Auchentoshan Tasting Notes

Auchentoshan

Auchentoshan is unique within the Scottish whisky world for one reason, it is triple distilled. That may not mean a lot to you, but with every other Scottish whisky only twice distilled, and triple distillation found more commonly within the Irish whisky production, it puts Auchentoshan under its own sub-category. It’s probably why then why I’ve been fascinated with the brand since i was introduced to it a few years back. It’s history, production methods, it’s versatility within its range as well as it’s location, makes Auchentoshan an interesting brand to work with. But how have I come to this rather bold conclusion? Well lets take a look –

Located close to the River Clyde in Clydebank, Glasgow, the rather picturesque setting hosts the Auchentoshan distillery, with the name ‘Auchentoshan’ meaning ‘corner of the field’. The distillery was officially granted a license and opened in 1823, although there is evidence that a distillery was operating on the same site from the late 1700’s. The distillery has changed ownership on several occasions in its history, including a spell under Scottish brewing firm, Tenants during the 1960’s. The current owners are Morrison Bowmore, who took control in 1984 and were subsequently taken over 10 years later by Japanese drinks company Suntory. With a resurgence in recent years, consumption can now be granted to the US, Canada, Nordic countries as well as Russia.

So as mentioned, Auchentoshan is rather unique in its production of this Lowland Scottish whisky.

Auchentoshan begins life using malted optic barley which spends 2 days soaked in water and then gently kilned. The barley is then ground into grist which maximizes the amount of starch that converts into sugars during the mashing process. After milling, it is then ready for combining with yeast and water from Loch Katrine. The barley is fed into a lauter tun (a huge copper pot) and combined with the Lock Katrine water first at 63.5°C. The second filling is at 74°C and left for 1 1/2 hours, and the third at 94°C (the heat helps turn the starches into sugar). After two fillings, it’s ready for fermentation (the third filling is used as the first water in the next mash).

The fermentation process happens in 6 metre deep Oregon Pine washbacks. Steeped for 5 days, it creates 35,000 litres of fermented wash at 8% ABV. At the end of the 5 days, the wash is pumped through to the first of three copper pot stills, the wash still. This huge room, sweltering from the heat of the three pot stills houses is where the uniqueness of Auchentoshan begins. Heated at 94°C, the vaporised alcohol slowly makes its way up the still and through the lyne arm that leads to the condenser. The left over ‘pot ale’ is then sold as fertiliser. Pipes in the condenser pump cold water around, condensing the alcohol vapour into liquid or ‘low wine’ and is then pumped through the ‘spirit safe’ where they now get the chance to control the condensed spirit. The actual spirit distillate begins life as something known as fore-shots. This is the remnants of the previous distillation combined with the current distillation (the fore-shots don’t make it any further – they’re recycled through the spirit safe into the feints receiver).

Auchentoshan 12yr and Triple Wood
Auchentoshan 12yr and Triple Wood

After eight minutes of fore-shots, the spirit starts to runs clear. This is known as the ‘new make spirit’. This ‘new make spirit’, is collected in the spirit receiver until the alcohol content drops to 80% ABV. The last process is known as ‘off spirit’, which is a second cut. This ‘second cut’ is recycled by re-distilling  The ‘new make spirit’ makes its way to the intermediate still, at 19% ABV and around 16,400 litres. Again heated up, the alcohol vapour travels up and through the lyne arm, and cooled in a condenser where it is then pumped through the spirit safe and into the feints receiver. Finally, they take the high strength feints and distil 2600 litres in the spirit still. After passing through the spirit safe for the third time, it hits the spirit receiver at between 80 and 82.6%. Here it is now ready to be cask filled at a strength of 63.5%.

The Auchentoshan distillation process takes the fermented liquid from 8% ABV to 80%, a unique number resulted from the triple-distillation instead of the more usual double-distillation that usually reached just 70% ABV.

Get all that? Don’t worry if you didn’t. It can be rather hard to explain the complicated process of the production of whisky, especially without sounding too geeky. If it helps, take a look at this.

For maturation, Auchentoshan use ex American bourbon oak barrels from Wild Turkey and Jim Beam at a cost of £80 and £100 per barrel. Spanish sherry casks are also used – Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez at around £800 a barrel. American oak is used to blend in flavours of caramel and vanilla, as well as to give it a sweetness, while dark, rich flavours and citrus notes are released from the Spanish casks. The darkened, cold warehouse housed casks raging from ages 6 to 50 years old, although the 50 year barrels will hold less due to natural evaporation causing the alcohol and water to be released.

So hopefully that gives you an idea of how Auchentoshan is created, but how does it all fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on some of their portfolio –

Auchentoshan Classic – 40%

Matured in first filled American bourbon barrels. Gives off a light, delicate vanilla scent on the nose, with white fruit coming through near the end. The palate enjoys a sweet vanilla, with a fresh citrus flavour that creates a lingering aftertaste.

Auchentoshan 12yr – 40%

Matured for 12 years, an instant burst of citrus flavours hits your nose, with a distinct toffee aroma floating rather quickly behind. Very smooth on the palate, with raisin and nut blending nicely with a sweetness lingering soon after, with a small hint of ginger.

Auchentoshan Three Wood – 43%

Matured in three different cask types, American bourbon to Spanish Oloroso sherry and finishing in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, a nose of deep sweetness, orange and raisin mix extremely well, with a heavy dose of black currant to finish. The palate has some dry fruits of raisin, with fresh lemon and butterscotch dancing slowly resulting in a long oak finish.

Auchentoshan 18yr – 43%

Bold notes of vanilla and spice on the nose with hints of sweet ginger following. Roasted nuts and vanilla flavours are present on the palate, creating a long, not-wanting-to-end finish.

Auchentoshan Valinch – 57.5%

The Classic Auchentoshan at cask strength. Floral and very clean on the nose with a sweet malt and a creamy flavour on the palate. Lingering finish. Smoother with drops of water with a slight power kick at the end.

Auchentoshan Virgin Oak – 46%

Auchentoshan’s first ever single malt to be solely matured in virgin North American oak casks. Bold on the nose which softens with fresh oak, spice and vanilla blending well. A sharp beginning on the palate that develops a sherry flavour, a little spice and a creamy texture. A lingering finish.

Fantastic on its own in your best whisky glass, but i did mention at the beginning at how versatile the range can be –

Rob 'Violet' Roy
Rob ‘Violet’ Roy

Rob ‘Violet’ Roy

Glass – 

Martini

Ingredients –

50 ml Auchentoshan Three Wood
12.5 ml Red Vermouth
6 ml Agave Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 ml Violet Liqueur

Method –

In a mixing glass full of ice, pour the violet syrup and stir. Strain the violet syrup out. Pour the rest of the ingredients over the ice, stir and strain into a Martini glass.

A great twist on a whisky classic! Auchentoshan takes their versatility seriously, even going as far as being host to one of the most innovative cocktail competitions in the world today, Auchentoshan Switch.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Auchentoshan distillery a few years back, incidentally my first every whisky distillery tour. You can check out my review of the trip here. In the meantime though, you need to purchase yourself a treat, or indeed grab a dram in your nearest whisky bar. The brand is nearly 200 years old for a reason.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Manchester Whisky Festival 2012 Review

The Palace Hotel in Manchester was the host of the biggest whisky festival outside of London, so big in fact that there had to be two sessions and two floors. The Whisky Lounge were the proud organisers for the 4th year in a row and had on offer the crème de la crème of the whisky world from both Scotland and Ireland, and even threw in Japan, England and America for good measure. Part of the Manchester Food & Drink Festival, there would be a host of seminars and masterclasses on offer including The Magnificent Seven, hosted by Colin Dunn of Diageo, which took you through an in-depth look into their varied portfolio. Joe Clark of The Whisky Lounge also offered his advice for novices of whisky festivals and helped pave the way of how to get the most out of the drams on offer. To cap the morning session off, Ryan Williams of Buffalo Trace was to be on hand to guide enthusiasts through the award-winning distillery and their delights. This year I myself didn’t participate in any of the workshops on offer, but took full advantage of scanning the list for new additions, rare offerings and old favourites – including a rum from the guys at Berry Bros and Rudd.

Below, in order I sampled, I give to you my tasting notes on the mornings offerings –

Auchentoshan Valinch – 57.5%

The Classic at cask strength. Floral and very clean on the nose with a sweet maltness and a creamy flavour on the palate. Lingering finish. Smoother with drops of water with a slight power kick at the end.

Suntory Yamazaki 12yr – 43%

Light on the nose with aromas of honey, vanilla and peach. Becomes a little sweeter on the palate with spice lingering and a long finish.

Bowmore Tempest Batch No. 3 –55.6%

Very dry on the nose with a balanced mix of peat and smoke. Still rather dry once it hits the palate, but develops flavours of lemon and salt with a peppery finish.

Hazelburn 12yr – 46%

Bold with lots of dry fruits on the nose with hints of sherry lingering near the end. Rather spicy on the palate with a rich oak flavour and hints of chocolate on the long finish.

Old Pulteney 12yr – 40%

Rather dry on the nose with aromas of fruit and vanilla slowly making an appearance. Again quite dry on the palate, with hints of salt and smoke initially and becomes rather bitter at the end.

Elmer T. Lee – 45%

On the nose, a very light offering of vanilla and butterscotch creates a smooth, soft and slightly sweet aroma. A sweeter taste of honey and vanilla with some intense fruits on the palate creates a rather creamier bourbon to almost class it as a dessert wine.

Hancock’s President Reserve 44.45%

Instant sweetness on the nose with aromas of exotic fruits that carries onto the palate. A round offering of fruit, spice and honey combine well to create a long finish.

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel 50%

Lots of oak and dry spices on the nose with a good balance of toffee, chocolate, vanilla and toffee on the palate. Incredibly long.

English Whisky Company Chapter 6 Un-peated – 46%

Sweet but soft on the nose with aromas of vanilla. Very sweet as it hits the palate with lots of malt and spice bursting well. Mellows as it nears the end with a slight dryness.

Singleton 12yr – 40%

Very rich fruit and nut aromas blend well when it hits the nose, with an initial sweetness onto the palate. Rather smooth afterwards however with a slight coffee flavour.

Dalwhinnie 15yr – 43%

Deep soft honey nose countered by a sharp citrus end on the nose. Quite sweet on the palate but does soften with vanilla.

Aberlour 16yr – 43%

Dry but rich on the nose with spice and raisins dominating. Quite sweet on the palate with a soft plum and long oak finish.

Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 41 – 59%

Lots of spice and rich orange combine well on the nose and continue on to the palate with ginger and chocolate flavours coming through. A bitter oak and sherry end.

Scapa 16yr – 40%

On the nose there’s lots of sweet honey aromas which move onto the palate and combine with ginger to create a rich and long-lasting finish.

Berry’s XO Caribbean Rum – 46%

Banana, caramel and liquorice dominate the nose with a potent richness. Green fruits offer an intense sweetness on the palate but becomes rather dry at the end.

Compass Box Flaming Heart  – 48.9%

A bold nose of smoke and peat but mellows quickly. A good combination of citrus and vanilla on the palate with a dry spice and smoke ending.

Compass Box The Entertainer –

Light on the nose with peat aromas noticeable and a whisp of soft corn. Rather sharp on the palate however with a slight kick of spice with makes your mouth water every time.

Glenmorangie Original – 40%

Instant citrus on the nose but is soon followed by vanilla. Vanilla is also present on the palate before bursting with fruit near the end, noticeable orange.

Greenore 8yr – 40%

The nose enjoys delicate citrus notes with a slight mix of corn. As it hits the tongue, it gives a short, sharp hit but mellows quickly into a more distinctive citrus taste with a hint of barley coming through.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask – 43%

Lots of vanilla notes on the nose, with rich toffee and fruit combining well on the palate. Hints of dried spice and tropical fruit help to round the long finish off.

W. L. Weller 12yr – 45%

Soft on the nose with hints of vanilla. A very soft, creamy flavour of wheat on the palate gives this a long, grainy finish that has hints of sweetness.

Arran 10yr – 46%

Instant vanilla to begin with, but tropical fruits follow. A spice start with citrus and oak counterbalancing nicely. Long and mellow ending.

Arran Gold Cream Liqueur – 17%

Soft toffee notes on the nose mix with a slight aroma of fruit. Lots of vanilla on the palate creates a sweet offering, with chocolate dominating near the end.

Glenfiddich Rich Oak – 40%

Soft fruit notes on the nose with slight oak whispers. Rather soft and short on the palate, but a fruity offering with rich vanilla thrown in.

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19yo Madeira Cask Finish – 40%

Deep orange notes on the nose with some hints of grape slowly released. Spice immediately hits the palate, but mellows to a smooth offering of caramel and ginger.

Glenfiddich 21yr – 40%

Strong and intense banana and toffee aroma with hints of leather and a rich sweet follow-through on the nose. Smooth with a slight smokiness and ginger and lime extracts on the palate with a long warm after-taste with subtle spice hints.

Glenfiddich 15yr Non-chill Filtered – 51%

Ripe, fresh fruit on the nose with an aroma of pepper at the end. Rather dry on the palate with spice, rich fruit flavours creating a long finish.

As you can see, a rather diverse collection was available, as well as varieties that are already gracing the site including Ardbeg, Connemara and anCnoc. With a total of four hours per session, there’s more than enough to keep you busy, and the guys and girls behind the brands are more than willing to tell you everything you need to know.

I know for a fact I’ll be attending next years festival as it’s the perfect chance to try some whiskies that you may never be able to afford in a bar or restaurant, plus a great opportunity to sample some you may never thought you would like.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.