My first experience with this distillery was sampling the Auchentoshan Three Wood, which happens to be one of the whiskies I love using when I host tastings, especially for new people. My next Auchentoshan was the Valinch which I always ensure I have at least two bottles of at the house as it is a fantastic dram! Our society planning committee chose Auchentoshan as our vertical tasting for 2012 and we picked some very nice whiskies. Just to quickly name a few:
Auchentoshan 1999 Bordeaux Finish, Auchentoshan 18, 21 and the coup de grâce for the evening was the Auchentoshan 1977 Sherry Matured. It was a wonderful night and our members truly loved the Auchies. We asked Mike Gill, co-owner of Innovative Beverages in NS (Auchentoshan Representative), whisky writer and aficionado who led us through a journey of the distillery which he has visited several times. After we had our evening, Auchentoshan sales went up by about 5% in our local liquor store (or so Mike told us afterwards, lol). So, when I saw the Springwood on Dave Worthington's (http://whisky-discovery.blogspot.ca/) list of tradeable whiskies, I knew I had to try it for two reasons. It's only available through travel retail and I have not been disappointed by this distillery as of yet.
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A few important notes for those of you who don't know much about Auchentoshan. First of all it's pronounced: AUKen-TOSHen. Not anything else, I assure you. (I argued with a product rep one day who kept calling it Ocean-toe-shan). This is from the Lowland area of Scotland. The chemistry behind this one is very interesting from my perspective for several reasons:
1. They start with optic barley which is the most widely grown spring barley in the UK. It has a rich creamy texture reminiscent of the smell of a shortbread cookie.
2. The malted barley is briefly kilned and is completely UNPEATED. (It always surprises me when I hear people describe an Auchie as a good peated dram??)
3. The barley, once malted is ground to a specific size and consistency creating a grist. This allows the maximum amount of sugars to be converted from the starch during the mash phase of the process.
4. After the mashing process is completed, most distilleries use stainless steel washbacks. Auchentoshan is one of the few that uses wood - Oregon Pine. That means no two batches are alike.
5. The most unique part of this distillery: It's the only one in Scotland that triple distills all their ferments. So, first distillate is apx 8% (beer), second is close to 70% (this is where the majority of distilleries stop their process) and after the third it's 81%.
|Courtesy of www.whiskyscience.blogspot.ca - Auchentoshan Stills|
Lowlands are traditionally known for whiskies that are light, gentle or as I've often heard them referenced the "Lowland ladies" due to their feminine like qualities. These distilleries are situated in the greener part of Scotland void of large mountains, peat or sea air. It's all inland, very agricultural in nature. Quite a beautiful part of Scotland to see actually and the whiskies have to be tried, at least once before you depart this world. Don't let the whisky experts in your life fool you into believing that you are not missing anything and to avoid this geographical area of whiskies. WRONG! I bet a $10 bill that if you tried several of the Auchies on the market, you will find one you really enjoy. They may be light on the nose, but they can be big on taste. Valinch is a perfect example of that for me. It does smell gentle, rum/raisin ice cream, vanilla custard but once you have it in your mouth, it explodes with delicious flavors! It's a smooth whisky that tastes absolutely delightful.
So the sample I received is the Auchentoshan Springwood which is only available to world travellers (certain airports in the UK mostly), at duty free establishments. Which is really a shame but at the same time, I suppose makes it one of those rare Auchentoshans that a selected few will be lucky enough to purchase. It retails about $50 (CAN). It's part of a set of four core expressions being released that are inspired by the life cycle of wood (as it relates to the tree itself). Five whiskies released for 2012 will include: Springwood (When a tree is a sapling, green and young). Heartwood (The inner rings that are closest to the core). Silveroak (Ring that appear on the inside of an older more mature tree) followed by Solera (named for the aging process used
to make PX sherry) and the limited edition release and the only age statement 14 Year Old Coopers Reserve (the wood is fully matured and now rounded). Quite the retails line up, I would say but considering Auchentoshan is in the top 10 travel retail brands, I don't think they will have a hard time selling these off the shelf.
The Springwood is matured in ex-bourbon casks, only. That's it. Nothing else. Just distilled and then added to barrels that used to have bourbon in them. In a day where distilleries are coming out with finishes in every possible category, this is a refreshing idea.
AUCHENTOSHAN SPRINGWOOD, 40% ABV
Color: Quite a deep golden straw like quality to it. Legs are plentiful, long and thin. (However, keep it mind Auchentoshan uses E150A).
Nose: I put this head to head against Valinch (for the fun of it). Lots of vanilla upfront, rum/raisin ice cream (which is usually a tell for me as far as a young or close to new make spirit). Lemon or specifically lemon peel. Lots of cereal on the back.
Palate: And this is where the similarities of the Valinch completely depart. My immediate reaction was my entire mouth watered, it was like biting into a lemon: Juicy but gets the saliva glands at the back with the sour citrus. Very harsh. Not at all like the nose. It's bitter like chewing on grapefruit pith. Ever eat a mouthful of snow and your mouth sort of tingles afterwards, same feeling with this whisky. There's a bit of sweetness but just a whisper of unripe green apples...
Finish: Dries out your entire mouth? Very weird experience for me. Mouthwatering while you swish it around and then you swallow and it's like you are nervous on your first date. Peppery, lots of burn and the citrus is still there but not at the forefront. It also doesn't stick around very long.
Empty glass: Graham wafer crust (creamy biscuit feel)
|Unfinished second dram - Couldn't do it, ended up down sink :(|
I tried to think of people who might enjoy this whisky, and honestly the only thing I could come up with was the whisky purist who enjoys his/her scotch aged in nothing but ex-bourbon casks. If that's you, try this dram if you can. I personally cannot recommend buying this. I can think of many, many whiskies that I would prefer spending $50.00 on.
It's the youngest of the core expressions and it shows. I can only hope the other four are much better than this one.
Sorry Auchentoshan, this is a major whisky fail for me :( However, I shall not give up and will continue to search out, try and recommend the Auchentoshans I have come to know and love.
Discarding this one unfortunately somewhere in the ditch of the whisky trail... (sorry little guy)