A trio of Auchentoshan’s

The name Auchentoshan is from the Gaelic “Achadh an Oisein” and it translates as “the field of the corner”. The distillery is also sometimes known as the “Glasgow’s Malt Whisky” due to its close proximity to Glasgow. Auchentoshan is located at the foot of the Kilpatrick hills on the outskirts of Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire near the Erskine Bridge.

The Auchentoshan distillery is one of the very few remaining active Lowland distilleries. Furthermore, which is also unusual for a Scottish distillery, Auchentoshan practices triple distillation instead of the usual double distillation technique.

Here endth the lesson, now on to the whiskies.

Auchentoshan_American Oak_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan American Oak, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

This whisky is triple distilled and matured solely in first fill American bourbon casks.

Colour: Rich gold with lovely thick legs.

Nose: Overall is sweet, with coconut oil, citrus fruits, vanilla, some warm winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) and a lovely burnt toffee pudding character. Nose is clean, soft and lovely without being overpowering.

Palate: Light and refreshing, sweet and warm spiciness with more of the citrus fruits and vanilla coming through to the palate. There is also a nice toffee sweetness and slight creaminess to it. Palate is soft, smooth and very easy drinking.

Finish: Medium with warm spicy sweetness throughout and toffee pudding sweetness at end.

Overall: a pretty much well-made NAS Lowland whisky that is not overly complex and would be a great entry way to introduce a person to whisky, especially those that prefer a sweeter and smother mouth taste and feel.

My Score: 79


Auchentoshan_12yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan 12yo, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

This whisky is also triple distilled, then matured for over twelve years in a mix of Olorosso sherry and bourbon casks.

Colour: Rich deep gold with long slow thick legs.

Nose: Initially sweet, but not a strong sweetness, before the aromas of Christmas cake, brandy tart, sultana or date loaf, some citrus fruits and warm sweet winter spices (cinnamon) infiltrate your olfaction receptors.

Palate: Warm winter spices, nuttiness (almonds and hazelnuts), grassiness, more baked brandy pudding and Christmas cake again. Also following from the nose are more of those lovely sweet spicy notes and citrus fruit flavours again.

Finish: Medium to long and warming while still being light and with sweet spices to end.

Overall: again a well-made whisky from the Lowland region and this time with an age statement. I like the elements that the sherry casks brought to this whisky to make it, in my opinion a more layered and complex lowland dram.

My Score: 80


Auchentoshan_Three Wood_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

This Auchentoshan whisky has been matured in three different cask types. It first spent an initial ten odd years in American Bourbon casks before being transferred to Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks (for around a year) and ended its maturation in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks (also around a year).

Colour: Rich tawny to mahogany with many long and lovely thick slow legs.

Nose: Rich dried and brandied fruits (mix of dark and citrus fruits), pecan nut slice, winter spices (predominately ginger), dark chocolate, baked dessert and an almost burnt caramel character. There are also some earthy and grassy notes faintly in the background.

Palate: Soft and clean but with strong sweet upfront winter spices (cinnamon and ginger) and more of the rich fruits (more citrus this time), almonds and Christmas cake coming though as well. Quite a mouth and tongue coating mouthfeel.

Finish: Very long, smooth and warm with sweet dried fruits.

Overall: A rich and well-made whisky that has some added complexity and flavours over the previous two (in my opinion) and that continues to develop over time in the glass.

My Score: 82

Glenfarclas 12yo

From Ireland we travel back to Scotland for my thoughts on the Glenfarclas 12yo. The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are matured almost solely in sherry butts. Interesting to note is that the Glenfarclas 12yo was originally bottled for export and travel retail markets.

Glenfarclas_12yo_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Glenfarclas 12yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

Glenfarclas, meaning Glen of the Green Grassland, was founded by Robert Hay in 1836 where on the original site there is some evidence that there was a distillery on the site over a century prior since 1797.

The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are aged in the considerable onsite warehousing facilities; the 28 warehouses hold 52,000 casks with stock from every year from 1952 to the current year. The whisky distillery has an extensive range of single malt whiskies, particularly so after the 2007 release of the Family Casks range with a bottling from every vintage between 1952 and 1994.

Colour: Deep amber gold with very many thick, slow and long legs.

Nose: Polished wood (pine wood polish), citrus fruits, raisins and dried fruits. There are hints of smoky creaminess with some medicinal notes, caramel (crème caramels) sweetness and a touch of spiciness. A rather delicate, smooth and light nose.

Palate: Medium to full bodied with a lovely sweet, spicy and smoky character. Medicinal, but not Laphroaig like, almost earthy. Has a sharp bite upfront but mellow out with melon, sherry notes and a whisper of smokiness.

Finish: Long, spicy and warm with a sweet smokiness at end.

Overall: A great introduction to the Glenfarclas range. I find the 12yo to be a rather well balanced and put together whisky. Quite a gentle and elegant whisky.

My Score: 81

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 YO

For my next review I decided on one of the first ‘finished’ whiskies that I tasted, the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Year old. ‘Finishing’ is where a whisky is transferred from its original cask into a previously used cask of another spirit, in this case port, for an additional maturation period.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban_12_The Smoky DramWhisky: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Year Old, 46% ABV (Cost around R540)

Region: Northern Highlands, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 Years

Thanks to Glenmorangie’s unconventional founder, William Matheson, they have the tallest stills in Scotland. Their long copper necks stand at 5.14 metres (16ft 10 1/4 inches). Traditionally they have employed sixteen men to make their whisky – known as the Sixteen Men of Tain. Men whose skills, passed down from one generation to the next, are pretty much the same today as they’ve always been.

According to the Glenmorangie website, the darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range is the Quinta Ruban. It has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas, or wine estates, from the Douro valley in Portugal for a further maturation of 2 years. Ruban is Gaelic for Ruby, representing the finest Ruby Port casks. 

Colour: Rich gold to rust with many thick legs. 

Nose: A fairly sweet, dark berries, start that leads one on to citrus fruits (mostly oranges and tangerines). It develops further with some raisins, brandy and port notes. The palate also has a lovely nuttiness to it, as well as some dark chocolate with some spiciness towards the end.

Palate: The spiciness and citrus fruits follows through to the palate. It is a quite full and rich palate that is fairly thick and fruity. I also pick up some black tea, more chocolate and nuttiness with a hint of port still floating about.

Finish: Smooth and long with lovely winter spiciness. There are also hints of dark chocolate infused with citrus and some sweetness on the finish.

Overall: A well-made and smooth whisky. I do find the nose to be a bit more developed than the palate. I find the fruit to be an interesting mix of citrus and sweet berries. Not a bad introduction to the world of ‘finished’ whiskies.

My Score: 83

Highland Park 12yo

Moving on to the Islands in Scotland again and the stop this time is Orkney Islands, for a review of the Highland Park 12 year old. Highland Park is the most northerly whisky distillery in Scotland. The first proprietary bottling of Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky was as a 12 year old in 1979.

Highland Park_12_The Smoky DramWhisky: Highland Park 12, 43% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Orkney Islands (Kirkwall), Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 Years

Highland Park was established in 1798, presumably by Magnus Eunson (a church elder). The name of this whisky does not refer to the area of Scotland known as The Highlands, from which Orkney is excluded, but rather to the fact that the distillery was founded on an area called ‘High Park’.

Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt its own barley, using locally cut peat from Hobbister Moor. The peat is then mixed with heather before being used as fuel. The malt is peated to a level of 20 parts per million phenol and then mixed with unpeated malt produced on the Scottish mainland. Highland Park is also one of the ingredients of The Famous Grouse blend. The 12 year old is the youngest whiskey in the core expression from Highland Park.

Colour: Rich gold to amber with nice thick legs.

Nose: Has a lovely heathery smokiness that is intermingled with a honeyed sweetness. There are also pleasing citrus (mostly oranges) notes coming through as well as malt and more heather with a hint of spiciness. Beautiful clean and fresh nose.

Palate: Medium body with a palate that is remarkably smooth (yet firm) and rounded. Sweet smokiness and heather with more of that honeyed sweetness from the nose. Also get touches of oranges, a rocky earthiness, pepperiness and sweet canvas. Mouth feel that is dry and chalky, yet with a slippery and juicy feel on the tongue. A beautiful balance that is light and smooth and not as aggressive.

Finish: Clean and quite lingering while being serious and delightful with a sweet and delicate smoke that has some hints of spice (pepper).

Overall: A wonderfully smooth and balanced whisky that has a deep and complex flavour profile that delivers over and over. I particularly love the sweet and delicate smokiness on the finish. I think that it is an exceptionally pleasing whisky and one that could be enjoyed every day.

My Score: 86

Glenkinchie 12yo

Moving on to the Lowlands region in Scotland for the first time for my next review. My first experience of a Lowlands whisky was the Glenkinchie 12 year old. This whisky was also recently named ‘Best Lowland Single Malt’ at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards. This 12 year old is the new entry level bottling and was released in 2007 to replace the 10 year old.

Glenkinchie_12_The Smoky Dram

Whisky: Glenkinchie 12, 45% ABV (Cost around R600)

Region: Lowlands, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

 Age: 12 Years

One of the few remaining Lowland distilleries, Glenkinchie’s was founded in 1825. The distillery was later purchased and restored by an association of whisky merchants and blenders from Edinburgh in the 1890s. It was restored as the model Victorian distillery village we see today, complete with its distinctive red brick buildings, houses for workers and even a bowling green.

Glenkinchie’s two fat old copper pot stills are also a distinctive feature, among the largest in the industry and together producing an impressive 1.3 million litres annually. Tradition still has its place here; for example, six wooden washbacks are still used for fermentation, two made from Oregon pine and four from Canadian larch. A single cast-iron worm tub cools the spirit, in preference to a more modern condenser, giving a whisky of greater character and depth.

Colour: Pale yellow gold to straw with many thick legs.

Nose: A very fragrant nose, that is surprisingly light, with floral and sweet notes. Also get pears, caramel, vanilla, marzipan and citrus fruits (most notably lemon).  Despite a slight dustiness, it is still a very clean nose.

Palate: A sweet and soft start that is quite florally that leads to citrus fruits (lemon again) and freshly cut hay (straw). Warm sweet spicy notes of dried fruits and stewed fruits come through with lovely subtle hint of smoke. A mouth that is clean, crisp and light but has a depth to it

Finish: Medium with spicy (ginger) and floral notes, almost herb like and quite drying.

Overall: For me this is a great example of a Lowland whisky. It is clean and fresh with the right mix of fruit, grass and smoke. I like the way the spice and smoke integrate with the sweeter characteristics on the palate. It is a very easy drinking and light dram that is perfect for a summer’s afternoon, or any warm afternoon for that matter.

My Score: 82