For those who seek to improve their understanding of whisky, a visit to a distillery can prove invaluable and while many such places are far from accessible, there remains a few which can be reached without too much hardship.
Auchentoshan stands on the outskirts of Glasgow, about a 20 minute drive from the centre of Scotland’s largest city. It is an attractive and well maintained distillery, with neatly manicured lawns, tumbling water features and whitewashed buildings with stark black lettering that can be seen from the roadside.
Inside, the visitor is greeted with an attractive shop, showcasing various expressions of the Auchentoshan malt, arranged neatly around the walls. Tours commence with a brief but informative video which tells the history of the distillery before moving on to a walkthrough of each stage in the production process.
To the casual tourist, one distillery tour must appear much like any other. For the dedicated fanatic however, any quirk in production is a fascinating insight into the development of the spirit’s character. At Auchentoshan, it is the technique of triple distillation, more traditionally seen in Irish Whiskey, which separates it from the rest.
The tour concludes in a very stylish tasting room, resplendent with a beautiful curved bar and comfortable seating. Tasting line-ups are available for an additional charge and provide an insight into the full array of different styles being produced at this distillery. Traditionally, lowland single malt styles are lighter and more delicate than their highland and island cousins and as a result can sometimes seem less appealing to modern customers who seek bold new flavour profiles. Auchentoshan combat the issue through their wood policy, with sherry and wine casks playing an increasing role in their output.
Having sampled a few drams at the distillery, I opted to take home a bottle of the Valinch. Matured in American Oak ex-Bourbon casks and bottled at a cask strength of 57.2%, this is a surprisingly robust, weighty Auchentoshan.
On the nose there’s Vanilla, Cream and Barley with Lemon and Biscuit. Vanilla and Cream dominates on the palate too with some subtle Green Fruits and Custard notes. There is a degree of Wood Spice and heat from the spirit that makes this a satisfing, warming dram.
The Scores: About the scoring…
Smell: Vanilla, Cream and Malty Biscuit with a touch of Lemon Pastry.
Taste: Vanilla and Cream dominate, with subtle Fruit, Custard and a touch of Wood Spice.
Value: A cask strength single malt for just £50 a bottle is not to be sneered at and while it may not be a classic, it is a very enjoyable dram all the same.
Total: 41 / 50.