Although I’ve heard a lot more about it more recently, I first came across the Auchentoshan (pronounced “ock-un-tosh-un”) Distillery in the latest James Bond novel, ‘Carte Blanche’. 007 is offered a glass of one of their whiskies in response to a rather concise request:
‘Whisky. Scotch. Not a blend.’
Bond knew the distillery, outside Glasgow. ‘Good. A drop of water.’
Despite the fact that I only came across it relatively recently, the distillery has been around for over 180 years, situated (as James states) close to Glasgow on Scotland’s west coast.
Here, they make a range of single malt scotch whiskies, each triple distilled with the aim of producing a smoother, more delicate flavour. Each of the range is then matured for a different number of years in bourbon casks. The intriguing ‘Three Wood’ spends an additional year in an Oloroso Sherry cask, followed by a final year in a Pedro Ximenez cask.
As I hadn’t tried any of these whiskies before and had a range available, I tasted them all blind (many thanks to DBS for his help with this); I always think it’s a great opportunity to do this if you’re trying a range for the first time, as it’s the best way of ensuring that you’re not swayed, as much as possible, by the packaging or age. The first that I tried (unbeknownst to me) was Auchentoshan 10 Year Old, which doesn’t have a specific age statement.
10 Year Old
Simple and balanced, but still one of my favourite scotch noses: it was fruity, but not sweet, being more buttery than sugary, like a rich pastry. This developed into an oaty, cakey nose, with hints of honey, fresh apple and vanilla.
I was even more fond of this one upon tasting it. It was smooth to start, before quickly developing into something more substantial. There was savoury grain, as well as very light peat in the middle; the latter was again highlighted whenever I breathed in after sipping. The fruity aspects were still very much there, without ever taking the focus away from that wood base. The flavours developed just quickly enough to keep it interesting, without distracting from the smoothness, and there was a lovely, medium-length warmth to it.
12 Year Old
This nose was lighter than that of the 10 Year Old. I caught hints of oats and caramel, but – again – any sweetness was very measured. After a while, this developed into a combination of malt and ginger cake.
Given the lighter, fresher nose, I was surprised to find that this packed a powerful punch, whilst keeping the smoothness. Also like the previous one, this was savoury and balanced, without any conflicting or spotlight-stealing flavours. The finish was of toasted oats and almonds, but the predominant flavour was definitely of pure oak and barley, with no distractions.
The revitalising aspect followed through onto the taste, with more citrus to be found there, too, producing a brighter, more savoury and refreshing mouthfeel. If left for a little while to warm up, intriguing hints of spiced (but slightly bitter) tea, chestnut and cinnamon sticks appeared. Definitely a whisky to take your time over.
Absolutely lovely – I was immediately greeted by a most substantial warmth than the others had, before subtle, balanced oak and sweet vanilla were introduced. This quickly faded into a rich, sweet, fruitiness, like raisins, but with the added complexity of the underlying wood still coming through. In the middle of the profile, there were some drier fruity notes – sloes or blackcurrants – before it returned to a sweeter fruitiness for the finish, which contained hints of orange.
What with this and the additional warmth, the Three Wood was easily my favourite of the four, although I was impressed by them all. They were all incredibly smooth, but without masking any of the flavours. Given my recent exploration of the world of sherry, and my fondness for Pedro Ximenez in particular, it’s hardly surprising that the Three Wood is high up on my list. Beyond that, I also think that both the 10 Year Old and the 12 Year Old are very good value for money and lovely whiskies that I’d be happy to find in my glass regardless of my mood or situation.
– Mrs. B.