80s flashback – Auchentoshan ‘Pure Malt’ 40%

Let me confess upfront… I’ve not been massively impressed with most mass market Auchentoshan...

Yes I get that as they are triple distilled, my palate should calibrate to something light, refreshing and more nuanced. Yes I also get that not all Auchentoshan’s are created equal. I remember being delighted with some special Auchentoshan’s sampled at the now defunct “Vault” in Singapore… followed by being universally uninspired ever since… until now!

We sampled this beauty blind at an evening which featured a trio of rare whiskies from the 1980s… providing a unique ‘flashback’ to single malts before the current craze that has whiskies flying off shelves around the world with the award winning pronouncements of one man!

Courtesy Krishna Nakula

Knowing absolutely nothing about the whisky before the unveiling, we discovered:

  • Nose – It kept evolving starting with apricot, dried peach, bannanas, lots of tropical fruits, fresh, bright, then some creamy vanilla, a little fresh curry pata (green curry leaves), fresh grass which morphed into dry hay, a dab of almond oil, ladies perfume, green bananas, light ash and finally a faint curd sourness creeping in…
  • Palate – Light, dry, bitter like watered down juice of kerela (bitter guord), the shadow of smoke without any direct peat, sense of being a “breakfast dram”
  • Finish – Some debate… some hardly found any finish, another described it as ‘present’ yet  ‘nondescript’… in short the finish was the only disappointing element of the whisky
  • Water – Absolutely does not need a drop

Leading up to the unveiling there was talk of it being an ‘old style’ whisky… clearly before the 1990s.

Sure enough – more than one sampler was surprised with it being an Auchentoshan. Krishna shared that the era of Eadie Cairns who rebuilt the Auchentoshan distillery completely after purchasing it in 1969.

This remarkable rare malt came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula at an evening organised by The Secret Supper Project and The Vault Fine Spirits in celebration of 20 years of Malt Madness.

The night before, we were ‘wowed’ with a quartet of 1970s Glendronach grand dames from 39 – 42 years.

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Auchentoshan Cooper’s Reserve 14 year

I spotted this duty-free release a few years ago with its bonus of three miniature expressions and thought – why not!?

Auchentoshan is sometimes called a ‘breakfast’ whisky as it is light and sweet. They are also known for ‘triple distilling‘ which Auchentoshan claims is responsible for their ‘gentle complex flavours.’

Now… perhaps as a tasting group we lack the ability to discern such subtle quality… however the reason we’ve barely explored expressions from this Lowland distillery is generally individual samplings have been disappointing.

This particular one, the Auchentoshan Cooper’s Reserve 14 year was matured in American bourbon casks then Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Auchentoshan Cooper's Reserve 14 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Cooper’s Reserve 14 year (Whisky Lady)

We first sampled it in September 2013, and given our lacklustre impression of the distillery, when the whisky was revealed, most were pleasantly surprised… Here’s what we had to say then:

Bright amber in colour, a delightful banana, caramel and pear on the nose. Dry yet still sweet on the palate, very smooth with a spicy finish that lingers with a hint of dried fruit. Add water and the peat peaks out both in the nose and palate. Pronounced quite lovely and definitely one to enjoy.

With the unveiling, more than one taster shared their mixed experience with Auchentoshan – having a few ‘duds’ and some ‘delights’ this one at least was in the positive category.

Post this, I must admit, I tried it a few times but wasn’t overly attracted to its character. It then was left  neglected at the back of the whisky cabinet, occasionally trotted out for social evenings.

When I was recently re-organising the whisky cabinet, decided it was time to re-sample – keeping in mind this particular bottle is in a far from optimal condition! I also saved just enough for one last dram to compare alongside the miniatures which have yet to be opened… (further indication haven’t been inspired!)

Auchentoshan Cooper’s Reserve 14 year 46%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Immediate stamp of both casks – bourbon and sherry, raisins, orange with something else swirling about – pear?, toffee sweet but also sharp. As it continued to breathe – chopped almost rancid nuts, dampening the citrus, shifting into a sour almost olive-like quality
  • Taste – Nutty, musty, citrus tart, with a chewy bitter oaky element
  • Finish – Bitter oak, old walnuts, warm
  • Water – Adding a dash brightens it up considerably – clean, crisp sweet nose with a wisp of woodiness, spice for a second that mellows into woodsy sparkly sweetness and finishes with a mildly bitter burn
Auchentoshan Cooper's Reserve 14 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Cooper’s Reserve 14 year (Whisky Lady)

Do I like it?

Hmm… the very fact there isn’t an instant ‘yum’ tells you something. What I found is I couldn’t quite get past the slightly unpleasant nuttiness in this whisky. Perhaps entirely my fault as the bottle sat open too long, but old rancid walnuts isn’t my ‘nuttiness note’ of choice!

Overall it is a clean straight forward whisky without the depth and complexity that I find interesting.

Will this make me into an Auchentoshan convert? No… however will see if there is one gem in those cute little miniatures – the 12 year, three wood and 18 year. When I get around to trying…

PS – I did try the miniatures in May 2015… see the notes here.

Auchentoshan Collection (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan collection (Whisky Lady)

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