For a brief moment during the 1990s, Auchentoshan was one of only two
remaining Lowlands malt whisky distilleries in Scotland. Together with the
Glenkinchie distillery, Auchentoshan managed to escape the fate of fellow
Lowlanders like Inverleven, Kinclaith, Ladyburn, Littlemill and Rosebank.
According to the text on the label of an old bottle of Auchentoshan 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. But perhaps 'A fairly bland single
malt whisky for blend drinkers' would be even more accurate...
Founded in 1825 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': its malt whisky 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.
If you're drinking single malt whisky because you enjoy a drink with a
little more character and personality than the average blended whisky,
the 'standard' Auchentoshan 10yo could be disappointing in the past.
Triple distillation removes more ‘impurities’ from a spirit than double
distillation, but it are those impurities that give the whisky its character.
Anyway - let's get back to the historical facts...
Auchentoshan was rebuilt after WWII before being aquired by Eadie
Cairns in 1969. After another refitting in 1974 the predecessors of the
current owners Morrison Bowmore (now owned by Suntory from Japan)
bought the distillery in the 1980's. Suntory already owned Bowmore on
Islay and Glen Garioch in the Highlands, so that move made sense...
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. And these days
the Auchentoshan portfolio offers more expressive expressions too.
I liked the Auchentoshan 'Three Wood' quite a bit and there have
been a few finely matured casks that peaked in their 20's and 30's.
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 at the top of the page, the empty whisky bottle at the far right is the Auchentoshan 10yo.)
However, around the year 2000 demand for single malt whisky increased greatly.
Many malt whisky producers decided to expand the range of their whisky brands
with more expressions. So, the core portfolio of Auchentoshan was expanded with
a 'Select' expression without an age statement. Like all other bottlings from the
distillery, it is a triple distilled whisky - which makes it pretty unique.
At the moment (as far as I know), the only other triple distilled Scotch whisky
(sort of) is the Hazelburn brand from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown.
The Auchentoshan distillery is located conveniently for
international visitors. It’s close to Glasgow - which has
an international airport. Auchentoshan offers tours of
the distillery, so that’s a treat at the end of your trip.
1) The source of the name ‘Auchentoshan’ is Gaelic - it means something like 'corner of the field'.
Yeah, I know - it sounds considerably more impressive in Gaelic ;-)
2) Antique records from the year 1800 mention an (illegal)
Duntocher distillery, which may have been a predecessor to
the legal Auchentoshan distillery. The license for distillation was
obtained in 1823 as soon as the ‘Excise Act’ was passed.
3) Auchentoshan distillery matures its spirit 'on site' in three
dunnage warehouses and two racked warehouses.
4) 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.
5) 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 a year.
2002 - Auchentoshan releases the darker 'Three Wood'
that seems to be their interpretation of 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, allowing for distillery tours. .
2010 - After rising sales for a few years, the number of cases that were sold passes 50,000 for the first time.
2016 - The range of Auchentoshans for travel retail is expanded to five bottlings; Cooper’s Reserve (14yo),
Silver Oak (vintage 1990), Heartwood, Solera and Springwood - the last three all without an age statement.
2008 - The official distillery website is expanded with a blog.
Unfortunately, it is only updated a few times each year, so
things don’t move at a 3d millennium speed yet...
2012 - Six new official bottlings of Auchentoshan are released, including Springwood and Heartwood.
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 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 best Auchentoshan I've tried in my life - by far.
This is really great stuff. Actually, some traits reminded me of a '2000' batch of the Springbank 21yo...
This is by far the very best Auchentoshan I ever tried - thanks, Serge!
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 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.
Auchentoshan 1992/2015 (52%, Maltbarn, Bourbon Cask, 134 Bts.)
Nose: Very fragrant for a bourbon casked Lowlander. Mostly in the grassy / veggy part of the spectrum.
Hints of oil as well - an Auchentoshan ‘marker’ for me. In fact, the oily, creamy and buttery aspects take over.
More complexity than most other bourbon matured Auchentoshans, but it’s mostly gone within minutes.
Taste: Hmmm... Not nearly as expressive as the nose; a fairly typical bourbony profile with a rough finish.
Mind you, this is one of the best Auchentoshan bottlings I’ve ever tried, so the spirit’s potential is limited.
Score: 80 points - I’ve stayed away from Auchentoshan for many years due to disappointments in the past.
If this is as good as ‘modern’ bottlings can get after 23 years, I’ll keep focusing on other distilleries for now.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Auchentoshan malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Auchentoshan 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 Auchentoshan.
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.