Arran is one of Scotland’s most southerly and remote islands. In the early 1990s, when Harold Curry, the former managing director of Seagram, was looking for a place to make his own whisky, he zeroed in on Arran. Curry issued bonds that helped fund the distillery, which was named after the island, and the investors were rewarded with casks of whisky. The first run gushed out of the spirit boxes in 1995. Arran’s whiskies are artisanal, and the distillery doesn’t practise chill filtration. The distillery has bottled several award-winning drams, such as Robert Burns, but, if you are adventurous, I’d recommend the 1995/2008 first production that was bottled at 60.3 percent.
Kilchoman (pronounced ‘kil-homan’) was set up in 2005, on the west coast of Islay, by Anthony Wills. Kilchoman is a small distillery that produces about 100,000 litres a year. Wills says Kilchoman is 100 percent Islay malt and that everything, including the barley, is sourced locally and maturation and bottling also takes place on Islay. Kilchoman’s small size makes it easier for Wills to stay as close as possible to traditional whisky-making techniques. The base spirit of Kilchoman is, like any other Islay spirit, peaty and oily, with lots of fruitiness. The two most sought-after Kilchomans are the Machir Bay (46 percent ABV) and a mildly-peated 100 percent Islay (50 percent ABV).
The Mackmyra distillery was set up in Gävle, in eastern Sweden, by a bunch of Swedes who wanted to take advantage of the country’s golden barley fields and fresh air. The first Mackmyra was produced in 2008. The whisky is produced in small batches and is, reportedly, handcrafted. Local peat and juniper branches are used for malting and the spirit is aged in both ex-bourbon and local Swedish oak. Mackmyra is very non-Scotch in character and has lots of floral, herbal and oily notes. It might be a work in progress, but the whisky has already won awards. My favourite is the mellow and refreshing MackmyraBrukswhisky (bottled at 41.4 percent).
Bill Lark built his boutique distillery, in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1992. Tasmania produces good quality barley, and has highland peat bogs and soft water. Lark is a family-run establishment. Bill’s wife, Lyn, helps with the running of the distillery, while Kristy, their daughter, is a serious whisky maker. The peat in Tasmania has a floral and oily character due to decomposed eucalyptus, one of the most widely cultivated trees on the island. Most of the spirit spends its time in ex-bourbon casks. Lark produces three spirits: a cask-strength, bottled at 58 percent, a distiller’s selection, bottled at 46 percent, and a single cask, bottled at 43 percent.
King Car, a Taiwanese conglomerate, ventured into whisky making about eight years ago, and, with distilling consultant Dr Jim Swan overseeing operations, the first batch of spirit was produced in 2006. The distillery, in Yilan, in northeastern Taiwan, is set amid mountains, and numerous streams that flow down the mountains provide it with fresh water. The spirit is matured in ex-bourbon casks, but the more expensive Kavalans spend time in sherry and fino sherry casks. Kavalan has no age statement on its bottles, but I am sure all their whiskies meet the minimum age requirement of three years. Kavalan’s whiskies have a signature mango flavour. I am yet to come across a bad Kavalan, but my favourite is the Solist range, which has traces of tropical fruits. It is intensely sweet on the palate and has a lingering finish.
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