The Arran Malt, Taking White Stags on a journey with them

Derek Whiteford

Derek Whiteford

Looking across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran from the Ayrshire mainland on a clear day fascinated me as a child. Trips to Arran with my family and school excursions felt like I was a million miles away from anywhere.

On a rare Scottish sunny day, the Isle of Arran resembles the Caribbean with palm trees dotted around and blue shimmering seas at every turn. Arran is an Island I had grown to love and that love affair has never ended. It has only got stronger since the Isle of Arran Distillers were born.

Founded by Harold Currie in 1994, the distilleries location is iconic. Set in the picturesque postcard village of Lochranza to the North of the Island. After many years without whisky production, it was the perfect spot to construct a new independent distillery.

On Thursday 29th June 1995, the Arran Malt story truly began. The early years were overseen by the late Master Distiller Gordon Mitchell. A legendary Master Distiller and an era that will never be forgotten. Fast forward through the early years of production to 2016. This was a significant milestone in the Isle of Arran Distillers impressive whisky time-line. It was the 21st Anniversary which was marked at The Arran Malt & Music Festival.

The celebrations were enjoyed by all, with a White Stag Dinner and various masterclasses over the festival weekend. The construction of Rowan House was also introduced onto the distillery grounds. This is an impressive facility where Master Distiller James MacTaggart can work his magic and ploy his craftsmanship within the new blending and tasting room.

As we stride towards the end of 2017, it has been another great year for the loyal White Stag community across the globe. Arran Malt is a whisky that is all grown up and the next few years are going to be very exciting for everyone associated with the distillery. The Arran Whisky pipeline is looking healthy and if you are not already on the journey, join the community and become a White Stag.

The development of the new Lagg Distillery and warehousing site is gathering pace. I have been fortunate enough to visit the gates of this site on several occasions to check on the build progress. Being from a construction background, I appreciate the hard work and investment that is going into this multi-million-pound facility. Additional warehousing for the new make spirit to mature, as well as additional capacity for increasing Lochranza cask demand, is vital for James and his production team.

The design of the distillery which overlooks the Kintyre Peninsula is stunning. It will blend in beautifully with the landscape of the rolling southern hills of the island. The magic that happens inside of the new distillery will be revealed to everyone in due course.

All good things come to those White Stags who wait! It is expected that Arran Distillers will produce their peated expressions within the new still house. It is also a boost for the local community in this part of the island, enhancing the economy and tourism numbers.

Back at Lochranza, another project was keeping James busy. The addition and in installation of two new stills to the site. This increased production numbers from an existing capacity of 750,000 litres of over 1.2 million litres per year. The remaining two stills were also removed and replaced by exact replicas, so not to change the character of the spirit. After several distillation tweaks from James, production was back on 24 hours a day, keeping our favourite Arran single malt scotch whisky maturing for years to come. We also have seen the unveiling of the visitor centre refurbishment which has a new reception and tasting room. Not only has this significant investment paved the way for an increase in production, but it will keep visitors coming back to the award-winning distillery for years to come.

James MacTaggart

James MacTaggart

This year we joined in the celebrations with James MacTaggart, marking his 10th Anniversary. As a tribute to James, Arran released the Master of Distilling James MacTaggart – 10 Years making a mark bottle. James’s 40-year experience in the industry has shaped the traditional Arran Malt Character and style that we all love and know so well. James keeps us White Stags pouring our favourite single malt scotch whisky over and over again. A true craftsman and a gentleman. Many congratulations to James. Here’s to many more years of him being part of the Arran Whisky legacy.

As a member of the White Stag community, I have been on a great journey with Arran Distillers over the last few years. I have enjoyed being part of many special events and festivals. My most memorable event was helping select the cask for the first ever White Stag bottle release. Back in the winter of January 2015, eight other White Stags, as well as two honorary stags, were invited to participate in an evening of tasting cask samples, specially drawn by James MacTaggart.

“It was a fantastic night with delicious food and like-minded Arran White Stags chatting and bringing together opinions on each cask. It was the best whisky experience I have been part of and a memory I will never forget”

It is also very fitting as I write this article about Arran Distillers, that the third and final White Stag bottle will be released on Monday 6th November.

Sadly, this outstanding series is coming to an end, but I’m sure we can look forward to the next White Stag \ Arran collaboration in due course. Arran has allowed White Stags to go on a journey with them and we have an exciting road ahead together in the future. Slainte!

 

Written by Derek Whiteford (instagram: #thewordisscotch)

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