Wild Boar Master of Malt, George, has taken us to many different countries to glimpse whisky production from around the world. It is never long, however, before he returns to the land where it can legally be called ‘Scotch’. This month we are on the Island of Arran, or ‘Scotland in Miniature’.
Distilling whisky has been part of Scotland’s heritage for centuries. The earliest written record of distilling was in 1494 when an entry in the Exchequer Rolls stated, ‘eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae (‘water of life’).
The popularity of whisky did not go un-noticed by the Scottish Parliament and in 1644 they imposed their first tax on spirits. With the Act of Union in 1707, the London based government imposed the malt tax, which helped spawn a burgeoning black market for whisky. It also explains which many of today’s distilleries are located in remote areas, inaccessible to the city tax man.
Known affectionately as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the island of Arran has a little bit of everything on offer further across the rest of the country – mountains, lowlands, glens, lochs and castles. In the early 19th century, there were more than 50 whisky distilleries on the island, most of them illegal and carefully hidden. It was acclaimed at the time arguably as the best malt in Scotland.
The only remaining Distillery these days is the Isle of Arran Distillery, all legal and above board. Guests at the opening ceremony in 1995 were delighted to witness the fly past of two golden eagles living in the mountain behind the Distillery. It was said to be a ‘thank you’ for halting building works and allowing them peace and quiet to raise their chicks.
Visitors to the Distillery even today occasionally have the privilege of seeing these magnificent birds of prey floating on the currents high above the distillery.
Isle of Arran Distillery, Scotland
Lochranza in the north of the island, and home to the distillery, has a pure and steady stream of water, cleansed by granite and softened by peat as it makes its way from the mountaintops into Loch na Davie. The island enjoys a warm microclimate, with sea breezes and clear mountain air, an ideal combination in the maturation of single malts.
NOSE: The initial rush of rich vanilla sweetness gives way to the fruits of slow distillation – kiwi, banana, cantaloupe melon – with just a dusting of cocoa powder. It is undoubtedly complex and yet the aromas are in complete harmony with the malt.
PALATE: A touch of cinnamon adds a spicy edge to the soft and sweet texture which captivates the palate. The classic Arran citrus notes have rounded with age and reveal new depths of character against a background of sweet oak.
FINISH: It drifts over the tongue like golden syrup and fades ever so slowly to tempt another sip. This is a beautifully made whisky.
George Hutton, Master of Malt
Join George at our regular Whisky Tasting Evenings at The Wild Boar.
Take a look at The Wild Boar Events page to find our more about the next whisky event.