Counting their first steps with Arran in 2008, the British from Master of Malt bottled three 1996 vitages (the 2012 version here). This version from 2014, limited at 100 bottles can be found at 75€…
Nose : We begin with apricot yogurt notes that will loom over this nose for long. We also find lemon syrup and a good lot of spices, with a good part of black pepper and a bit of cumin. Once the fruitiness fades a bit, the spices get stronger and we find gunpowder, slate (not really magic) and a bit of amaretto. The opening gives a few meaty notes (sausage meat) but they are sporadic. Ok, it ain’t crazy. The fruitiness is efficient but the spices are a bit covering, so it gets a bit wobbly after some time. The water tends to make the fruits disappear and to reinforce the spices (quite spiky). It is nearly more balanced even if it is, hence, quite minimalist.
Mouth : The texture lacks amplitude but remains rich enough. It is quite alcoholic without water though, with powder chocolate, malt, salt, peach, green apple, dry wood and mostly a good dose of spices (green pepper, cinnamon, paprika) that takes the upper hand on the second part of the mouth which is way dryer. The water releases it and its explosion in mouth is notable. Regarding the profile, the changes are minor though. The entry gets more chocolate, the peach is transparent whereas the wood seams to get rounder with a hint of honey. A not really sexy mouth that collects a bit too much of spices to leave space for the fruits. Yet, once calmed down, it remains perfectly drinkable.
Finish : It is pretty spicy with a chocolate supply, stone with seaweeds and a hint of aniseed. With water the finish has less chocolate, more fruits (peaches in syrup) but mainly keeps the cinnamon. The aftertaste is on paprika and green pepper without being burning.