Auchentoshan Scotch Whisky

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Auchentoshan  (Pronounced: OchunTOshun)
Lowlands
5551'56.25 N, 415'26.00 W
Glengoyne, Littlemill, Loch Lomond
1825
Working 
Loch Cochno
1 Wash still, 1 Middle still, 1 Spirit still
1,650,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Suntory > Morrisson Bowmore (since 1984)
Dalmuir, Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, G81 4SG, Scotland
+441389 878561

Yes - relatively recently opened
www.auchentoshan.com
Yes, including 'Classic', 'Three Wood' and 10 years old
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

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Auchentoshan 12 years old malt whisky
Auchentoshan distillery

Auchentoshan is one of only three remaining (active) Lowland malt whisky distilleries.
Together with Bladnoch and Glenkinchie it managed to escape the fate of fellow
Lowlanders like Inverleven, Kinclaith, Linlithgow, Ladyburn, Littlemill and Rosebank.

Founded in 1800 and located just North of Glasgow, Auchentoshan seems like a
distillery that could attract tourists, but for a long time it didn't have any facilities to
accommodate visitors. Too bad, because Auchentoshan has an interesting 'feature':
Just like most other Lowland whiskies, Auchentoshan is triple distilled - as opposed to
the 'normal' double distillation that's customary in the other regions. Fortunately, the
most accessible Lowland distillery (it's located just a short taxi trip from Glasgow, just
like Glengoyne) now also has a visitor centre. I haven't visited the distillery myself yet,
but the first reports I've heard about the visitor centre were quite positive.

Auchentoshan Scotch whisky

According to the text on the label of the 10yo, 'triple-distillation gives ...
a very light and delicate character with a sweetness and fruity flavour
enjoyed even by those unaccustomed to fine malts'
. That's one way of
putting it, I guess. 'A single malt for blend drinkers' would be another.
 
If you're drinking single malt whisky because you like a drink with more
character and personality than the average blended whisky, you have
no business with the 'standard' Auchentoshan 10yo, if you ask me.
And if you don't care about individuality and style you might as well
save yourself some money and stick to blends...

But hey, that's just my opinion. If this is the way you like your whiskies, feel free to enjoy them as much as you possibly can. That being said, I like the Auchentoshan 'Three Wood' quite a bit and I've heard some great things about some older expressions in their 20's and 30's.

Anyway - let's get back to the historical facts.
Auchentoshan was rebuilt after WWII and aquired by Eadie Cairns in 1969. After another refitting in 1974 the predecessors of current owners Morrison Bowmore (now controlled by Suntory from Japan) bought the distillery in the 1980's. Suntory already owned Bowmore on Islay and Glen Garioch in the Highlands, so this move made perfect sense. One thing's certain: they know how to market their whiskies at Suntory. Bowmore and Auchentoshan are both among the 'commercial' winners in their own regions - big whisky brands with big reputations.

Auchentoshan malt whisky logo

During most of the 1990's, the only official expression of Auchentoshan that
was widely available was the ten years old with a burgundy rhombus label.
(In the picture above, the 10yo the empty whisky bottle at the far right.)
 
However, around the turn of the millennium, demand for single malt whisky
increased greatly. Many malt whisky producers decided to expand the range
of their brands with more expressions. So, the core range of Auchentoshan
was expanded with a 'Select' expression. It has no age statement, but given
the relatively low price it's probably younger than the ten years old version. 

Auchentoshan Scotch whisky

Auchentoshan distillery in the new millennium

2002 - Auchentoshan releases the darker 'Three Wood' that seems to be their interpretation on the woody, smoky Bowmore 'Darkest' from their sister distillery on Islay. A 21 years old expression of the Auchentoshan malt whisky was also added to the core range not long afterwards... 
 
2004 - A brand new visitor centre is added to the Auchentoshan distillery.
 
2008 - The distillery website is expanded with a blog (which is updated only a few times each year...)
 
2010 - After rising sales for a few years, the number of cases that were sold passes 50,000 for the first time.
 
2012 - Six new official bottlings of Auchentoshan are released, including Springwood and Heartwood.
 

Just like the ten years old expression (and
subsequent other versions that have been
released in the new millennium), the 'Select'
is a triple distilled malt whisky. That makes
the Auchentoshan distillery almost unique
in Scotland; Hazelburn from the Springbank
distillery is (sort of) triple distilled too.

In fact, the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay did release the gimmicky "X4"; a
quadruple distilled whisky. If you know that every distillation run increases
the alcohol percentage but also removes character from a spirit, it's easy to
see why this product resembles vodka closer than malt whisky - all the more
so because the malt whiskies that are produced at Bruichladdich don't have
a lot of character to begin with, especially compared to nearby distilleries.
 
For me, the higher prices of single malt whiskies (compared to blends) are
warranted because they have more character than blends. Removing a lot
of that character sort of defies the purpose for me...

Auchentoshan malt whisky distillery

Trivia about Auchentoshan

1) The source of the name Auchentoshan is Gaelic. It means 'corner of the field'.
Yeah, I know - it sounds considerably more impressive in Gaelic ;-)

2) Auchentoshan was probably started by Irish settlers, driven from their homes by famine.
Some sources claim that these Irish whisky distillers brought the Irish custom of triple distillation with them. For a long time, this method of whisky production was used in the Lowlands, while in the other whisky regions of Scotland another technique was used: double distillation. Today, only Auchentoshan still uses triple distillation.

3) For a long time Auchentoshan didn't have a visitor's centre - but a new centre was opened in 2004.
Thanks to their location near Glasgow and the fact that Auchentoshan is one of only three Lowland distilleries (the nearby Glengoyne distillery considers itself a Highland distillery) they attract around 20,000 visitors.

4) Antique records from the year 1800 mention an (illegal) Duntocher distillery, which may have been a predecessor to the legal Auchentoshan distillery. A license for distillation was obtained in 1823.

5) Auchentoshan matures its spirit 'on site' in 3 dunnage warehouses and 2 racked warehouses.
 

Auchentoshan single malt whisky

Auchentoshan 1991/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers, C#480)
Nose: Nutty and oily. Musty. Cattle feed. Cod liver oil. Veggier notes after a few seconds. Dust? Maggi?
Taste: Oy… very oily. Cod liver oil. Not much else. Decent woody finish.
Score: 69 points - after a minute the cod liver oil takes over the nose completely.

Auchentoshan 16yo 1990/2007 (46%, Milroy's, C#17284, Hogshead, 329 Bts.)
Nose: Nondescript. Musty. All I could pick up were some faint oily notes, growing stronger.
Taste: Another oily one. Hardly any character to speak of. Something rerminded me of Grappa.
Score: 59 points - I'm not a fan of Auchentoshan, but this is below even their low standards...

Auchentoshan 1995/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer, France)
Nose: A little sweet, a little grainy. Faint whiffs of tea leaves. Something oily after a few minutes.
Taste: A little sweet, a little grainy. No, make that very grainy. Eucalyptus? Herbal. Hint of oil?
Score: 60 points - not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid. It's just too light and devoid of character.

Auchentoshan NAS 'Select' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, code F391, 5cl)
Nose: Surprisingly nutty - just on the right side of oily. Fruity and a little flowery. Tea?
Soft maltiness.  Clean, but it seems to have more substance than the 10yo OB.
The second dram I poured from the 5cl bottle smelled much, much sweeter and fruitier.
Taste: Smooth and slightly oily. The center grows dry quickly. Gritty. Fairly short finish.
Very clean. I'd have to say that enjoyed the palate of the 10yo more. This lacks cohesion.
Score: 64 points - nothing too offensive, but this is just too light for my tastes. If you prefer your malts light and clean this just might be your thing. I imagine the Auchentoshan 'Select' could also be a good introduction to SMSW for those who are used to drink less 'noble' distillates like gin and wodka.

Auchentoshan 10yo (40%, OB, bottled +/- 2000, code 100/0000275/18, 70cl)
Nose: Phew. Seems very oily. Overcooked vegetables. Cannabis? Salted peanuts?
Fish? Noticeable improvement over time; the aroma's seem better 'integrated'.
Taste: Yuech! Oil. Cod liver and eucalyptus. Very smooth. Watery. Eucalyptus?
Faint chemical sweetness. Faint liquorice? Gritty in the finish - chalky like rhubarb.
Score: 58 points - this bottling seems far worse than my first batch! Distilled cod oil.

Auchentoshan NAS 'Three Wood' (43%, OB, bottled +/-1999, code L316/245H, 70cl)
(Matured in three different casks; American Bourbon, Spanish Oloroso Sherry and Pedro Ximenez).
Nose: Sweet with lots of sherry. A hint of smoke. Caramel? Wood and fruits too. Tobacco!
Whiff of peppermint. Sweet fruit cake. Organics. Salted peanuts. Spices. Playful.
The sherry takes some time to move to the foreground, but when it does it's magic.
It greatly increases the complexity and fruitiness of the nose. Good development!
Much more nose than the 10yo, even though it's triple-distilled as well.
Taste: Smooth start. Sherry. Sweet and smoky as well, but with a sourish dissonant.
Mint? Fruits. Wood. Liquorice root. Fried fish? Smoke and tannins in the dry, long finish.
Score: 82 points - the taste isn't too spectacular but the nose is simply wonderful. It's rich and expressive and shows a lot of the elements I love in older Aberlours, Macallans and Springbanks. Three times a lady...

Auchentoshan 21yo 1970 (43%, OB, Bottled around 1991)
Nose: Very heavily sherried - a bit like a much more refined version of the 'three wood'.
Lovely fruityness. Antiquity. Big and polished with spices, organics and just a hint of glue.
The nose is extremely entertaining and never becomes boring. Rich and beautifully composed.
Taste: Fruity, sherried and woody on the palate as well. Coconut. What a lovely mouth feel.
It grows drier and smokier towards the relatively short finish - keeping it from a score in the 90's.
Score: 89 points - making it officially the very best Auchentoshan I've tried in my life.
Great stuff. Actually, some traits reminded me of a '2000' batch of the Springer 21yo...
This is by far the very best Auchentoshan I ever tried - thanks, Serge!

Auchentoshan NAS (40%, OB, Bottled 1980's, 5cl)
Nose: A hint of oil, not much else at first. Opens up a little with time, growing grainier.
Makes some evasive moves in the direction of malt and fruits but doesn't stay there.
Taste: Smooth and sweetish at first. Very slick, easily drinkable. A little malty and grainy.
Creamy and clean. Short, hot, woody finish. Maybe a light beer-like bitterness as well?
Score: 69 points - I guess I have to compliment the people at Auchentoshan on their remarkable consistency. Today they're making pretty much the same lifeless Lowlander they made two decades ago. I used to think all Lowlanders were supposed to taste like this, but over the years I've learnt that some time in a good cask can work miracles. This is a fine, accessible alternative for most blends, though.
 

And there's more to tell about Auchentoshan...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Auchentoshan Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Auchentoshan page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Auchentoshan expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
 

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