My second trip to Arran, but the first one was somewhat curtailed by train delays, giving me 5 minutes on the island. So, in essence, my first trip to Arran and I had a few days this time.
I hopped down to Lagg on a Friday as they were running a new ‘Secrets from the Lagg Vault‘ tasting and I wanted to see the distillery for the first time and hopefully try a few unusual, early expressions of this peated malt owned by the Arran Distillers (who run the Arran Distillery in Lochranza). The distillery itself is a lovely space, loads of amazing views out to the coast and a nice layout, with a comfy cafe/restaurant upstairs on a mezzanine and a simpler, coffee place on the ground floor.
I could combine this with a 30-minute ‘Express Tour‘ and get a bus back afterwards – perfect. The express tour was perfect especially for those who’ve either been on too many distillery tours before, or aren’t that into whisky. It really was all you need to know, you got to see the inner workings of the aitulkery, tasted the new make, then got a miniature of Lagg whisky to take home.
From there, it was onto the vault tasting. It was only its second running and another staff member was sitting in to see how it works, so it was 2:1 ratio of staff to tasters! I was providing feedback as well as enjoying the drams – it was a fun DYNAMIC. Here’s what we ended up sampling, with rough descriptions / notes, and photos (in order) below:
1. Bourbon cask, 1 of the vatted casks that’s married to make Lagg Batch 1
2. Ex Arran heavily peated in Koval bourbon quarter cask (Machrie Moor Fingal’s Cut)
3. Sauternes cask, accidentally filled at Arran (so ex Arran cask). This is a stinkfest (good though)! Pre reverse osmosis of water supply (borehole / aquifer, which was pretty sulphuric).
4. Rum cask, ex-Arran heavily peated (Machrie Moor Fingal’s Cut), which had some mention of Cognac on the cask, intriguingly
5. Ex-Arran heavily peated sherry hogshead
As this tasting was in its infancy, I said I’d send some detailed feedback, which is copied / slightly edited down here. It may as well double as my full review, but in summary – a great tasting and something I wish all distilleries would offer.
It was great – pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be, and exactly the kind of thing I look for at distilleries. The selection of drams was excellent, really showcasing the different directions Lagg whisky is being taken towards, as well as giving people a chance to taste some of the more unusual expressions (the pre-reverse osmosis Sauternes cask one was a good example of this!).
Tim was great – very casual, chatty and friendly, with good knowledge about the process at Lagg, the releationships with Lochranza and the use of some of their casks. Sarah was also very friendly and they were both clearly very passionate – the whole experience was very easy-going and informative.
The only thing I might add to the tasting is a small component seeing some of the distillery buildings, particularly as some people might not have also been on a tour. Perhaps the first dram (in our case, the bourbon cask that was part of Batch 1) could be sampled in the still room, or one of the warehouses, before moving to the tasting room for the other 4 drams?