The Auchroisk distillery is one of the last to be built in the 20th century.
The distillery was founded in 1974 and their first single malt whisky was
bottled and sold at a barely legal age in the UK in 1978. That might seem
very young in the modern context, but the average whisky cask was much
more active in those days than most of the casks that are used today.
Perhaps the people in charge of Auchroisk felt that their Gaelic name was
too much of a tongue twister for the average (non-Scotch) whisky drinker.
Official bottlings were marketed under the name 'The Singleton' between
1986 and +/- 1999 - and then the brand slowly disappeared. (Or did it?)
The modern customer is apparently considered sophisticated enough to
be able to order an Auchroisk without embarrassing himself (or herself);
they've switched to the name 'Auchroisk' again in the early noughties.
Soon afterwards, Diageo started to use the name 'The Singleton' for three other ‘low profile’ single malts in
their portfolio. Confusingly enough (at least for whisky fans with a global perspective), they used the same brand
name for 3 different single malt whiskies for 3 international markets.
When people in Europe order a ‘Singleton’ malt whisky they receive
a whisky distilled at Dufftown while American customers get a single
malt from the Glendullan distillery. Meanwhile, the Glen Ord single
malt whisky ends up in Asia. So, segregation is alive and well...
That puts the idea of whisky regions in perspective, doesn’t it?
Anyway - let’s get back to the Auchroisk distillery.
Gaelic must be an incredibly compact language, because during
1990s the whisky labels on the ‘Singleton’ bottlings of Auchroisk’
the name stands for 'shallow ford across the red stream'.
Auchroisk was the fourth distillery to be built by Justerini & Brooks.
At the time IDV/J&B also owned the Glen Spey, Knockando and
Strathmill distilleries. The owners only purchased their new property
after Dorie's Well was discovered there. This discovery of a fresh
water source was made completely by accident, it seems...
The Auchroisk distillery was purposefully built for the production of
malt whisky for blending - a despicable practice. Even though the
bulk of the malt whisky produced at the distillery is used for the J&B
blends (over 90% of it, I've been told), single malts can be found.
The Auchroisk single malt whisky was widely available during the 1990s. Its visibility as a brand has decreased
in the third millennium - perhaps due to the fact that owner Diageo now uses the old 'Singleton' name to market
three different single malts to three different markets. That move did not go over well with whisky fans in Japan. Apparently, the Singleton of Auchroisk had been very popular there during the 1990s.
The location for Auchroisk distillery in the Speyside region
was chosen after the discovery of the ‘Dorie’s Well’ spring.
The closest neighbours of Auchroisk are the Strathisla,
Strathmill, Glentauchers, and Glen Keith distilleries.
In the early 1970s test-distillations were done with water from
the well at the Glen Spey distillery. After the test results were
succesfull, the (then) owners went ahead with construction.
As far as I know, Auchroisk doesn’t offer distillery tours for visitors - there’s a lot of competition nearby.
1) When the Auchroisk malt whisky was marketed as ‘The Singleton'
in the 1990s, the official releases were (usually) not single cask bottlings.
All of the early bottlings had a vintage printed on the label, but at the end
of the 20th century a handful of expressions with age statements became
available as well. I've had 10yo and 12yo expressions on my shelves.
2) There hasn’t been a regular official bottling of Auchroisk since +/- 2000.
The closest things to a proper OB are a 10yo 'Flora & Fauna' bottling and a
few expressions in several of Diageo’s premium series. They include the UD
'Rare Malts' range, the ‘Manager’s Choice’ series and ‘Special Releases’.
7) The old steam machine that decorates the offices of Auchroisk used to be
an operational part of the nearby Strathmill distillery - also owned by Diageo.
3) Independent bottlings of Auchroisk are relatively rare as well.
Based on my own personal experiences so far, most bottlings seem not really worth the trouble of tracking down.
However, even the most modest distillery in Scotland can have a few magical casks stacked away somewhere.
8) The 10 racked warehouses at the site of Auchroisk distillery are used to
store up to 250,000 casks of whisky - mostly from other Diageo distilleries.
4) Auchroisk uses a rather unique system to prevent their washbacks from overflowing. Instead of large rotating
'spoons' that are present at most other distilleries they use a chemical compound that is automatically released
once the foam on the wash reaches a certain level.
6) Auchroisk's futuristic architecture (well, futuristic for a distillery anyway)
has won several awards. Most other distilleries (with some exceptions like Arran
and Kilchoman) were built in the 18th or 19th century - and it often shows...
11) I don’t think that they bothered to invent an official motto for Auchroisk, but
I’d like to suggest 'Drink up quickly' or something. Somehow all the corks of
the Singletons from the 1990s seem to shrink and dry out very quickly after the
bottle has been opened - so they often break or crumble. Needless to say, that
doesn't go for independent bottlings that were produced on different bottling lines.
9) Most of the output of the Auchroisk distillery (by far) is ultimately mixed with
some grain whisky to produce the J&B blended Scotch whisky.
5) The Gaelic name ‘Auchroisk’ is pronounced as ‘Othrujsk’ apparently...
10) When the official press (rarely) reports on Auchroisk, the name is
often misspelled (or mis-typed) as ‘Auchrosik’ or ‘Ochroisk’.
2001 - After fifteen years of faithful service the
brand name ‘The Singleton’ is abandoned in
favour of the original distillery name 'Auchroisk'.
2009 - It seems Diageo is using the malt whisky
from the Auchroisk distillery exclusively (or at
least primarily) in blends these days. I haven't
seen a proper official bottling of the Auchroisk
malt whisky for almost a decade.
2012 - A 30yo 1982/2012 bottling of Auchroisk at 54,7% is released.
In an era of exploding prices for aged malt whiskies, the 'street price' of £225.00 is surprisingly reasonable.
2015 - The Auchroisk distillery is closed down for five months for the installation of further upgrades.
Everything already was pretty automated, but this time they have taken things even further.
2010 - Just when I thought Diageo was moving Auchroisk to the background, two new official bottlings are released;
a single cask bottling in the prohibitively priced Manager's Choice series and limited 20yo release.
Auchroisk 18yo 1989/2008 (59.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry, C#30268, 373 Bts.)
Nose: Heavy fruits. Woody too. My kind of profile, but it has some sharp edges. Growing complexity and depth.
Taste: Big and fruity - and a little rough like the nose. A tad too rough for the upper 80's in my book.
Score: 83 points - but it got an average score of 84 points at the MM Awards 2008.
Auchroisk 26yo 1979/2006 (56,7%, Signatory, Sherry C#25427, 592 Bts.)
Nose: A little weird… Hints of smoke. Something vaguely fruity. Awards fatigue? Opens up with time.
Some more complexity during round 2 when the sherried character seemed more obvious.
Taste: Erm, I seem to have misplaced my notes for the palate, sorry.
Score: 84 points - not quite silver medal material in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 in my book...
Auchroisk 30yo 1976/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask ref 3075, First fill Bourbon finish, 330 Bts.)
Nose: Light & citrussy. Very citrussy, in fact - almost like a liqueur. Grows more complex over time.
Taste: Oy! Bitter, herbal and unbalanced start. Dusty. Finished? Climbs back a little, but not enough.
Score: 71 points - The palate drags it right from the lower 80's into the lower 70's for me.
Auchroisk 11yo 1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Maverick, matured in Bourbon and Port casks)
It caught my eye when I was at De Still with Robert Karlsson in July 2005 to share a dram.
Nose: Extremely rich and fruity; this Auchroisk wears its finished hearton its sleave.
Sweet and farmy with some lovely organics. Funky, but a highly enjoyable dram.
Taste: Quite rich on the palate as well; hints of coffee and 'speculaas'. Overwhelming.
Unfortunately, it grows quite gritty towards the finish. Not for purists, but a lot of fun.
Score: 80 points - although this one might offend members of the wine brigade.
Auchroisk 28yo 1974/2003 (56.8%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Fruity with a spirity prickle. A 'green' malt with camphor and eucalyptus. Not terribly expressive.
Perhaps a whiff of freshly ground Arabica coffee beans. Not my kind of profile but some people like it...
Taste: Hot & alcoholic. Very herbal. Tannic. Eucalyptus. Bitter. Aspirin. It feels pretty harsh. Touch of smoke?
It has personality, but it seems a-typical for Auchroisk. One of the weaker UDRM's as far as I'm concerned.
Score: 73 points - not really a 'bad' whisky, but I'm just not into the 'herbal' side. Yeah, it's personal...
I even arranged a second sample to check my score, because most maniacs liked it better.
The Auchroisk 11yo 1989/2001 Port Finish (43%, Chieftain's, 70cl, Casks #90191/90192) was distilled
in September 1989, bottled in June 2001 and finished in port casks. No more than 1944 bottles were filled.
Nose: Oooh, that's nice... Lots of fruit and a little peat. Some smoke in there as well.
Sweet, overwhelming aroma. Deep woody notes. They did a great finishing job here!
The complexity grows over time, gaining more peaty notes. That's something I like!
Taste: Sadly, it doesn't match the great nose. Watery fruits. It powers up, though.
Dry, winey center with intruiging fruity episodes. It all ends in a very woody finish.
Score: 81 points - it matches an upper 80's nose with a lower 70's palate.
Overall, it performed quite well - it beats all the OB's I've tried so far.
Auchroisk (Singleton) 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled circa 2000)
That would mean it's a contemporary bottle to the 10yo I mentioned earlier, but I'm not sure.
Determining when these OB's were bottled is difficult; Older bottlings were released as vintages.
Nose: Pretty much as I expected; Malty and a little fruity - not overly sherried. Just right...
It seems to grow fruitier and fruitier over time. The character is that of a rather young malt.
Taste: The profile on the palate was very similar to that of the nose; sweet, malty and fruity.
This is a solid malt; nothing especially remarkable to find, but a perfect sipping whisky.
Score: 78 points - better than average.
Auchroisk (Singleton) 10yo (43%, OB, bottled +/- 2000, 100cl)
Nose: Mega-fruity at first. Spicy. Levels out after a minute, becoming more spirity.
Malty with a hint of sherry. Furniture wax. None of the liquorice/aniseed I found in the 1981.
Notable improvement after 10 minutes & some water; more toffee and subtle sweetness.
Taste: Very alcoholic. Quite sharp. Hint of fruit. Little depth; flat. Sour, unbalanced finish.
Score: 75 points - the nose is decent, but the taste isn't. Bad cask(s)? Very average.
Auchroisk (Singleton) 1981 (43%, OB, 100cl, code 2999, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Very characteristic aroma with licorice and aniseed. Just enough sherry for my tastes.
Remarkable, it even invoked vague impressions of 'Pernod'. Easy to spot in a blind line-up.
Taste: A slow start, but given time it unfolds beatifully and reaches deep into your throat.
Score: 80 points - A very nice autumn-malt; make sure to buy a bottle if you can find it.
(This was the first expression of Auchroisk I ever tried)
Auchroisk 1975 (40%, OB, 5cl, Bottled 1980's?) - sampled during Feis Ile 2005.
Nose: Started off quite sharp with mint and hints of sherry. Paint thinner. Sweetish. Spicy.
Taste: At first it reminded me of stale beer - not a taste I particulary enjoy, I have to say.
Over time it improves a little - especially after some odd sherry notes joined the party.
Score: 69 points - I couldn't go any higher; this is most definitely 'questionable' stuff.
Please note that it was an old miniature - some oxidation may have taken place here.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Auchroisk malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Auchroisk I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Auchroisk.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.