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.
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.
Sample kindly provided by the Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch.