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A Wee Scottish Dram

Gie him strong Drink until he wink,
That’s sinking in despair;
An’ liquor guid to fie his bluid,
That’s prest wi’ grief an’ care;
.
.
O Whisky! soul o’ plays an’ pranks!
Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor Verses!
.
.

from “Scotch Drink” by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Scotland’s national bard clearly had a great deal of respect for Scotland’s national drink.

And if you were ever in any doubt as to the importance of whisky to the Scots or whiskey to the Irish, then the fact that we both describe it as Uisce Beatha – or the Water of Life – would leave you in no doubt. So much so that, on my recent travels to Scotland’s Isle of Arran, I fully imagined it to be a breach of some law to depart the island without having at least a wee dram of the “Scotch drink”. A visit to the Isle of Arran Distillers, the only (legal) producer of whisky on the island, turns out to have been a very good choice, and not just because of its Irish connections.

Gordon Mitchell, their now retired distillery manager, previously worked at Ireland’s Cooley Distillery and was involved in the development of their most excellent Connemara Peated Single Malt. While Connemara is unusual for an Irish whiskey in that it is peated, the signature 10 year old single malt produced by Isle of Arran Distillers is unusual for a Scotch whisky in that it is not.

But that is not the only thing worthy of note.

Arran single malt whisky

Arran 10 year old single malt whisky

At just 15 years old, Isle of Arran is one of Scotland’s newest and smallest distilleries. Yet it has already made its mark with a clutch of national and international awards to its credit, notably for the 10 year old single malt and their Arran Gold cream liqueur.

Founded by Harold Currie, a former director of Chivas, it is sited at picturesque Lochranza on the north coast of Arran, chosen for its proximity to the pure and soft waters of Loch na Davie.

View from the Arran distillery

View from the Isle of Arran distillery

Using barley specially chosen for its high starch content, and applying only traditional methods of distilling, with wooden washbacks and copper stills, their whiskies are evidence that less interference is more character. They do not (as many do) add caramel to their whisky to colour it. Nor do they apply chill filtration, a common practice which removes some of the spirit’s natural oils. While these oils can cause whisky to go cloudy when cooled or poured over ice, they also contribute to the overall flavour and experience of the drink and are best left where they are.

Arran distillery

The stuff of Arran whisky making

The result, in the case of the Arran 10 year old single malt, is a fine, pale, smooth whisky, with some vanilla sweetness and that unfailing power of whisky to warm you from the inside.

To quote that other Scottish national treasure, Billy Connolly, it’s what you might call a “wee nippy sweetie”.

8 Comments

  1. Enjoyed this Scotch lesson. I need to try some more varieties straight from the source. We started drinking it in Brazil of all places. Johnnie Walker is quite the rage there which was surprising to us. I can only imagine a batch such as this takes the experience up a notch.

    My husband has been in Dunboyne all week for work. He’s headed to Tullamore tomorrow for his first hurling match. :)

  2. Daily Spud

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Hey Lori – I do know from my Brazilian SIL that whiskey is very popular there, so I suppose I’m not surprised that scotch is a big part of that. To be honest, there’s lots more for me to learn about scotch, though this experience was a very good taster :)

    Hope your husband enjoys the hurling – it can be a very exciting game!

  3. What a fascinating experience it must have been visiting this distillery! The view is gorgeous!

  4. Daily Spud

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 10:53 am

    It is a very pretty setting Natasha and the scotch is 5 star, so I’m sure you would have enjoyed it :)

  5. I always say you have such great foodie adventures, and this one may be fav to date. Pass along my name to them I’ve a lot to learn about whiskeys. GREG

  6. Daily Spud

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Will do Greg – I would love to see Sippity Sup do a European whiskey tour (‘cos you’d have to come to Ireland, then too :) )

  7. What’s this ‘wee’ business? Be liberal and generous with your pour! 8-D

    Thank you for sharing another marvelous tour. This one is for the husband, who definitely enjoys a dram on occasion. I could take a nip or two myself . . .

  8. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Ah, TN, in the matter of such fine spirits, our guide at the distillery advised us not to drink as such, but to taste and savour. So a wee dram was indeed the order of the day. That’s not to say that you couldn’t apply the principle of ‘little and often’ in this particular case… :D

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