Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. The Arran Bourbon Single Cask 12

A whisky with a reputation such as Macallan 12 must be tried against a variety of competitors in order to appreciate how singular the product is. By the same token, one may also discover a wonderful alternative during such a tasting. In today’s showdown, I hope a pleasant surprise is at hand as a wonderful whisky from my collection, the Arran Bourbon Single Cask at cask strength goes up against the Macallan 12. This bottle of Arran is a rare treat, no longer available in these parts. The bottle in my collection is just one of 178 produced in 2011 (bottle number 60 to be precise). It was bottled at 55.5% abv from cask number 115.

Prior to commencing, I poured both through my Vinturi Spirit and added a few drops of water to the Macallan and significantly more to the Arran. I figure I dropped the alcohol content to about 46% abv in so doing.

Their respective colours could not be more different. The bold, rich golden/amber hues of the Macallan contrast significantly from the pale yellow colour of the Arran. No surprise, however, as the bournon casks don’t quite give the same colour as sherry casks.

The sherry nose on the Macallan with its oak and smokey character also contrast neatly from the slightly peated, sugary nose of the Arran. Strangely, both share a pleasant impression of orange on the nose.

The palate of the Macallan exudes sherry, lays down oak, leather, and dark chocoate with orange. The Arran gently introduces peat, smoke, vanilla, banana liqueur, orange peel, and other sweet fruits. Again, a common expression of orange is apparant on both, even though they differ in many other respects.

The finish on the Macallan is longer than the Arran, invoking memories raisin and bitters. The Arran on the other hand is no slouch in the length of the finish and leaves gentle hints of vanilla, juicy figs, orange, and a hint of smoke.

Overall, the Arran is a fine competitor and criminally overlooked by most whisky amateurs. Both these whiskies are fine, complex examples of what their respective distillers wished to accomplish. I highly recommend both and struggle with recommending a winner. If pushed to decide, I will give my nod to the Arran for being the easier on the palate and fuller on the finish and the nose, despite the shorter length of its finish.

Benriach Arumaticus Fumosis

I apologize to my regular readers (if any) for the recent scarcity of updates to the blog. A busy schedule and little spare time is to blame for the slowdown in productivity on the site, but be assured that your patience will soon be rewarded. Today’s tasting is of a rare variety from a well-known Speyside distillery. Benriach’s Arumaticus Fumosis is a peated whisky, aged 12 years, and bottled at an interesting 46% abv.  The name is derived from the Latin for smoky rum.

Benriach’s history is interesting. The distillery was built in 1898 and is one of few with its own floor maltings. The distillery went bankrupt only two years later, was purchased by Longmorn, and ceased production in 1903. The distillery was reopened in 1965, though it continued to use its floor maltings and storage space to mature spirits until then. After its reopening, it produced whisky used in a number of blends for Glenlivet and Seagram’s. In 2003, the distillery was closed again, but reopened under new ownership in 2004. There was an abundance of casks dating back more than 30 years whoch allowed the new owners to market a wide variety of products as a result. A quick perusal of Benriach’s offerings yields a marvelous gamut of titles, such as the Curiositas, the Heredotus Fumosis, the Maderensis Fumosis, the Solstice, and the Authenticus, ranging from 10 years to 21 years. Top of line 20, 21, and 30 year-old expressions are also available. Add to this the regular 12, 15, and 16 year-old expressions and the variety within each age range such as the 15 year-old dark rum finish or the equally aged Madeira wood finish and you have an eye-popping array of choices from a distillery that was silent for most of its existence.
The distillery uses both peated and non-peated malts in its production. In the case of the Arumaticus Fumosis, the selection consists of peated malt matured in American oak and finished in dark rum barrels.

The colour is light gold with legs that run quick and thin.

The nose is peat, smoke, and a hint of rum.

The palate somewhat sweet, peated and smoky. The rum casks’ influence is easily appreciated. It will be interesting to stack this up against a Bowmore and see how it fares as this can readily be taken for an Islay. There are some spices in there, a hint of liquorice, and salt and pepper.

The finish shines on this whisky. It is elegantly sweet with hints of BBQ sauce, long lasting peat influence, and a charming smoky embrace that leaves behind caramel, smoke, and spice.

Adding a bit of water does open up the aromas and flavours, but doesn’t appear to change the overall impressions. I recommend only a few drops, then allowing the glass to sit for about 30 minutes. Use an aerator if you are in a hurry.

Overall, this is a fine whisky.  It is light and easy to drink for a peated product but complex enough to keep make for an interesting overall experience.   As my first experience with Benriach, I am intrigued enough to want to try their other offerings. Highly recommended, this bottle is available at the SAQ in Quebec for just over $72.   I haven’t seen it in Ontario or New Hampshire unfortunately, but at that price this product offers an excellent return.


Benriach Arumaticus Fumosis