May 012016
 

With Passover finally over, lets get back to the enjoyable business of reviewing some whisky.

Few distilleries have been a constant source of so much consternation to me as Auchentoshan (well, and Jura). It’s a distillery I want to like, but have just not been able to enjoy any of the regular bottlings I have tasted. I don’t really like triple distilled whisky, and at 40% ABV and chill filtration, the standard bottlings are just not interesting in any way.

A Typical Day at Auchentoshan © Malt and Oak

A Typical Day at Auchentoshan
© Malt and Oak

Older, cask strength bottlings are another story, and from time to time I come across one that I can actually enjoy, like the 22 year old bottled by the Glaswegian Good Spirits that I was invited to taste by the great guys at the Glasgow Whisky Club, incidentally, the evening before my visit to the distillery.

At the distillery tour, the participants (it was myself and two young ladies, one from Australia and one from Italy who were “taking the morning off” from a professional conference they were attending) were invited to taste this distillery only bottling, aged 9 years in a Bordeaux cask, and it was REALLY good. Cask strength, unfiltered the liquid really showed what Auchentoshan is actually capable of, triple distillation or not.

Photo Credit: whiskyauctioneer.com

Photo Credit: whiskyauctioneer.com

Auchentoshan Distillery Exclusive, Bordeaux Cask #205, Distilled 15.2.2006, Bottled 30.9.2015 (56.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep Copper, long lasting residue.

Nose: Bittersweet chocolate, red berries, almost port like, it has depth, wine dryness, gummy drops. You can spend some real time with this one. A drop of water brings out a minty freshness. Some cereal

Palate: Here’s the wine, with dry spices, pepper and clove, with a hint of the triple distilled initial tang of bitterness.

Linger: White pepper, a dryness inside the cheeks, clove and a slight sweetness. Light spice on top of the gullet.

Conclusion

Why can’t all Auchentoshans be like this?

Jan 262015
 

Just outside of Glasgow, you’ll find the curious Auchentoshan distillery. It’s curious in that it distills the whisky three times, like Irish whisky, and as such, are the only scotch producer to wholly use a triple distillation method. Other distilleries use partial triple distillation (Mortlach and Springbank come to mind), and Springbank even makes a triple distilled brand (Hazelburn), but no other Scottish distillery produces all its whisky triple distilled.

Every distillation “softens up” the whisky, and if you were lucky enough to taste the Feis Ile 2014 festival bottling of Octomore Discovery by Bruichladdich, you will have tasted a quadruple distilled whisky, which was extremely soft on the palate, literally like a liquid velvet wood fire, due to the high peatiness. To me, however, triple distilled whisky (both Irish and the Auchentoshan products) has a certain ‘musty’ or vegetal character which is less to my taste.

Photo Credit: dramming.com

Photo Credit: dramming.com

The distillery is part of the Morrison-Bowmore portfolio (together with Bowmore and Glen Garioch), which is owned, in turn, by Suntory. Suntory became the owner, through the purchase of Jim Beam, of Laphroaig and Ardmore. Auchentoshan is enjoying a great expansion of the brand over the past few years, and broke the one million bottle mark in sales in 2013.

With a rather short fermentation and a very narrow and early middle cut, the spirit is true to its Lowland roots.

Photo Credit: smwhisky.com.au

Photo Credit: smwhisky.com.au

Auchentoshan 12 (40%)

Appearance: Amber, thin and quick legs with residue on the glass.

Nose: The musty feel of the triple distillation first meets the nose, then a vegetal note with vanilla, sherry, an whiff of eucalyptus leaves, cinnamon and clove.

Palate: Bitter citrus with a somewhat flat mouth feel. No trace of the sherry promise from the nose, though. Bitter and slightly mouth drying with some notes of spice.

Linger: Spice right down the gullet, touches of sweetness on the tongue and some dryness on the inside of the cheeks.

Conclusion

Despite being bitter (which is a plus for me, as my regular readers know), the palate is the Achilles heel of this dram, being one dimensional and flat despite the spirit having some promise.

I think the spirit would benefit from being unchill filtered and having slightly more sherry influence (thus being slightly sweeter) which would make it work better for me.