A unique Scottish distillery
Auchentoshan (pronounced ock-en-tosh-an) is the nearest whisky distillery to Glasgow, being located just to the north west of the city. It is one of the last remaining Lowland distilleries and was opened in 1823. Auchentoshan translates as 'corner of the field' from Gaelic and is the only distillery in Scotland to continually practice triple distillation of their spirit. Other Scottish distilleries occasionally do this (for example, Springbank release Hazelburn which is triple distilled but they only produce it for a small part of the year). Triple distillation produces a smoother, lighter spirit that many people find easier to drink and the process is more commonly associated with Irish whiskey.
So, why are Auchentoshan the only place to consistently triple distil in Scotland? The theory is that during the Irish potato famine in the early 1800s, immigrants came over to the Glasgow area to escape the poverty and brought the process with them, maybe introducing the idea to the new distillery's owners. Auchentoshan's current owners are Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, and have carried on this tradition. The annual production capacity of Auchentoshan is 1.75 million litres. Also, the visitor centre at the distillery has been voted one of the best in Scotland and is one of the most visited, helped by its close proximity to Glasgow.
Details of the whisky
This whisky is a new limited edition of Auchentoshan, which has been released to compliment to core range. This core range consists of 12, 18 and 21 year old whiskies plus the Three Wood, which has undergone maturation in three different casks (hence the name). This 1998 has been bottled at 11 years of age and at the cask strength of 54.6% ABV. It has been matured in ex-Fino sherry casks - Fino sherry is a light, dry and nutty aperitif style of sherry and its casks are rarely used to mature whisky, so it will be interesting to taste the effects. There are only 6,000 bottles of this release and it is now available from specialist alcohol retailers for about £45 a bottle.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this is golden yellow with a hint of coppery amber. The nose is fragrant with plenty of sharp woody aromas to begin with (think of oak and in particular, sawdust). Other aromas appear of dried fruit (imagine sultanas and pear), malty cereal grains, caramel and some burnt sugar. The dried pear and sultana notes are particularly aromatic and increase with time in the glass. While each of the aromas are pleasant in their own right, the problem seems that they never seem to integrate fully. On the palate, this is intense with the woody, slightly dusty, notes from the nose appearing first. These are joined by notes of drying wood spice (think of cinnamon and nutmeg) and toasted nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), before sweeter characters come through to add much needed balance. These include lovely notes of toffee, raisin, sultana, cereals and finally, a hit of brown sugar. The finish goes the opposite way to the nose and palate by starting sweetly with the brown sugar note particularly prominent. Then it becomes much drier with plenty of wood spices and nuts (think of cinnamon, nutmeg and almonds).
What's the verdict?
This is a very interesting and unique whisky, because not many whiskies are matured in ex-Fino sherry casks. It somehow seems slightly disjointed, especially on the nose which lacks integration between the very woody aromas and the sweeter, fruitier ones. The palate and the finish are pleasant and enjoyable, exhibiting better balance than the nose. This whisky is worth trying as the Fino sherry has imparted different flavours than the traditional styles of sherry used in maturation.