Posts Tagged With: Auchentoshan

Tasting Notes: Auchentoshan – 12 Years Old

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Auchentoshan’s Spirit

Based just outside of Glasgow city centre, Auchentoshan (pronounced ‘ock-un-tosh-un’) prides itself on the purity created via its triple distillation. This process and the local water source result in Auchentoshan producing relatively delicate whiskies, distinctive of the lowland regions also antiqautedly referred to as “ladies’ drams”. It is the flavours from this process and their maturation that makes for the distillery to be so distinctive. The 12 year old symbolises the best overall qualities that an Auchentoshan has to offer and develops upon the “Classic” entry level expression.

ABV: 40%

 

Nose

M: Delicate and fruity. Like sherbet lemons and light currants.

S: Get your nose in there, you will be rewarded with hits of sherry, vanilla, orange peel and currants.

 

Taste

M: Cinnamon and citrus notes ending with a piney hit.

S: A Christmas cake bonanza: marzipan and currents. Piney wood bits too.

 

Finish

M: Smooth and quick leaving some red fruit/berries behind.

S: Smooth with burnt oranges (where did they come from!?), sticky with honey.

 

Verdict

M: An easy-going session whisky. Simple, clean, fruity and more-ish. Definitely one that all whisky drinkers can enjoy – at least I hope so because it’s what gave to my wedding party.

S: Grows with complexity, a real mouthful bursting with sweet but charred citrus fruits.

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Categories: Auchentoshan, Tasting Notes | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Of The West Festival 2015 – Day 1

My trip to the 2015 Best Of The West Festival (or “Bowfest” as simply referred to) was a journey two years in the making and it did not disappoint!

Pretty much two years ago to the day, WU embarked on their first Islay road trip. Having started out from the south of England, it took us 14 hours of travel to get to the hallowed peaty turf in the western isles of Scotland. As we drove past Loch Lomond en route to the ferry terminal at Kennacraig however, we started to circumnavigate Loch Fyne and were blown away by the beauty of the small town of Inveraray. Not only did the white-walled town look special from the approach, but as we drove over a steep, humped bridge, we got an awe-inspiring glimpse at Inveraray Castle. I remember instantly thinking that I needed to come back and explore this place.

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Inveraray Castle

Jump several months later, and adorning the front of The Whisky Shop’s own Whiskeria magazine, accompanied by the title “One Fyne Lady”, was a picture of the Duchess of Argyll. In the article, she candidly spoke of her and her husband’s heritage and mentioned that they were set to host their 4th annual Best Of The West Festival. No need to think twice… I looked into it and tried to make a WU trip happen. The weekend event sounded incredibly fun, but unfortunately, our diaries just couldn’t make it happen. ‘Next time’ I thought….

Jump ahead another few months and I happened upon the copy of Whiskeria again and quickly set to making plans to attend the 5th Bowfest. Unfortunately, the dates didn’t line-up again with the WU boys, but I was determined to go and Mrs H was only too happy to oblige and make a week long trip of it. Good times.

As I’ve said above – the event did not disappoint. The scenery was stunning and made the perfect place-setting for a good-natured celebration of Argyll and the Isles’ fodder. There were 4 large tents set up in a giant horseshoe in the grounds of the castle, which housed: the main stage and bar (manned by and offering up Fyne Ales’ finest), a food tent, a crafts tent and, most importantly, the acoustic stage and whisky tent. Given that the event is held at the end of the summer season, it was a great shout to get as much of it undercover as possible, though the weather was actually pretty compliant throughout.

The Dram and Castle

The Dram and Castle

The main stage’s line-up on the Saturday was full of great acts, with the biggest names being Skippinish (who played an excellent cover Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and also offered twin bagpipes throughout) and the headliners, the excellently entitled, Peatbog Faeries. One of the biggest cheers of the day however was made for local heroes The Camans, who are fronted by the event’s own music organiser, and they too played some excellent contemporary cover versions – more so than any of the other fine bands on that day. A personal favourite of mine was a local folk group called Have Mercy Las Vegas, who played some great heart-rending music with wonderful vocal harmonies from all band members, despite being nearly upstaged by the lead singer’s own toddler.

The whole festival had a great, relaxed and good-mannered vibe. The focus seemed to be on good produce and good times for friends and family, and it suited the surroundings perfectly. There was even a children’s tent and play area. Everyone was in good spirits (in more ways than one), and what was even more humbling was the fact that the Duke and Duchess were in amongst it too, wearing hoodies and mingling with everyone, chatting and introducing the bands. Regardless of the stunning array of whiskies available (which I will get to), this was the perfect local festival. I mean, where else can you get a venison burger and fine, rare scotch for £12.50??

Duke & Duchess of Argyll

Duke & Duchess of Argyll

On that note then, the whisky tent was stocked by Inveraray’s own Loch Fyne Whiskies, and the selection was breathtaking. Given that I wanted to remember it all, I took the day and the drams in my stride and thoroughly enjoyed:

  • Hazelburn 12 – a cheeky sherry/Christmassy smelling and tasting dram with a late vanilla taste – 6.0/10
  • Auchentoshan 16 (Distillery Art) – my favourite light dram of the weekend with a light peach and vanilla taste throughout – 8.4/10
  • Lagavulin 12 – a Lagavulin “light” although still quite the puncher, offering just wood and peat. Simple, strong and satisifying. 8.6/10
  • Ardbeg Supernova – clearly one of the most in demand drams of the weekend and sold out before the first day was over, but this chap was big, bold and clean. Like a purer version of the 10 year old. 8.5/10
1/3 of Loch Fyne Whiskies

1/3 of Loch Fyne Whiskies

With a 7.30pm curfew, the day did seem to disappear but for all the right reasons and it did leave way (and avoid the headaches) for a second day of folk-based fun…

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Colour By Numbers – A Lagavulin Case Study

You will sometimes hear whisky being referred to as ‘liquid gold’. This is mainly due to the value associated with it, but it also obviously refers to the various shades of golden beauty that the liquid can have. In spite of this however, when whisky is being made, the ‘new spirit’ that is created from the distillation process is actually colourless. In fact, you cannot call it ‘whisky’ unless it has been in a barrel for 3 years, and it is this aging process and the interaction with the wooden barrels that gives whisky its distinctive colour.

Auchentoshan's Spirit

Auchentoshan – 0, 1 & 2 Years Old

Clearly, the longer that the liquid is in the barrel, the more time it has in contact with the wood and the more of the wood’s qualities therefore infuse into the whisky. Put simply, the older the whisky, the darker it gets. WU were lucky enough to go to a warehouse tasting at Lagavulin where local legend and distillery hero Iain Macarthur (a.k.a. “Pinky”) entertained us and took us through a selection of drams taken fresh from the barrel, from which we could really see the effects of aging on their wonderful whisky.

First up was the ‘new make’ spirit that was fresh from the still that day. At a fairly astronomical 68% ABV we expected this to blow our heads off, but surprisingly it didn’t – though it still packed a punch! Perfectly colourless, you could essentially just taste the barley and the distillery’s distinctive peat once you got past the alcoholic burn. Not something that you should have every day at 10.30 am!

WU meet "Pinky"

WU meet “Pinky”

The second dram was a 9 year old from the barrel, and the barley taste was still there but it almost felt like it had more of an alcohol burn, despite ‘only’ being 58% ABV. Not surprisingly, the whisky had taken on the colour and tastes of the barrel, but was still relatively light gold in colour compared to the staple Lagavulin 16.

The third sample was straight from the barrel after 11 years, and the liquid was a touch darker again in colour. This dram had developed quite a sweet taste from the wood and a noticeably smoother finish to its predecessors but still packed quite the punch.

Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting

Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting

Next up was a 15 year old – one year away from the distillery’s core output – and it had really taken on caramel notes from the wood, matching the sweetness with a softer finish, but still delivering lots of smoke and peat. This dram was now at that rich, deep gold colour that Lagavulin is known for.

Last but not least, we skipped a few years and had a dram of a 31 year old Lagavulin. Now this was a real treat for us, and whilst the value of the dram isn’t known as it is fairly unique and only available from the distillery, the estimate was that each dram would be worth £100-£150. Interestingly, the colour of the liquid itself hadn’t actually deepened that much compared to the 15 year old and whilst it still had an obvious woody taste and sweetness, it was mysteriously returning back to that original barley taste that we had first encountered in the new distillate.

Barrel Chair

Barrel Chair

Oddly, the interaction between the spirit and its wooden surroundings can actually vary from barrel to barrel. So much so that two barrels containing the same base liquid, which have been made from the same wood and have been aged over the same period of time, can produce two entirely different coloured end results. To combat this, some distilleries choose to add a caramel to get a uniform colour, so that customers ‘see’ the same product time after time and whilst this may be disappointing for some purists (and is even denied by some distilleries), it is essentially drawn from necessity to keep the buyers happy. What this goes to show is that whilst whisky-making it is not an exact science, there is still some truth behind saying that it is colour by numbers.

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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