Distillery: Isle of Arran
Age: No age statement
I’ve previously described Arran’s drams as Island whiskies without an obvious Island character. Indeed, Arran distillery is known for its fruity, unpeated whiskies, but with one notable exception. I’m referring of course to Arran Machrie Moor, named after the mysterious stone circles found on the island. Peated to 20 ppm, we can expect a similar level of smoke from Machrie Moor as for other Island distilleries such as Talisker or Highland Park. Billed as a limited edition, so far a new batch of Machrie Moor has been released each year, and fortunately it’s not hard to get a hold of a bottle.
When trying Machrie Moor for the first time, I was curious to see how Arran lends itself to peaty flavours, given that its whisky usually has such a friendly character. Although I like it when distilleries come up with a peated version of their spirit, I have to say it’s not always positive news. In this case though, Arran has come up with a winner. I’d even argue the distillery should spend less time on all sorts of crazy cask finishes and focus more on peated spirit instead. Either way, Machrie Moor is a welcome addition to the range, and I hope many more batches are in the making.
Colour: Extremely pale, almost like a chardonnay
Nose: Softly smoky, without ever losing Arran’s fresh and fruity qualities. Perfumes of pear and honeydew melon suffuse into a cornucopia of tropical fruit. There is more of a maritime character than usual, intertwined with the aromas of pecan nuts, cinnamon and strangely… brie. On the whole, this is exactly what you’d expect from a peated Arran.
Palate: Peat and spice are given more space to develop, giving this Arran more punch than the nose would suggest. There are still plenty of fruity notes, but less exuberantly sweet. Instead, tart flavours of lemon peel and blood orange dominate the scene. These give way to cloves and vanilla, ending with vanilla biscuits and another waft of peat smoke.
Finish: Crisp and fiery, with a seaside freshness that reminds us of Arran’s island pedigree. Cracked black peppercorn makes way for the aftertaste of a smouldering peat fire.
Verdict: Consistent with what I’ve come to expect from Arran distillery, this is an excellent whisky. As the only smoky bottling in the range, Machrie Moor showcases a different side of Arran, but one no less enjoyable. Although only lightly peated, this is quite an intense, satisfying dram. I lined up a range of other entry level whiskies for a comparison, and Machrie Moor comfortably beat the likes of Talisker 10 and Highland Park 12, although it faces some stiff competition from Springbank 10 year old. Of course the latter two also come with a heavier price tag, so perhaps this makes sense.
Strange to say for a peated dram, Machrie Moor is actually quite subtle and understated when compared to its siblings from the Cask Finishes range, which are incredibly rich and bottled at a higher abv. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this smoky Arran, and would encourage the distillery to experiment with peat some more. Having said that, if you like an Arran with even more oomph, I recommend the cask strength version of Machrie Moor, which really is a stunner.