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Douglas Laing Auchroisk 2009

Not every distillery has the picturesque setting of Edradour, the classical looks of Strathisla, or the architectural magnificence of Tormore. Modern constructs are built with a sole purpose and the majority during the 1950s and 1960s, were created without the prospect of tourism and visitors. In addition, many historical distilleries have been rebuilt, expanded and re-sculpted into the modern image and lost their soul. Even the new Macallan is, as Mark highlighted, inspired by the classic Teletubbies franchise. Yet he still likes the juice in a tumbler with ice and laps up that luxury branding.

Auchroisk, founded in 1972, was created for blending stock and a little thought was given to creating something interesting. Whilst it feels as it is encased by warehouses, the main hub of the distillery has a bespoke European castle feel to it. The design isn’t a huge success, but you have a acknowledge that the founders tried to do something a little more inviting than say an Allt-a-Bhainne, which looks like a Swedish apartment block.

We’re all to quick to dismiss distilleries on first impressions; especially the unknown ones. Auchroisk isn’t a looker, as we’ve established, and internally it is a little soulless. However, the whisky it produces has character and a substance of its own creation as we’ve shown in our occasional reviews. And the people who work there have an affinity for the place, as do other distillery workers who toil away across the industry. This was underlined by chats I’ve had across the years. Such discussions brought back memories of my own father and grandfather; neither of whom worked at a distillery, but rather upon the ocean waves. Their boats were never the biggest, nor the flashiest in the fleet and probably could be labelled ugly ducklings. I’m sure they were often the brunt of jokes from the showboaters of the fleet (sorry), but they too had an affinity for their workplace and grew to love and value its charm.

Just because a distillery isn’t well known, open for tours, or visible on the shelves, doesn’t mean it lacks value, substance or that someone really cares and appreciates it. I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say here, before we jump into this Auchroisk review. There is something else I’d like to mention and that’s about the independent retailers, which this release was specifically for, or their UK Emporiums to use the marketing phrase.

In these boom times of whisky, the independents aren’t as flush as we would expect. The online giants are making huge inroads and more distilleries – such as Macallan, Ardbeg – are embracing a direct to consumer philosophy. The option to walk into a local independent and expect to see a certain release is becoming more restricted. In some eyes, there is less reason to shop local and therefore support local, which is a real shame given the current state of the UK High Street.

This release forms part of the Douglas Laing UK Emporium series, meaning its bottled exclusively for certain stores across the country. Think of it as an Ardbeg Embassy, or a reward, for supporting the independent bottler. Distilled in March 2009, this release was bottled in May 2019 with no colouring or chill-filtration applied. The refill hogshead provided 216 bottles at a mighty 62.1% strength. Expect to pay around £50 for this specific release.

Douglas Laing Auchroisk 2009 – review

Colour: gold leaf.

On the nose: caramel, nougat and porridge oats. Sweetness with wine gums, diluted orange and a dirty vanilla. Peppery as well, time reveals a rich honey, pecans and an old workbench. Water provides ash, peanuts, popcorn and Horlicks. Fudge, honey glazed ham and toffee.

In the mouth: a lovely thick texture with some waxiness – a good cask this one probably too good for Scotch according to Mark. Vanilla, pencil shavings, cracked black pepper, mace and cask char. Full on then, but with water the power is reduced, reveals more oils, dried fruits, cinnamon and juicy apples. The finish is long with some bitterness and sandal wood.

Conclusions

The immediate impression is how drinkable this is without the need for water. For some this might come as a surprise given the bottling strength, but it is indicative of a well-made spirit in a good cask. I’ve had higher proof releases recently – the Mannochmore Manager’s Dram at 66% springs to mind – which were perfectly agreeable without diluting.

You do wonder what strength this went into the cask at originally, to have so much power after a decade. However, it shows the perfect harmony between the well made spirit and a good host. We often overlook Speyside, when looking for power and a challenging whisky. Too many are refined, approachable and ultimately disposable. This Auchroisk reminds us that not all of Speyside is picturesque, or dressed in bling. There can be a purpose and drive behind other whiskies in the region such as Benrinnes, Tormore and Dailuaine.

A most agreeable malt and a suitable reward for anyone that does shop locally. If you do, and stumble across this release, then please give it an opportunity – put down the Balvenie and live a little. There’s plenty of whisky in this bottle and with water you unlock another dimension.

It’s not an immediate whisky and requires some effort on your part to appreciate. By deploying that extra resource you’ll have plenty of fun and a new appreciation for Auchroisk. Gimmie this any day of the week whilst others chase the Tinky-Winky Edition.

Score: 7/10

Sample kindly provided by the Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. John
    John says:

    Hi Jason,
    I think the biggest issue with Auchroisk is how to pronounce its bloody name.

    I’ve only had Auchroisk once and it reminded me of a single malt from the Lowlands. I’m glad to see it can be ask as interesting as your description of it.

    “Gimmie this any day of the week whilst others chase the Tinky-Winky Edition.”
    HUZZAH

  2. Avatar
    PBMichiganWolverine says:

    On a totally unrelated note: just wanted to say “thank you” for still having a whisky review site—-considering Dave Broom’s Scotchwhisky.com’s shutting. That, along with this one, were the only two whisky sites I followed.

    It does make one think though—-why the big boys (Diageo, Constellation, Lux, etc) arent giving ad or financial support. If I consider my own personal case, in the current environment where there’s so many choices, about 95% of my purchases were made because of reviews (the other 5% from tastings). So…with less reviews now, especially from well regarded folks like Dave Broom and company, I’d be making less purchases. I’m sure I’m not alone in the pattern…which is why I’m wondering why the big players don’t help float review sites, especially those run by honest well regarded reviewers ( like here and scotchwisky.com editors )

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi PBMW

      Thanks for commenting. I was asked several times about here and the SW.com news during my Gathering weekend in Rotterdam. The ‘Brothers In Arms’ piece touches upon it as well, but there is probably a more in-depth discussion to be hand in the future. At the moment, we have to be respectful that several poured a great deal of time, effort and passion into that platform – money as well – before the sudden news broke.

      I suppose to answer your question would be a simple fact that would anyone believe a Diageo or industry website, when it came to whisky reviews? It’s like SMWS or any other bottler lavishing their own releases. If something isn’t great, or deemed attractive, would you purchase it? You can hire consultants to provide lavish tastings notes, yet we seem to overlook the critical aspect. It’s the same problem that has afflicted the magazine industry that relies on advertising revenue from the big brands. The Whisky Magazine has been eroded into a papier-mâché of positivity. It’d be refreshing to have a candid and honest appraisal in articles or reviews, but I can appreciate you don’t bite the hand that feeds. Once you’ve made that step into the industry, it’s difficult to keep an honest outlook and appraisal. I know some do struggle with that situation on a regular basis.

      So, to answer your question; it’d be a very short-lived venture with the threat of the big companies pulling the plug behind any website. Now, say Diageo or whoever made an offer to purchase this platform. That would be an interesting discussion, especially if we had to remain in situ for a set period, which seems to be the case with such acquisitions. I’m sure that day will never come and if it did then maybe that would be the time to move on, or just say no thanks. Our independence is our greatest asset.

      Thanks, Jason.

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