Distillery: Isle of Arran
Age: No age statement
The Isle of Arran distillery has been hugely successful in finishing their whiskies in a wide variety of casks, but sometimes there’s just no need to look beyond the flavours that American oak can provide. So rather than transferring your whisky from ex-bourbon casks into something sweet and sumptuous, why not finish it in… more bourbon casks? This is essentially what’s happened to Arran The Bothy, which – as its subtitle indicates – received an extra maturation in quarter casks. The use of quarter casks has regained popularity in recent years, with Laphroaig seeming particularly fond of the tactic. Historically, quarter casks were widely used, practical as they were due to their small size (also handy if you’re a smuggler). At a quarter the size of a normal hogshead barrel, quarter casks have a higher surface to liquid ratio, allowing the spirit to soak up that oaky goodness much more quickly. Add to this the fact that The Bothy is bottled at cask strength, and you’ve got a bold, flavourful whisky, packed with vanilla and caramel flavours. The Bothy shows a different side of Arran, but one no less enjoyable.
Colour: Pale copper
Nose: This is like entering a woodworker’s shop. A rush of oak greets the senses, with fresh wood shavings and tree resin. Then a zesty character unfolds, with scents of lemon peel and green apples. Brown sugar lends this whisky a warm, sweet temperament. The effects of the quarter cask are obvious here, with The Bothy housing some classic bourbon aromas.
Add a splash of water and The Bothy becomes floral and fruitier, with the citric profile taking centre stage. In many ways, a watered down Bothy is much closer to what we’re used to from Arran 10 and 14 year old.
Palate: Intensely oaky, seasoned with a hefty dose of allspice. The Bothy is quite a punchy, peppery dram, but it’s balanced nicely with Arran’s fruity flavours. Creamy yet alcoholic, this whisky is like fiery shortbread mingled with vanilla custard. There’s a pleasant sweetness throughout, with notes of marzipan and maple syrup. The Bothy is a real whisky tour de force, but intense though it is, doesn’t feel like it needs water. When you do add a few drops, notes of icing sugar and hazelnut appear.
Finish: Slow, warming and powerful, this Arran is a real heavy hitter. The Bothy leaves us with toasted malt and grilled pineapple.
Verdict: This Arran packs quite a punch, and scores points for sheer intensity. Although The Bothy lacks the sumptuous fruity flavours of the Arran Cask Finishes, it makes up for this with raw power and a muscular display of vanilla flavours from the American oak. I personally really like this amped up Arran, and I hope many more batches are in the making!