A little while ago I attended a tasting at Gauntleys in Nottingham, which is a fantastic shop – a Tardis in which you can quite easily find your pockets emptying in exchange for some obscure whisky. (One of their guys, Chris Goodrum, also puts his own tastings on YouTube with The Good Dram Show.) The event was actually a tasting jointly hosted with Chris and Adrian Hoose from Claxton’s whiskies. Claxton’s are a relatively new independent bottler on the scene that is already getting a very good reputation – so I thought I should most definitely come to this tasting.
Claxton’s are a family run Yorkshire-based company with about six or so bottles on the market at the moment. The members of the family all decide together on what goes in the bottles, though naturally the elders get the deciding vote. These are single cask whiskies, all non-chill filtered and so forth. Standard for a good indie. But these whiskies are also what I would call very good value (the 25 year old Auchroisk cost £100).
I tasted several drams on the night, but such an environment of a warm room filled with increasingly intoxicated men was not ideal for tasting whiskies – or, indeed, ideal for anything I can think of, so I was lucky enough to be able to a sample a few at home as well, in the comfort of my own home. Here are my thoughts on four from Claxton’s range.
Claxton’s Glentauchers 18 Years Old
Distilled 16/12/196, matured in a bourbon barrel. Bottled at 48% ABV.
Colour: yellow gold.
On the nose: stewed apples, floral honey and porridge (or perhaps oat cakes) – or maybe cooked swede. Vanilla begins to show once the cereal quality dies back. Then flashes of sweet tropical fruit juice (carton, not fresh).
In the mouth: again, much of the same fruit notes come through – apples, tropical fruits such as pineapple, but there’s a grapefruit sourness bringing it all in check. Vanilla, a touch of toffee. Quite clean, sharp and fresh on the whole. A light honey again. Perhaps nudging into Chardonnay territory towards the finish, which then becomes very warm and peppery. Water tends to dilute the sweetness, meaning it becomes slightly unbalanced and sour, but perfect at 48%. Very pleasant.
Claxton’s Auchroisk 25 Years Old
Distilled 26/04/1991, matured in a bourbon hogshead. Bottled at 51.7% ABV.
Colour: old gold to amber.
On the nose: fresh peaches, apricot, apples in golden syrup. Vanilla. Toffee. Floral. A hint of brine, citrus. Baked apples and pears, with almost a cider-like quality once left for a while. Heather honey. Ground almonds (baked in cake or crumble form).
In the mouth: gorgeously thick texture, with tons of fruit: a rush of baked apples, mead. Blackberries, with just a hint of tartness. Nice barley undercurrent. Just a touch of menthol. Honey. Nutmeg and a warming peppery finish. (I very nearly bought one of these on the night, as it was very good value.)
Claxton’s Tomatin 21 Years Old
Distilled 14/10/1994, matured in a refill hogshead. Bottled at 48% ABV.
Colour: old gold to amber.
On the nose: old barns after harvest – lots of cereal notes, especially wheat flour, which dies back after a while to reveal beeswax furniture polish and toffee fudge. Golden syrup, or a drizzle of honey. Apple and blackcurrant pie.
In the mouth: medium weight texture – quite oily, and some exquisite sweetness. Creme brulee – a nice bit of burnt sugar crusting. Pastry. Vanilla custard heaped on top of an apple crumble. Toffee apples. Crabapple jelly. Very nice indeed.
Claxton’s Bruichladdich 11 Years Old
Distilled 27/07/2005, matured entirely in a Rioja wine cask. Bottled at 57.2% ABV.
On the nose: delightful mustiness, the sort of thing you’d expect from much older wood. Strawberry jam from a Victoria Sponge filling, oozing a promise of sticky sweetness. Redcurrant sauce. Cigars. Burnt matches. Praline chocolates. Sandalwood.
In the mouth: a cloying, acidic texture, as expected, with a lot of redcurrant and blackcurrant tartness. Heady sweetness comes in: brown sugar, toffee. Sweeter with each mouthful. A meatiness – well cooked bacon with a dollop of overly sweet ketchup. Cherries. Woody qualities deliver bitterness, and a sharpness after a while of lemonade. A long, acidic finish. Weird and wonderful. You would think not especially popular, either, given its eccentricity, but on the night they sold more bottles of this one than any other.
Very good cask selection. The Auchroisk was £100, but the rest were around £80 or lower. That’s pretty good for single cask whisky. Here is a new independent bottler that clearly knows what they’re doing. Good spirit, good value. What more can you want these days?
If I had a complaint (and I love having complaints) then my criticism would be that three of the profiles tasted here felt close to one another. Yes, they’re different, but when presented as a new series I think there could be a little more variation to make a bit of a statement (maybe a good sherry cask among them) but I guess you bottle what you’ve got when it’s ready. The Bruichladdich, clearly, is miles away on the other end of the spectrum – and is brilliant.
A couple are still able to buy on the Gauntley’s website. But which did I buy?
None of the above. I actually bought a cheeky Lediag 8 Year Old on the night…
Note: these samples were all provided kindly by Claxton’s, but the tasting was paid for out of my own pocket.