I first tried the Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength last month when it was released, and was not excited by it. I like the standard 10 year old - a great session dram, satisfying without being challenging, like a battered old sofa with dogs on it, rather than a Louis Quinze armchair - and several Arran releases have been truly excellent, but this expression seemed rather quiet.
Whisky drinkers will often find the time to disagree with each other at length, but I think it's fair to say that most of them would agree a freshly opened bottle tastes different to one that's had a few days or weeks to air. And many would say that an open whisky improves with time. Tasting the Arran 12 again tonight rather confirms that view. Tonight's dram is from a 10cl sample bottle which has been left half full for a month or so, and I like it much better now.
Confirming my earlier thoughts, it's not a blockbuster. But arguably, that's a good thing; it hides its 54%ABV well, and is extremely drinkable neat.
It takes quite a while to show its colours, and I find myself making a comparison to Lochnagar, another malt which doesn't really do fireworks, but is a great comfort whisky. It's very sweet, with the baked apples and spice I associate with Arran, and there's no dryness anywhere to be found. The sherry flavours are subtle, and only come along slowly.
In conclusion, I'd call this a beginner's Cask Strength whisky, just as I'd say that the Arran 10 is a beginner's malt. There's plenty of interest, it does what it ought to, but few people will find it challenging.