Arran Distillery was founded in 1995 by Harold Currie, a former Managing Director at Chivas who also has worked for Pernod Richard. More than 1 000 people attended the opening in august in 1995. The £1.2 million starting capital was mainly raised through the sales of 2 500 ‘bonds’ (a clever and often used system where customers acquire the right to buy finished whisky after a certain maturation period which in Arran’s case was six years).
Although the Arran Distillery came to the island fairly recently the art of making whisky has been present for a long time. During the seventeenth century Arran Island was the home of more than 50 illicit distilleries which were all very well known for their quality whisky. Sadly all distilleries eventually perished, mostly due to the added cost of transporting the whisky to the mainland.
In spite of its remoteness and the poor track record for the original distilleries, Isle of Arran is actually the perfect place to run a distillery today since the island has become a very popular holiday destination; the Isle of Arran is known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ because of its wide variety of scenery with lochs, mountains, lowlands and castles. If you keep this fact in mind and also consider that Harold Currie has family ties to the Island, the decision to found a distillery on this particular island is easy to understand.
The excellent visitor centre was opened by none other than Her Majesty the Queen in 1997. The centre has received the ‘highly commended’ award from Scotland’s National Tourism Board. Arran Distillery has been very productive in a short time and have released several bottlings. They have also managed to gain the right to use the name of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Poet, in their bottle labels. This is no mean feat since many distilleries try to use Robert Burns in some way in their marketing. Customers may buy the Robert Burns Single Malt, the Robert Burns Blend and some other Burns bottlings at the gift shop or directly from the official Arran website.
Production at Arran
Before deciding on the exact spot for the distillery, the company went through extensive testing before they finally settled for the town of Lochranza. The town was chosen because of its proximity to the preferred water source, the Loch na Davie which lies some 2.5 miles south of the distillery.
All malt is bought from Aberdeenshire and is made mainly from Chariot and Optic Barley. The full lauter mash tun is made from stainless steel and the wooden washbacks are made from larch. The distillery has two onion shaped stills with long thin necks which are internally steam heated. The wash still holds 7 100 litres and the spirit stills holds 4 300 litres. The stills may seem small for a distillery with the drive and ambition of Arran Distillery, but room is already reserved in the main building for two additional stills should the need arise.
Arran mostly mature their whisky in sherry casks (Hogsheads and Butts) but they also use bourbon barrels. Furthermore, one of their recent bottlings has been finished in calvados casks and has been met with much appreciation for its complex character. Some of the casks are stored on site in two earth floor warehouses but some are also stored at the Springbank Distillery. The current annual production at Arran is 750 000 litres.
Lochranza, Isle of Arran,
Phone: +44 (0) 1770-830264
Distillery Manager: Gordon Mitchell
Visitors: The distillery is open all year round between 10am and 6pm. Guided tours are available after advance booking. The distillery also has an award-winning restaurant which only uses local produce. The Arran visitor centre has about 42 000 visitors every year. The admission is £3.50-
Owner: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd