Hot on the heels of our recent trip to the Lowlands where we visited Cameron Bridge and Glen Kinchie, we find ourselves in Glasgow for a tasting of Auchentoshan, including a sneak preview of their soon to be released 1975 vintage bottling. As some of you will remember 1975 happens to be my birth year and it always seems to take on an additional resonance to drink something produced in the year you just so happened to pop out.
Our tasting began with an introduction to the core range of malts from the distillery's Senior Blender, Jeremy Stephens. What we find intriguing about Auchentoshan is the relationship between the range of expressions 12 Year Old and Three Wood. At their hearts are a series of very prominent key characteristics, despite the type of maturation or age. Tonight's tasting also highlighted just how much of a forward thinking company Auchentoshan have become; in a few short years the brand have considerably increased their output and now sell around 60,000 cases worldwide per year. This might not sound like a lot, but they seem to be appealing to a new, previously untapped group of whisky drinkers - by way of example, Mrs Ridley recently proclaimed Auchentoshan Three Wood as her pathway into enjoying whisky...a big bold statement... and something I have been hoping would happen for nigh on a decade now!!
You can view Mrs Ridley's tasting notes on the Three Wood here.
Auchentoshan - 12yo - 40% - 70cl
Nose: Very distinct aromas of dried coconut, unblanched almonds and cherry drops all greet the nostrils on the first sniff- it is light, but not in the same way perhaps Glenkinchie or Bladnoch is (not remotely zesty, or floral) and definitely has plenty of individual character.
Palate: A slightly off kilter coal/oil like note first hits you, not what I was expecting, but not unpleasant- this subsides into ripe pears, more almond notes and perhaps the deftest hint of sherry wood.
Finish: Lingering fruit notes with a hint of woody oak creeping in on the death.
Overall: A very solid starting point from the distillery's key malt. It perhaps lacks the character demonstrated so eloquently in the brilliant Three Wood, but nonetheless a easy and enjoyable single malt.
Next up and a real coup- a sneaky dram of the brand spanking new Auchentoshan 1975 vintage. We reviewed the distillery's last 2 vintage bottlings (the 1977 and 1998) back in December, with the older whisky showing off a different side to intense sherry cask maturation.
The 1975 is a different beast altogether. It's not clear exactly what type of casks this has come from (we suspect refill Bourbon, rather than 1st fill) ) but with only 500 bottles in the outturn and around 30 for the domestic market, it probably isn't going to be around for long. Looking at the label and packaging- simplicity a great thing indeed... Rest assured, there will be no Lalique decanter here...
Auchentoshan 1975 - 46.9% - 500 bottles- 70cl
Nose: Quite remarkable. Although this is quite the middle-aged gentleman, it exhibits elements of the dried coconut and unblanched almonds found in the 12yo. But then it really starts to come alive. Wow- stewed rhubarb, marshmallows, melted brandy butter and gingersnap biscuits are all there in abundance. Balanced, rich, moreish, wonderful.
Palate: A huge hit of tropical fruit takes you by surprise - very unexpected indeed. It's mango and passion fruit, but then a little smoked pork begins to take over and we're off in a different direction, with white pepper, hints of aged tobacco and then back to some sweetened tinned peaches and cream. Utterly brilliant.
Finish: The fruit lingers nicely, with the peaches being the overriding force.
Overall: An absolute delight of a whisky. Make no mistake, I am probably harder on whiskies from this year than any other, but this one is totally spot on. The birthday collection I have been slowly building when I can afford to is developing nicely but now it has an Auchentoshan shaped hole in it. Damn it...