While visiting my alma mater last week, I dropped in on the Auchentoshan distillery just outside of Glasgow. I used to work beyond it and drove past the sign for the visitors’ centre daily; until then, I had never even tasted the triple distilled whisky. Apparently, they have had to change some of their previous claims over being the only triple distilled, now stating “only routinely triple distilled”: older Benrinnes and some Benriach are triple distilled; Springbank essentially triple distills, in that it is distilled three times, (but due to it going through the same still twice is called 2.5 distillation); and, in the case of Bruichladdich, they have a quadruple distilled whisky (though it is still very young at present). I was lucky enough to get the last tour of the day and, with no one else there, had the guide’s full attention (possibly much to his annoyance). I discussed with the guide his biggest bugbears from the industry – he echoed similar views to my own – competitions between friends debating the “correct” way to drink whisky being his highest irritation; tourists with no interest in whisky just ticking boxes on a trip to Scotland checklist being the second…
And so to the whisky – Auchentoshan. One I had never tasted. Triple distilled, the guide talked highly of it being an incredibly smooth whisky, no peat has ever come near it (and it seems they never plan to let it) and sweet and fruity. I got a chance to try a few different expressions – the classic and the 12 were exactly as he had suggested, very simple and clean, almost (and I do not mean this harshly) to the point of blandness. I think these whiskies, especially the classic, have a real place as a starter whisky, a whisky for those that don’t like whisky, one to convince the uninitiated that it’s not all about peat and iodine and brine and heather and sitting in darkened rooms getting overexcited about a Bordeaux finish compared to a Pedro Ximenez finish. It would work well on city club shelves for the young suits. It was also very refreshing – a hot summer’s day dram, an aperitif maybe? However, as a warming, sipping, long deep talk about the indwelling nature of God and the benefit of the cover drive type of dram, it might seem a little lacking in any sort of depth or character.
That seems to be where the triple wood comes in and I happily walked away with a bottle tucked under my arm. I have tried other double woods, which I’m sure I will talk about anon, but this is a slightly different beast. My guide explained that it is aged for ten years in Bourbon, before half goes into Olorosso, half into Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, for two more years, before it’s recombined. This seems a loose definition of triple wood, as many other whiskies could also therefore claim this name, but an online search seems to suggest after the ten it has one year in each, which would fit the description better. It seems trite to call it very woody, but that’s exactly what it is: unbalanced towards that side, a little daring. Compared to the baseline expressions, this is far more complex, interesting and far less likely to end up in a whisky sours or with Diet Coke added (having said that, the guides serving suggestion for the 12 year old was with a drip or two or fresh ginger juice – not one I’d come across before, but interesting nonetheless). It is very enjoyable exactly as it is, even for someone who is used to stronger, more complex flavours. This is definitely a whisky to mull over the matter at hand with, a thinking whisky.
colour: light treacle, toffee
nose: woody, sweetness and caramel
body: warm, but mild.
palate: more wood, especially sherry, nutty characteristics, praline?
finish: nutty wood, loamy earth, warmth
overall: comfortingly warm and woody, without any fire. Did i mention the wood?