Examining the Bere Master

Taste Review #106 – Arran Master Of Distilling 2 / Bere Barley 10

Thankfully this is the end.

Not of my blog, but thankfully it will be the last review in a while where I sample two whiskies at the same time. I find this pretty intensive, as I like to spend at least a couple of hours with each dram to try and understand them as best I can, given that the majority of time I use miniatures or sample sizes.

The two drams I bring to you today were given to me by a friend who told me that both he and his wife loved one of these drams and wanted to know what I thought. As a fellow countryman who hails from the east coast of Scotland, he’ll know that free will always be accepted. Take first, ask questions later.


Master Of Distilling 2

I haven’t drunk a lot of Arran before, mainly because of my normal drinking habits take me to Speyside or Highlands, but not the islands. There are a few Arran miniatures that are sitting in my study waiting for review, but so far the time to taste them hasn’t been found. As I type this I feel that it is a shame, as the last Arran I reviewed, the now discontinued 14 year old was really nice. I was that impressed I made sure a few went into store so I can access that delicious spirit in the future.

The Arran distillery is a relatively young distillery, although it is starting to look much more grown up now we have so many new distilleries that have opened in the recent past, such as Ardnmurchan, Raasay, Daftmill, Dornoch, Eden Mill, Kingsbarns and there are a handful more in the process of not being far away from releasing their own spirit. Production started in 1995, so this means that the range is now able to stretch to 25 years old, bearing testimony that the distillery has most definitely come of age. By next year we may see the first three year old spirit being released at Lagg, the distillery at the south end of Arran that had to be built to enable the Isle Of Arran Distillers Ltd to have more capacity to concentrate on peated spirit. So far the main peated spirit at their main Lochranza facility has been the Machrie Moor release.

This release was bottled in honour of the master distiller at Arran, James MacTaggart, who had chosen the selection of Palo Cortado casks from Jerez, Spain. I have to say that I am more familiar with PX or Oloroso Sherried whiskies. Palo Cortado is a sherry type that starts maturation under a blanket of flor (yeast). When this does not remain intact, air comes into contact with the sherry, which starts to oxidise and form an Amontillado Sherry. This will give a nutty, savoury taste. However in the case of Palo Cortado, this doesn’t always happen and it becomes richer and darker like an Oloroso Sherry.


Bere Barley (right)

In the same shipment from my friend arrived another Arran whisky, the Bere Barley 10. This is a barley that in Britain is probably the oldest grain in continuous production. Bere is reckoned to have been brought to the British Isles by the Vikings, and is mainly cultivated in the North of Scotland, where the barley is able to grow in a short season on low pH soils. This is mostly in Caithness, Sutherland, Shetland and Orkney. This is a 6 row grain compared to the more common 2 row, but possibly due to its rapid growth and short season, it is not the most productive grain for the purposes of alcohol. However, in the 19th century, large amounts of Bere barley was used extensively by the Campbeltown distilleries. As strains of barley improved, it largely fell out of use. Nowadays, the only distillery releases that I can think of that use this Bere Barley are that of Springbank and Bruichladdich.


Arran Bere Barley 10

It is now time to move onto the whisky.

Arran Master of Distilling 2

Region – Highland Age – 12 y.o Strength -51.8% ABV Colour – Amontillado Sherry (0.9) Cask Type – Palo Cortado Sherry Colouring -No Chill Filtered -No Nose – Sweet. Nougat, Caramel, Floral (violets, rose water), Almond, hint of chocolate, porridge oats. A slight sour note of dry white wine. Palate – Medium body, sweet initially then a kick of alcohol. Peanut skin, orange zest, walnuts, almonds, red berries, slightly drying. Finish – Medium long. Cherry, chocolate powder, hint of must, possibly from an old book / old unvarnished wood furniture. A smattering of brine, slightly drying. With water, there was an increase in savoury note which reminded me of sautéed mushrooms.


Master Of Distilling 2

Arran Bere Barley 10

Region – Highland Age – 10 year old Strength – 56.2% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Honey, Almonds, Vanilla, Peach, buttery bread / brioche, Floral notes, Lavender to the fore, mixing with the aforementioned honey, Coconut, Mango, Cardamom. Quite a lot going on in the nose! Palate -Cask Strength quite obvious here. Warming but not overheated alcohol arrival. Waxy mouthfeel. Quite floral, Pine, Honey, Sour Apple, Peppercorn. Bitterness, strong black tea. Finish – Short – Medium. Leafy – Spinach? Brine, more white peppercorn. Bay leaves, bitter citrus. Drying and fizzy.


Arran Bere Barley 10

Conclusions

As I said before I really liked the Arran 14, and although I hadn’t tasted much more Arran than that, I always had intended to try more, hence why I still have a selection of minis at home. I am glad that I kept that mindset, as the Master of Distilling 2 was a good dram for me. I always love a whisky with a cherry note to it, and the last time that I had that was the Wild Turkey Longbranch. My wife has since bought me a bottle, which I cannot wait to get cracked into. Whether or not I buy a Master of Distilling 2 remains to be seen, as although I like it, I’m at the point that I cannot really buy much more whisky in the vain hope I’m going to drink it within the next two years. I might still get a bottle to put into store, and see what happens.

The Bere Barley was quite good as well, but the strong leafy finish after the continual sweetness of MoD2 made my palate prefer the sweeter dram. I do have a sweet tooth! I found that both whiskies had a really pleasant nose, but only the 12 year old whisky really followed up with a pleasing palate and finish. Plus, despite being interested in whisky for many years, that is the first Palo Cortado casked whisky that I’ve knowingly had, and I liked it.

Master of Distilling 2 is available for around £75 if you look around the web. Bere Barley is about £36. Both not bad value for the experience given. I enjoyed the Bere barley 10 times more than Aberlour 12, and that cost £40!

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

Barley Photo – Public Domain / Xianmin.Chang@orkney.uhi.ac.uk

All Other Photos – Authors Own

No Wooly Jumper Required

Taste Review 8 – Arran

Going to stick to the island whiskies for another taste review, and head south from the review of last weeks Talisker Storm and land on the Isle that has named many a woolly jumper – Arran. As the case with Talisker on the Isle of Skye, Arran is another Inner Hebridean island, it sits between the Kintyre peninsula and the Ayrshire coast.

There isn’t a lot for me to tell you about the Arran distillery. It is the first modern distillery on the island, based in Lochranza at the north end of the Arran and was founded in 1995. However, such is the demand for their product, they are already expanding, and as of 2016 decided to open a second distillery at Lagg, which has not seen whisky production (legally at least!) since 1837. The second distillery is aiming to help spread the tourist impact across the island, and also to produce their peated malts. First production was made on the 19th March 2019.

This taste review comes to you via another of my miniature purchases which saves me buying the full bottle. This one had been recommended to me, so I purchased my mini-malt for £5.20 from the Whisky Shop in Dufftown.

Age

14 years old

Strength

46% a.b.v

Colour

Straw

Nose

Ginger, chocolate orange, vanilla, pears.

Palate

Very smooth. Burnt oak, spiced fruits, hazelnuts, citrus, toffee. Salt comes to the party when you add a little water.

Finish

Smooth, brine note holds well when water added. Caramel, cinnamon; the chocolate orange came back for me at the very end.

Conclusion

Quite a pleasant dram. I was able to pick out the chocolate orange straight away. I used to have a girlfriend who would only realise that I bought the chocolate only for her if it was a Terrys Chocolate Orange. I can’t stand it. Only chocolate orange stuff I like is Jaffa cakes. The bottling strength is bang on the money, but still tastes smooth. It is without artificial colour and non-chill filtered.

The initial aroma is very delicate. I nearly thought it was mint. However it hides a subtle complexity. I found many different flavours, and enjoyed the coastal brine note that became easier to spot with water added.

Would I buy a bottle? Possibly at some point, regardless of the Chocolate Orange note. I’m not sure of how available it is, as a few places have sold out, but I suspect that as this is a part of the core range is that success has over run a limited supply.

Expect to pay about £45-£52 a bottle.

Slainte Mhath!