I am tasting today an official but limited release ARRAN « Exclusive Selection » 11 years (distilled in 2008, bottled in 2019) « PINEAU DES CHARENTES Cask » (a full maturation) old Single Malt Scotch whisky, stated as a « Small Batch » (965 bottles), but featuring a cask number (#119) & a « single cask » mention on the packaging. It is non chill-filtered, no coloured, but not stated as a cask strength whisky, that said bottled at 53,7 %. This bottling is a storepick for France (a shop channel named « Le Comptoir Irlandais » which comprises 45 shops in the country). I am not allowed to add a commercial link here, but I reviewed this whisky here because it isn’t sold out according to their website & because of the rarity of use of this cask type.
The Pineau des Charentes is a French fortified wine mainly made in the Charentes area, fortified by adding some Cognac eau-de-vie to the wine grape (…) & then matured in oak casks for a minimum of 2 years, sometimes longer, most often around 5 years (some 15 yo I have tried are exceptional & as rich as some Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks). « Pineau des Charentes » can be « white » (from white wine varieties Ugni blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard, sometimes Sauvignon blanc, etc…), « rosé » or « red » (both from grape varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot), must be aged at least 14 months and all these types of Pineau are typically bottled between 16 & 22 % abv, most often at 17 % abv. The older they are, the less fresh or chilled they should be served. This product is under a specific classification control regarding its location & production criterias (« A.O.C. » stands for « Appellation d’origine contrôlée » in French).
The ARRAN distillery was founded in 1993 (& distilled for the first time in 1995) by the Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd (initiated by Harold Currie, former manager director of Chivas Brothers, who wished to create a Speyside character single malt) in the Isle of Arran (an island at the South-West of Glasgow & almost facing the city of Campbeltown), in Lochranza, in the North part of the island. ARRAN has a 1,2 million L.P.A. production. ARRAN first distillery is equipped with a 2,5 ton semi-lauter mash tun, 6 Oregon pine washbacks & 4 stills. The first ARRAN single malt (a 3 yo) appeared in 1998 & the distillery launched its first 10 y.o. in 2006, a 12 yo Cask Strength in 2008 & a 14 yo in 2010 (both now discontinued), while their first peated whisky, using mainland peat, appeared in 2009. Previously, aside from a young « non chill-filtered » n.a.s. single malt, but also several blended whiskies such as the « Robert Burns » one & released many vintage single casks with a lot of kinds of finishes (…). In 2019, a big rebranding of ARRAN single malts started, to be finished only in 2020, when the « Cask finishes » series will be also revamped. For now, the core range consists in a 10 yo, a 18 & a 21 yo, but also 3 no age statement (around 7 yo) whiskies, the « Barrel Reserve » (43 %), « Quarter Cask /The Bothy » bottled at 56,2 % (new version of « The Bothy ») & « Sherry Cask /The Bodega » bottled at 55,8 %. I guess that current peated versions of ARRAN named « Machrie Moor » (one at 46 % & one at Cask Strength) will be rebranded with a name change soon. The Isle of Arran receives around 400 000 visitors each year, and by far the ARRAN distillery is the most visited Scotland whisky distillery, with 100 000 visitors per year. The distillery owners hope to double this number in the near future with the opening of the new distillery :
The Northern ARRAN distillery is nowadays the only whisky distillery in the island, but since 2017 (and March 2019 for the first distillation there), another distillery from same ownership opened in the South part of the Island, where a distillery was operating until its closing in 1837. The owners of the first distillery decided the construction of this second distillery with another name (LAGG distillery) & location because they wanted to separate the peated version of their single malt (previously knowned as « ARRAN Machrie Moor ») from the unpeated ones produced in their northern ARRAN distillery. They also wanted to devote part of the LAGG distillery production to do some experiments. The heavily peated whiskies that will be produced at LAGG (they mention 50 ppm on their website) should be sourcing peat locally in the future, but for now it is still mainland peat that is used (peated malted barley comes from the Aberdeenshire area). LAGG is using a 4 ton full-lauter tun, a 20000 liters Douglas fir washback, two big stills (or 10 000 liters of capacity) & racked & palettised warehouses.
Thanks for watching & if you like the video, please click the like button & subscribe to my channel if not already done & click on the notification bell to stay tuned about my next videos & live streams. My website: www.gregswhiskyguide.com