oils and almonds to begin. Then gingerbread, lemon zest and marmalade are followed by herbal notes and polished wood.
Palate: Grassy, almost a touch of mint, then honeycomb, poached pear and apple crumble. A little white pepper gives way to gentle baking spices and a slightly nutty note, walnuts perhaps.
Finish: Some chocolate, cinnamon and a sweet earthiness sit nicely alongside rich oak.
Overall: I (vaguely) remember my 21st birthday – it involved a lot of whisky, debauchery and drunken dancing until 3am. This whisky, however, is a far more refined and elegant way of celebrating a coming of age. The higher strength isn’t necessarily apparent on the nose (in a good way), but the depth and richness of flavour certainly come across on the palate. And damn she’s looking good for her age too – that decanter is pretty sexy. Happy birthday Arran, here’s to the next 21 years.