Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New releases > Auchentoshan 1999 Bordeaux Wine Cask

This whisky is a new release from the renowned Lowland distillery of Auchentoshan. The 1999 Bordeaux Wine Cask is a limited edition whisky which has spent the entire 11 years of its maturation in an ex-red wine cask from the famous French wine region. This is unusual as most distilleries that have released a wine cask matured whisky to date, have so far only used that cask to ‘finish’ the whisky (eg – it spends just a short period of time in the wine cask after maturing in something else). Therefore, to get a whisky that has been 100% matured in wine is rare and the chance to try it is exciting. It has been bottled at an alcoholic strength of 58% ABV and you should find a bottle for about £50 in specialist whisky retailers.

Auchentoshan (which is pronounced ock-en-tosh-an) is the distillery that is nearest to Glasgow. It sits to the north west of the city near Clydebank and was officially founded in 1823, although records show that a distillery called Duntocher was operating on the site as early as 1800. The current annual production capacity of Auchentoshan is 1.75 million litres and it is owned by Morrison Bowmore, which is part of the larger Japanese company of Suntory who took control in 1994. Auchentoshan translates as ‘corner of the field’ from the local form of Gaelic.

Auchentoshan is unique amongst Scottish whisky distilleries as they triple distil every drop of their spirit. Elsewhere in Scotland the common practice is to distil twice, whereas triple distillation is more commonly associated with Irish whiskies. A few Scottish distilleries do occasionally distil a third time and these include Benriach and Springbank, who release it as Hazelburn. A number of theories exist as to why Auchentoshan is the only place to continually triple distil in Scotland. The most popular is that a number of the workers at the fledgling distillery in the 1820s had come over from Ireland to escape the poverty there- they bought the practice with them and it exists to this day.

Our tasting notes
The colour of the whisky is extraordinary, being dark amber with a gorgeous reddish/pink tint, which has clearly come from the red wine cask.  The aromas on the nose are strong and powerful with plenty of initial burnt sugar, caramel and warming peppery spice.  Then comes some honeycomb and a good dose of rich, red fruit (think of dark berries and blackcurrants).  With further time in the glass, and once your nostrils have got used to the high alcoholic strength, more subtle hints start to appear - cinnamon, nutmeg, orange oil, gristy cereals and damp wood shavings.  On the palate, this is intense when taken neat!  The high ABV gives a powerful kick off and your mouth quickly heats up with plenty of peppery wood spice.  This begins to subside to reveal notes of lovely, rich caramel and dark dried fruits (imagine raisins and prunes).  The spiciness is never far away with plenty of drying cinnamon and nutmeg present.  Sweeter notes of brown sugar and honey balance this a little.  Some robust cereals, obvious spiced orange and further dried fruit add to the intensity.  The finish is very long, lasting a good 6-7 minutes after you have swallowed.  It is predominantly dry with an abundance of pleasant tannin coming from the wine cask.  The caramel/slightly burnt brown sugar is also evident, as are the red and dried fruits which fade quicker than the other elements mentioned.

The high ABV strength and the intensity of the whisky when neat ask for some water to be added.  This immediately softens the peppery spice and the alcoholic burn.  It also dampens the red and dried fruits and other wood spices, but allows the sweeter caramel and honey notes to shine through.  The majority may find it more balanced this way but, as always, it is personal taste.  We found that it could take quite a lot of water (we are talking 10-12 good drops here) and still hold together very well, where other whiskies may have fallen apart.

What’s the verdict?
This is a lovely whisky that is a successful experiment by Auchentoshan. However, to make it lovely (to our taste buds anyway!) you need to persevere with it and add plenty of water. How much water you add will depend on your own taste. The high alcohol strength, plus the intense and almost exaggerated notes from the red wine cask, make this a daunting prospect, before the water softens it to allow some sumptuous aromas and flavours through. At the launch of this whisky, it was hinted at that Auchentoshan had some other such experiments up their sleeves – it will be interesting to see what they are!

1 comment:

Jodie said...

This sounds very interesting. Is anyone distributing it in the United States?