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My 7th Arran review, of the oldest official bottling available, at the moment. This is a temporary expression as the 18th year approaches, and so is limited to 9000 bottles. I wonder whether I will actually prefer the older ones yet to come, because this 16yo was delightful.
First vapor: Light nectar and peach nut.
Nose: Perfumy. Blossoms, of orange and apple; coming across a little like the smell of ripe canteloupe, and violets. These floral notes are sitting on soft cocoa. There is also understated honey (nectar) and nut (macadamia). It takes a while for unsalted butter to come out. Much lighter than I expected (no salt or thicker fruits or heavier nuts), but there is nothing amiss about it-- wonderfully fragrant.
Palate: Entrance is diluted honey, quite blossom-infused. The blossom impression grows: petals and nectar. Becomes sweetly malty (very good barley perhaps). Several more seconds and the sweetness dissipates-- now gaining drier oak quality, from vanilla to nutmeg to just a touch woodier.
Finish: Cocoa, honey and rich blossoms in the exhale; drier on the tongue with nutmeg-y oak and 100% cocoa.
This is marvelously rich, but with tones that you might usually call "light": the overall impression is honey with cocoa powder, and quite floral. It now stands among my favorite "light-ish" malts, a list which has included Glenfiddich 21 Rum finish, Balvenie 14 Caribbean, Glenmorangie Artein, and Glenmorangie Ealanta. The Arran 16 does not really share flavors with these, but it fits in the category for its lack of "heavy" tones like deep nuts, dark fruits, wood, salt, or peat. Rather this is flowers and nectar-- but in heaps. At 46%, it makes a fragrant statement, refreshing while retaining plenty of character.
I was originally drawn to Arran through their young Original expression, which I found balanced, light, and delectable (from the fresh bottle). The overall quality has been maintained up through the 10yo and 14yo, but to me the 16yo is exceptional (with a leap in score). For comparison with younger Arrans: -The Original is certainly lighter and does not have all the character; that is more straightforward vanilla-butter. -The 10yo is least alike, having strong apple-salted butter character. -The 14yo is similar, but has stronger oak tones (walnut and nutmeg). And it lacked the degrees of honey and floral sensations.
Similar malts for reference, beyond the above, are hard to pinpoint. Jura 16 Diurach's Own is less floral and heavier, on the honey etc. Highland Park 21 comes to mind as having the most similar characteristics of aroma/flavor/quality; if I recall, the main difference is that the HP was not quite as light (more fruits). In this way (and I might get lambasted here), the Arran 16 is perhaps closest to Highland Park 18. The difference is that the HP18 has more tropical character and hints of peat, whereas the Arran 16 is sweeter with honey and oakier with a touch of nutmeg.
In case you missed it: this is highly recommended.