Welcome to the latest vertical tasting experience where we’ll be focusing on Aucthentoshan distillery, which you’ll see from the photograph above is triple distilled.
These vertical tastings are a great way to experience a distillery and quite often you’ll be surprised by the results including an overall favourite. After the delights of the Talisker vertical tasting, I found myself at Auchentoshan distillery for an enjoyable tour. A perfect opportunity to raid their distillery shop and spend a little cash that resulted in the motley assortment above. We’re starting right at the beginning with the Auchentoshan new make spirt before following the work of the cask at one and two years of age. This is part of the Stillman’s set you can purchase at Auchentoshan.
After this we’ll be hitting a couple of their No Age Statement releases before reaching the twelve year old. Then its two travel retail exclusives and enough
food dramming for thought! In total we have nine whiskies and the eagle eyed will only count eight in photograph. That’s because I forgot to include an independent bottling of Auchentoshan.
For more details about the distillery itself then do check out my distillery tour review or even my Instagram account where you’ll see daily pictures of distilleries, bottles and Scotland. Before we embark, it is worth saying this isn’t one of my favourite distilleries. The best Auchentoshan I had experienced was a delightful Cadenhead’s bottling a couple of years ago before more recently being struck down by the bottle-your-own option at the distillery that happened to be from a Bordeaux wine cask and offered more richness than the core range combined.
Lets see how these 9 drams shape up starting at the very beginning…
Auchentoshan New make spirit. Strength 63.5% vol
Colour: crystal clear
Nose: green apples, oats and especially cherries. Decaying leaves, mint leaf, a floral spring aspect and liquorice.
Taste: surprisingly more limited on the palate than I was expecting with just apples and pears. An oily texture but refreshing and drinkable if slightly warming.
Overall: a slightly disappointing new make. Compared to some of the new distilleries that have recently started selling their spirit from the still, it’s lacking depth.
Auchentoshan 1 year old. Strength 63% vol
Nose: more citrus on the nose initially. After a year in a American bourbon cask it’s still mainly new make spirit that dominates. Peaches, an orange that’s seen better days, pineapple and well believe it or not a manila envelope are the new additions. So that’ll be the wood starting to influence via a office material type piece of paper. After more time in the glass and left uncovered it becomes apple pie.
Taste: a similar strength to the new make but lacking its sharpness. Vanilla, sugar cane, wet wood, yeast and some lemon starting to come through now.
Overall: 12 months in and the metamorphosis is well underway and becoming pronounced on the palate.
Auchentoshan 2 year old. Strength 62.5% vol
Colour: a faded tan
Nose: strawberries and a strong sense of sawdust or thick wood shavings. Given time black pepper, nutmeg and some cinnamon appear.
Taste: is very interesting as you can sense the sherry influence already in the undergrowth adding body, but its still the spirit that dominates the geographical landscape. Still very fresh with red berries and red liquorice fighting for attention. Safe to say it needs a few more years yet!
Overall: in a way its disappointing that we’ve moved onto this Spanish Oloroso sherry cask rather than following the bourbon for another year.
Auchentoshan American Oak. Strength 40% vol, Price £34
Colour: golden honey
Nose: almost a mulled wine kind of presence with all spice and cinnamon showing strongly. Vanilla essence, pineapple and oranges but little depth.
Taste: the rich vanilla transmits over as a cheesecake with a creamy baked element and oaty biscuits. Then ginger nuts and a little bit of pepper takes us into a decent finish.
Overall: a very gentle inoffensive malt. Arguably a starter malt and once you’ve moved on this is relegated to the bland category.
Auchentoshan Three Wood. Strength 43% vol, Price £40
Colour: a fake tan far too much colouring here
Nose: spicy with cinnamon and burnt toffee – which is I suspect a touch of bitterness from the artificial colouring. Vanilla, tablet, rubber bands like the local postman leaves on my driveway. Woody with vanilla, charcoal and after much nosing is a decent peppermint tea note.
Taste: worn leather and black pepper. Then almonds, more rubber bands, cinnamon returns and rich tea biscuits.
Overall: not bad for a No Age Statement whisky. Its just the over use of colouring that grates here. A nice engineered piece of cask flipping from the distillery.
Auchentoshan 12 year old. Strength 40% vol, Price £37
Colour: copper plate
Nose: cinnamon, vanilla, a resin-like woody quality. A little bit of marmalade here with grated ginger like the mother-in-law makes. There is an unshakeable effervescent factor here; I’m almost drawn to say Lucozade with the mixture of carbon dioxide, sugar and fruity element.
Taste: melted butter, more ginger nut biscuits and a dollop of vanilla, but really 40% there is a watery consistency here. What definitive character exists has been washed away to a certain extent. Picking up some bacon and just more icing sugar and vanilla.
Overall: an entry level malt that ticks the whisky box and that’s about all really. A little dull and bland.
Auchentoshan Heartwood. Strength 43% vol, Price £48
Nose: very odd at first a smell of damp wood, then stagnant water. A real sense of something wrong here almost sulphur-like and tired casks at work. Ploughing onwards cinder toffee, some very old cinnamon spice that is a couple of years out of date and needs the bin. Crackers, ginger and more vanilla.
Taste: slight caramel essence, milk chocolate and hazelnuts with some leather thrown in.
Overall: not as bad as the next travel retail exclusive but £48??? You’re having a laugh! Avoid at all costs.
Auchentoshan Springwood. Strength 40% vol, Price £40
Colour: lemon juice
Nose: lemon and peaches, a light sponge cake, apples with plenty of vanilla custard and the honey dominates. Very inoffensive and wood driven.
Taste: more vanilla rushing forward, which is replaced by a fiery alcohol burn in this young fire starter. A touch of nutmeg and bitterness is soon swamped by a watery finale and a muted finish.
Overall: a prime example of how bad Auchentoshan can be. Created to meet a requirement for the travel retail market and it shows; a terrible no age statement, extremely limited character profile and a real sense of disappointment. Whiskies such as these are deflecting any interest in the spirit by offering very little for an insane price of £40.
Auchentoshan 17 year old (Berry Bros & Rudd). Strength 46% vol, Price £63
Colour: almost clear apple juice
Nose: poached apples, pine cones and custard cream
Taste: inoffensive and drinkable with a chalky presence, white pepper, sliced apples and coconut.
Overall: a muted aged Auchentoshan. Whether that’s the result of an ineffective cask or being watered down, or a combination of both is open to debate. I was expecting more punch but its perfectly friendly and benign, or what I’d say is instantly forgettable.
It’s been a fun trip through Auchentoshan via this whiskies. The distillery wine cask bottling still remains my favourite overall. From these drams it has to be the Three Wood by a country mile, which comes as a real surprise. Prior to embarking on this I was expecting one of the age statements to come out on top yet was proven wrong.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this vertical and I have a couple more in the pipeline as I stockpile bottles and samples. Next month expect a Glenfarclas vertical.