Distillery of the Week: Arran Distillery

The little independent island distillery that's making a big name for itself with its wonderful whisky

Published 22nd Apr 2015
Updated 31 st Oct 2023

Arran was once home to  more than 50 whisky distilleries  (most of them illicit)  some of which produced what many believed to be the best whisky around at the time, rivaling even those produced by distilleries from the more illustrious Speyside.  However, over the course of time all of them were lost and Arran's whisky production soon seemed like it would be consigned to history.

In 1993, a small group of like-minded people got together and decided that they would like to revive the 'Arran water' by creating a brand new distillery on the island affectionately known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’. Led by Chivas Brothers’ retiring managing director, Harold Currie, the group quickly established a site on Lochranza to the north of the island. Currie then pushed for the distillery buildings to be stylised to give them a classical appearance.

Harold Currie, founder of The Isle of Arran Distillery.

Harold Currie, founder of The Isle of Arran Distillery.

Progress was smooth and steady, albeit with a brief rest bite to allow a pair of nesting Golden eagles a period of peace to raise their young, and the distillery released its first whisky bottling in 1998 (a wonderful three year old). Sales really took off with the introduction of the first official ten year old bottling, eventually leading to Arran being named Scottish Distiller of the year by Whisky magazine in 2007.

Arran is now a thriving distillery in its own right, popular in many markets including Norway and the US. The distillery itself is due for an expansion in 2016 - two new stills have been ordered -  in a bid to keep up with their ever rising demand.

Arran is easily accessible from the mainland, and the distillery itself is set in a truly wonderful part of the island, with the excellent whisky on offer and a first class visitor centre, it's well worth a visit. Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of the local golden eagles who like to keep an eye on the proceedings from time to time.

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia


Arran 10 year old: Originally launched in 2006, the 10 year old is the leading example of 'Arran water', showcasing the wonderful spirit that the distillery produces. Light and perfumed but with a subtle depth not to be underestimated, this is a hugely enjoyable entry level malt. Notes of cut grass vie with green apple, before a honeyed sweetness coats the mouth and leaves you wanting more.

Arran 14 year old: The 14 year old was released in 2014, replacing the previous core expression (the 12 year old). Finished in both bourbon and sherry casks, the final product is a wonderfully balanced fruit monster. Vanilla, cream, chocolate and strawberries finished off with a big citrus punch. Very typical of the Arran style and infinitely drinkable.

Arran Machrie Moor: Not to be outdone by its island cousins, Arran showcases its ability to produce a wonderful peated malt with this expression. Named after the wild and rugged peat bog on the west of the island, Machrie Moor is bottled at the middle ground of 20ppm, and is readily accessible to most. Warming, earthy and with hints of lemon zest and malt biscuityness, this is a whisky that will have you teasing out different flavours each time you try it.

Robert Burns Single Malt: Arran distillery is the only distillery granted lifetime patronage by the World Burns Federation and as such have created a range whiskies in tribute to Scotland's National Poet, something that we are sure he would naturally approve of, being the massive fan of whisky that he was. The whisky itself is fresh and light, with citrus and vanilla notes, perfect for raising a toast on Burns night or any other night you wish to simply enjoy a very good sipping whisky.

Port Charlotte unveils first 18 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky

The Arran distillery has also produced some truly astounding wood finishes including port, sauternes and amarone cask bottlings, all of which we recommend trying. However, if you are looking for something a wee bit different then we think you'll love the award winning Arran Gold cream liqueur.



Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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