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Just over ten years ago James MacTaggart became the Master Distiller at Arran distillery and, in my humble opinion, has produced some very good whisky in that time. This whisky comes from first-fill bourbon barrels laid down not long after he started. They were also hand-selected by the man himself and 12,000 bottles were produced for this anniversary edition.
This bottle has been open going on two months now and is about 3/4s full. I'll give neat notes and then with water (1/4 tsp to a 25ml pour). The neat glass sat for about 15 minutes before getting stuck in.
Nose - Rich and fruity if a little condensed when neat. Pineapple, some coconut and vanilla stand out. There's sourness too with lemon juice squeezed on lightly salted fresh cod. So not 'fishy' per se but definitely coastal and fresh yet with a slight dusty note.
With water - Much more expressive and clear. Now there's a whole fresh tropical fruit salad; banana, more pineapple and coconut and green mango. The bourbon notes start to sing a little higher and the vanilla becomes more subtle. Still a little sour edge that works well with the fruit and more wood spice. Zingy, fresh and mouthwatering.
Taste - Creamy vanilla and tart malt that goes on and on with more sour pineapple. Rich mouthfeel. Nothing out of the ordinary here but everything works superbly.
With water - sweet and sour arrival that becomes much drier towards the finish. Gooseberries, rhubarb and sour lemon. The development is really enhanced with water and it unfurls into creamy vanilla before becoming dry.
Finish - Long with more creamy malt and vanilla. A little spice from the oak also shows itself.
With water - Even longer with a beautiful tart vanilla and malt. Some drying wood spice with some soft tannins at the death.
This is, simply put, a very well-made, well-blended whisky that does the simple things brilliantly! I like the house style of Arran and this is the best example I've had that showcases all the fruity malt that it's known for. I'm not blown away yet every sip is rich, rewarding and engaging making me glad I bought it. As far as 'basic', non-peated, malt-driven bourbon matured whisky goes I don't know what else could beat it?! A perfect malt for a gorgeous summer evening such as this.
Mr MacTaggart, I raise my glass to you!