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Auchentoshan 21 year old

We’ve all heard the phrase taking one for the team, but what about taking one for the readership? We’re not ones to blow trumpets here at Malt, as our sense of tune is more Dutch free form jazz rather than Louis Armstrong. An acquired taste, which merges well with our focus on honesty and information. A style that a recent Twitter onlooker described as a joy to read such long-form, well-written articles.

Yet it is an ethic that unites the group behind the scenes. Quite often we’ll seek out and purchase whiskies that normally wouldn’t interest us greatly, in order to bring these out into the honest light of the Malt opinion. On a regular basis, this is by request: on twitter, via an email, Instagram, or comment down below. A realisation amongst our thousands of reviews that why didn’t we cover that one? Or perhaps, is it time to go back and review an expression again?

Keeping up with whisky releases is a thankless task and they come thick and fast. This is magnified if we refuse to get on board the PR gravy train. We could in many situations after all this place is pretty popular, but we prefer an approach us basis rather than the other way around. In doing so, we do miss out on some releases, but we bring you a constant waterfall of variety and beauty. Personally, I’m more than happy with the latter approach.

When a generous someone throws open their collection to you and asks is there anything you fancy? The easiest and most human aspect would be to pick the rarest, most expensive or oldest whisky possible. Instead, I thought let’s start at ‘A’ and a whisky that we might have overlooked.

Yes, I’ll admit it is easy to overlook Auchentoshan for a variety of reasons. This distillery just outside of Glasgow doesn’t set off any excitement alarms amongst many whisky enthusiasts. Recent times have seen a steady stream of releases that focuses on the wood, or a twist for the bar community. Perhaps now it is being pitched as a mixer rather than this unique oddity in Scottish distilling that practices triple distillation?

I’ve written about the triple distillation method previously, so we won’t go over old ground. However, I’m left thinking what is the plan from Beam Suntory for Auchentoshan? We talk about smoothness, mellow and sophisticated till the end of 2020, but that wouldn’t change the fact that Auchentoshan and its core range is incredibly dull.

Take the pinnacle of the core offerings in the form of this 21-year-old. Auchentoshan does offer older expressions, but these are more limited to a couple of casks and can come with eye-watering price tags to match. The Joe Bloggs range showcases the holy anti-trinity of whisky: namely, artificial colouring, reduced strength and chill filtration. At least we’re dealing with 43% strength here unlike the 12-year-old that is a bog-standard 40% release yet this mustn’t detract from what is a relatively outdated style of liquid presentation.

Taking that extra bout of distillation to remove the heavier compounds and oils, only then to water down the liquid, remove many of the remaining oils and throw in a bit of E150 colouring seems to show little respect to the distillery and the potential customer. Maybe I’m just alone in thinking this? The whole gig does suggest a laissez faire approach by the owners, a lack of direction and purpose for Auchentoshan as a player in the market.

The independents do offer an outlet for what Auchentoshan could represent one day. Indie releases haven’t been plentiful lately and not everyone can get to the distillery to bottle your own, which still represents the best outlet for an official Auchentoshan. Leaving us with a distillery that seems content to exist and tick a box. Deep down, I know that Auchentoshan can do and should do, better. Yet looking at all of the Scottish distilleries within the Beam Suntory portfolio, they are united by their poor presentation, confusing ranges and a dwindling relevance in today’s market.

This Auchentoshan was bottled in 2019 and at 43% strength. Expect to pay £126 at Master of Malt for this release or the same price at the Whisky Exchange, or £125.99 via Amazon.

Auchentoshan 21 year old – review

Colour: caramel.

On the nose: a very light and delicate presentation. An emphasis on woody characteristics including cloves, caramel and tobacco leaves. A gentle vanilla mixes well with stewed apples and nutmeg. Some grilled bananas, golden syrup and soft honey form the bulk of the experience. A metallic note, wood polish and dried leaves rounds off an unusual Auchentoshan.

In the mouth: very benign, inoffensive with used tea leaves coming through strongly alongside vanilla and balsa wood. In some aspects it tastes flat for its age. A little oiliness, faded orange zest, apricots, a drying aspect with all that wood and fenugreek leaves.

Conclusions

I have mixed emotions about this release. As the flagship core range Auchentoshan, I expected more, especially with that 21 statement on the label. Yet despite this and my general lacklustre feelings towards this distillery – which I’m happy to admit openly – there is something of interest here.

The whisky needs time in the glass to show some promise despite being hampered by all the usual limitations of the Auchentoshan presentation – why on earth 43% strength? There is a sense that it has gone too far in the wood, but somehow manages to pull back from the claws of defeat at the very last moment. Making it a difficult whisky to fully recommend in many regards. However, there is some substance and promise here, which makes Auchentoshan all the more frustrating, as we know it can do better.

Score: 6/10

My thanks to Coldorak from MoreDramsLessDrama for the opportunity to try this whisky and the excellent photograph. We’re happy to tell you that there are commission links within this review – we have nothing to hide.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    David Pop_Noir says:

    Not even a Cadenhead’s rum or a wine cask Auchentoshan could tempt me to try anything from this distillery and buy a bottle.
    Nor has any come my way from the various sample swaps I do, I guess the closest I’ve come to tasting a ‘toshan would be in The Epicurean, and we all know what the majority of folk think of that!

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi David

      The Epicurean is nasty stuff. Best avoided!

      I’ve had a couple of reasonably good Auchentoshan’s but it’s a tall order to find one and to even take the chance.

      Cheers, Jason.

  2. Avatar
    Arild says:

    Great article! I just don’t get it. It’s like beeing lucky to own great vineyards in Grand Cru Champagne with potential of making a champagne with finesse and complexity reflecting it’s growing place, but you decide to turn it into a supermarket Cava.

    How can a company do this today when we all search for the genuine and natural? And sadly it’s not only Auchentoshan.

    Keep on putting the headlight’s on this problem and maybe some day change will come!

  3. John
    John says:

    Lackluster is an accurate word to describe Auchentoshan. I find that this does not really contribute to the journey of a whisky drinker aside from showing them why the brand should be avoided.

  4. Avatar
    Greg B. says:

    This review sums up my feelings towards Auchentoshan perfectly. It is a brand that has had numerous offerings at our liquor board because (I can only assume) it has local representation that works well with those who make product assortment decisions. Yet I have never sampled one that I would want to purchase myself. Sadly for us, many other far more intriguing brands are never seen here either because of lack of representation or lack of product knowledge by the decision-makers. As long as people keep buying this, it will stay on the shelves, so I can only guess it sells well enough. Unfortunate.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Greg

      Thank you. There does seem to be a universal thought when it comes to Auchentoshan. With Beam Suntory behind them, I guess, they do have some clout and ability to ensure their latest Auchentoshan appears on the shelf alongside that in-demand Laphroaig.

      Cheers, Jason.

  5. Avatar
    Darren says:

    I have a 32 year old 1973 which I loved so much that I bought a second bottle and have tasted some crackers from the 80’s as well. What has happened to the distillery in recent times? I can not engage with any of the recent bottlings. I even did the tour last year to try and kindle some interest (I watch too many Mark Dermul videos) and despite the very professional and friendly staff I could not engage with any of the samples we were given. I certainly could not raise any enthusiasm for the American Oak offering and I was a little embarrassed by the huge praise being banded around by the tour guide and my fellow visitors. It is potentially a good distillery and in my opinion they need to give the range a bit of a rethink if they want to engage with more whisky enthusiasts.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Darren

      Thanks for commenting and very similar to my own thoughts on Auchentoshan. I enjoyed the tour for what it was and much like Bowmore, I struggled to find a sample thereafter that actually agreed with me. Quite rightly, it has gone off the rails somewhat and the days of good whiskies seem a distant memory.

      Cheers, Jason.

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