Once you’ve been exploring whisky for a little while you will probably start to harbour a desire to check out the distilleries themselves and fortunately, there is ample opportunity to do so, with tours aplenty on offer. There are basic tours for beginners, more in-depth tours for the experienced fanatic and usually various tasting options to go with them. The only difficulty can be actually getting there, Scotland’s distilleries are not always what you would call accessible. Auchentoshan however, is something of an exception.
Auchentoshan sits just outside Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and takes about 20 minutes to reach from the city centre. I had been meaning to visit for quite some time and when I finally found myself with a free Saturday in September I got booked in for a tour. The distillery is an attractive one, neatly trimmed lawns and water features contrasting nicely with the white buildings and stark black lettering. Inside, the reception area and shop are well laid out with various expressions of the malt displayed around the walls. The atmosphere was somewhat hampered however by the crass pop music playing at slightly too high a volume. I’m not demanding bagpipes and fiddles but a little consideration to the ambience would be nice.
Off the main shop there was a small theater where you could watch a short video history of the distillery. It was brief but informative and a good way to set up the tour. You could be forgiven for thinking that every distillery tour is the same and maybe for the casual tourist it is, but for whisky geeks like me there’s always something new to catch the attention, some quirk of production unique to each site… Like Auchentoshan’s method of triple distillation for example (most scotch is distilled twice with triple distilling much more common to Irish Whiskey). I find it fascinating to see these small differences in production that shape such radically different flavour profiles which in the end all come from the same basic ingredients.
The tour took us through each step of malt whisky production with a little sensory boost from samples of malted barley, low wines and new make spirit and it’s always a pleasure when a tour ends with a walk-through the onsite warehousing which all too often is deemed off limits. Auchentoshan have my gratitude for allowing me in amongst the casks of slumbering spirit.
The tour was followed by a tasting of the Auchentoshan 12 year old, Three Wood, Virgin Oak and Distillery Edition malts. Each of which were very pleasant drams in their own right but in the end I opted to take home a bottle of the Valinch – a cask strength offering that was only available to buy at the distillery.
On the nose there’s Cream, Vanilla and Barley with Biscuit and Lemon. It’s sweet on the palate and dominated at first by Vanilla and Cream but comes alive with water added, releasing notes of Citrus Fruits and Custard. Full cask strength gives good weight and flavour, creating a pleasantly warming dram in the process.
The Scores: About the scoring…
Smell: Subtle and a little restrained at first but loosens up over time.
Taste: Particularly with water, it’s a pleasant dram with good warmth and weight.
Value: £50 for a cask strength, single malt is hard to argue with.
Total: 41 / 50.