Monday, February 18, 2013

New release - Auchentoshan Valinch Batch #2

Just before Christmas, we reported in Inbox that Auchentoshan had announced the second release of their Valinch bottling.  The whisky is named after the 'valinch', a metal pipette-like device used to pull whisky samples from a cask, and is an annual cask strength single malt released in small batches. The 2012 edition is bottled at 57.2% ABV and has been matured exclusively in first fill ex-bourbon American oak casks. There are 12,000 bottles in this year's batch and is available now from specialist whisky retailers, priced around the £45-50 mark.

Auchentoshan (pronounced ock-en-tosh-an) is the nearest distillery to Glasgow. It is located in the Lowlands region and sits to the north west of the city near Clydebank.  It was officially founded in 1823, although records shown a distillery called Duntocher operating very nearby in the early 1800s.  Auchentoshan translates as ‘corner of the field’ from the local form of Gaelic and is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory. It has a current production of 1.75 million litres per year.

Auchentoshan is unique amongst Scottish whisky distilleries as they triple distil every drop of their spirit using three stills. Elsewhere in Scotland the common practice is to distil twice, whereas triple distillation is more commonly associated with Irish whiskies. Triple distillation produces a new make spirit that is lighter and more delicate in flavour and higher in alcohol - Auchentoshan has the highest strength of new make in Scotland at 81.5% ABV.

The first version of the Valinch made in into our Top 10 Whiskies of 2011 list, so we have been looking forward to this second expression ...

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an immediate prickle and heat due to the high ABV.  This feisty opening softens to let plenty of fragrant aromas reveal themselves.  There are initial highly perfumed aromas of vanilla, honey and fresh green fruit (think of crisp apples especially), followed by intense woody spices.  These are reminiscent of fresh oak wood shavings and coconut.  With time in the glass a lovely butterscotch aroma develops, as does a slightly yeasty cookie dough note.

On the palate, this whisky is equally as intense, feisty and a little hot/peppery (imagine white pepper).  There are initially notes of juicy fresh apple and pears, plus a hint of tangy lemon zest.  There is also an undeniable sweetness which is reminiscent of icing sugar and bubblegum.  It feels light but is highly expressive and it again softens with time.  This allows notes of vanilla, honey and some sweet malted barley sugars to come through.  There is plenty of drying woody spices which are never far away and continue to grab the attention - think of cinnamon bark and coconut husk in particular.

The finish is long lasting and after a brief sweet beginning of vanilla, butterscotch and honey, becomes bone dry and packed with mouthwatering, refreshing and gripping wood spices.

The high ABV suggests that water should be added and this dampens the feistier notes without losing the expressiveness.  The nose and palate are softer with more butterscotch and vanilla coming through in particular.  These become further pronounced as time goes on, as does a previously undetected peach-like note.  It feels much creamer, softer and more balanced.

What's the verdict?
This is another superb offering from Auchentoshan and one that shows the distillery's spirit at its best, in our view.  The use of quality ex-bourbon casks compliments the creaminess of Auchentoshan, and although this a bit feisty at its full ABV strength it really shows superb quality with the addition of water.  It can take a decent amount of water and this will bring it in to the realm of more whisky drinkers, who may initially be put off by the high strength.

2013 is already shaping up to be a vintage year for new releases as we have already sampled excellent new offering such as this Valinch and the Glenmorangie Ealanta, in addition to the lovely Johnnie Walker The Spice Road.  This Auchentoshan also offers good value for money when compared to other similar cask strength products.

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