The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Auchentoshan 18 year 48.3%

We began our journey through The Whisky Warehouse No 8 sample pack more or less in the order suggested – Auchentoshan, Linkwood, Duilaine and then we diverged – me to the Benrinnes and my tasting companions to their Tomatin.

What all four had in common is that they are single casks, bottled at cask strength and all ex-bourbon rather than sherry casks. They also were all without peat.

Our lone entrant from the Lowlands, Auchentoshan, can sometimes be overlooked…

Auchtentoshan 18 year 48.3% (1 Dec 1998 – 2 Feb 2017) Bourbon Barrel Cask No W8 23553, 168 Bottles

We initially sampled it neat:

  • Nose – Initially some hay and cereals, oats, maybe even a bit of hops, a bit oily, malty, woody… no pronounced floral elements but had some dried fruits in the background
  • Palate – Quite direct with no subtlety, more of the cereals, malt, wood, a bit imbalanced to be honest…
  • Finish – There… but limited to a light spice

While the nose had promise, we weren’t all that impressed. There wasn’t anything ‘off’ but it was just wasn’t exceptional.

So we decided to add a bit of water and see if there was any impact… we didn’t have high expectations given it was already 48.3%…. and wow! In short – you MUST add water!

  • Nose – Now here we found more fruits! Herbal, cardamom… then shifting into a lemony citrus… over time a delightful orange marmalade
  • Palate – Delicious! Opens everything up – making it spicier, fruitier, sweeter, tastier and just balanced out everything that was earlier not quite in synch. From ‘meh’ to sponge cake!
  • Finish – Lovely… now the inviting aromas, equally following through on the palate can be found lingering on the finish too

We set it aside to sample our other drams and returned after an hour.

  • Nose – Could it have taken on a bit of smokey paprika? There was a nice tobacco leaf aroma mixed with cured sweet meats
  • Palate – A balanced spice and fruit

Overall we concluded this was a nice ‘aperitif’ style whisky – a nice ‘starter’. Reflecting back, it is entirely possible we would have caught more without water had we given it more time to open up. Either way, still think adding a few drops of water is the way to go with this one.

Here is what the Whisky Warehouse No 8 bottlers have to say:

It is not a really typical Auchentoshan single malt, it is not fruity and not slim enough. But if you accept that this Lowlander tastes more like a Highlander, the flavors fit together again and you will be rewarded with a muscular, strong, but also very clean whiskey, which a few drops of water to dilute it do very well.

  • Smell: Cactus blossom and fresh Italian herbs like oregano and thyme, a bit floral like hay and slightly buttery, subtle green wood note, a bit spicy like cardamom and lemon balm.
  • Taste: Initially quite spicy, mainly cardamom and pepper, roasted aromas like dark cocoa powder, again culinary herbs. With a little dilution, biscuits and ripe fruit aromas can also be seen.
  • Finish: At first a pepper note dominates, which lingers on the palate for a long time and warms up spicy later, it is mainly the roasted aromas that only fade very slowly.

So… cactus blossom? I must admit I’m unfamiliar with that aroma. Same with my tasting companions – one of whom looked it up. Apparently it is a ‘thing’ – so much so that she also found cactus flower scented candles. Who knew?

We would completely agree about the dilution. And overall we could understand their tasting notes except the buttery one – we didn’t catch that – and of course our lack of familiarity with cactus blossom!

What more do we know? It is from a single cask – Bourbon Barrel – which produced 168 bottles, priced at €100 for a 700 ml.

If we hadn’t known the age, I’m not sure we would have guessed 18 years. As for value for money? I’m glad we had a chance to try it in a sample pack. While enjoyable, it didn’t have that extra appeal of the Glencadam – which initially got me ‘hooked’ on these bottlers and was truly superb. However it was an entirely respectable offering from the distillery.

What else did we try from The Whisky Warehouse No 8 in our tasting set?

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Auchentoshan Heartwood 43%

What to do when you discover a common thread in standard duty-free offerings? Coin a new term! In our case, none were “nasty” merely “NASpy.” Confused? Read on….

Auchentoshan is known for its lighter whiskies, triple distilled in the Lowlands. Their Heartwood combines ex-bourbon and ex-sherry Olorosso casks.

Auchentoshan Heartland 43%

  • Nose – Fermented fruit, pear, light honey, melon, pine, warm vanilla, a slight piquant (not spice), pear tart, fresh fruit basket, custard which settled into a soft caramel with basil
  • Palate – Light on the palate, there like a whisky rinse
  • Finish – Bitter light burn with wood

Overall quite fruity – particularly pear – sweet, light and a dash of other elements. In short, we found it not unpleasant though entirely innocuous.

Between this and the Highland Park Einar we sampled next, we coined a category of whisky where one could say “You know, it just simply is rather NASPy.” Referring to a generic travel retail breed of No Age Statement palates that aren’t awful but are certainly not awesome either… in other words something that may be acceptable for parties but not a whisky we would deliberately buy.

Here is what the folks over at Auchentoshan have to say on the bottle note:

Released for travel retail, the Auchentoshan Heartwood is made with triple distilled single malt Scotch whisky which has been matured in both Oloroso Sherry casks and bourbon casks, resulting in a very well balanced expression from the Lowland distillery.

No other tasting notes… so for your amusement, I suggest you check out what the Whisky Wafflers have to say about Auchentoshan’s Heatwood.

I sampled it initially from a freshly opened bottle in a social context in August, then later from a mini sample with friends in September 2017.

Curious about other Auchentoshan whiskies sampled?

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Birthday whisky – Auchentoshan 40 year 41.6%

After our untraditional ‘risky whisky?‘ trio of lesser known whiskies from France (Brenne & AWA Pinot Noire) and the US (Virgil Kaine), we turned to a very traditional Lowland… and no young thing either… a mature 40 year old Auchentoshan no less!

And why such a rare aged whisky magically appearing in our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai midst?

It was all thanks to a Whisky Ladies’ birthday… 40th birthday… from an uncle who knows nothing would be more appropriate than giving the birthday lass a venerable 40 year old whisky! And generous soul that she is, our birthday Whisky Lady both hosted the evening and shared her special gift!

Auchentoshan 40 year (4 Nov 1965/4 Aug 2006) Bourbon Cask 41.6% Bottle No 196/200

  • Nose – A sense of very mild old sherry, a light sharpness, fresh pears, hint of ginger with a slight citrus twist, light toasted nuts
  • Palate – Very clean, elegant and clearly a ‘proper whisky’, figs and prunes yet all with a light touch
  • Finish – Lasting mild-mannered finish, one where you can really take your time, mellow, mellow, mellow…

Such an easy drinking whisky… most of all the descriptions “elegant” and “mellow” are most apt!

In the Glencairn vs Norlan glass experience, the Norlan gave a totally different finish – very spicy and more ‘alcohol’. Definitely one to have in the Glencairn!

What is also interesting is this is apparently matured only in a bourbon cask yet had some of the soft sweetness one associates with sherry finish.

Sipping this whisky sparked a wee debate on whether such a price tag was merited… a figure of some $2,000 was mentioned that had most of us aghast. Seriously?? No… not worth that price, especially as we could have bought some 15 – 25 other interesting whiskies for such an amount! Yet… none of use regretted an opportunity to sample such an elegant mellow Lowland dram…

Here’s what the producer has to say:

Rich, old gold in colour, the nose is a delicious combination of sweet vanilla, delicate lemon and orange citrus notes, a touch of almonds and a light, leafy freshness.  The palate is clean and zesty but is beautifully complemented by hints of vanilla and a touch of raisins.  The finish is soft and mild.

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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Whisky Ladies Risky Whisky

Our Whisky Ladies are generally an adventuresome set. Which is why our whisky explorations are not limited to your standard Scottish fare… not to say we don’t thoroughly enjoy a solid Scottish dram, just that our predilections lean to the off-beat rather than well trodden paths.

Which sometimes leads to some rather stellar flops! Most recently the AD Laws Triticum + Hordeum stand out as whiskies we would never ever chose to repeat. On the other end of the spectrum, that very night Canada‘s Shelter Point was an instant hit and another evening Finland‘s Teerenpeli 10 year was just yum!

We know when you take risks with your whisky choices there will be some delicious surprises mixed in with some unmitigated disasters!

When we began our evening, we had no idea how our selection would fare… just that we wanted to continue our whisky explorations to seek out new distilleries! Here is what we tried:

Then we added brilliant bonus drams… Our whisky lady host of the evening was celebrating her 40th birthday. What better way than with a 40 year old Auchentoshan!! And her whisky lady mother then decided we simply must have an extra desert treat of a rather bonus bourbon Willlett.

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Whisky Archives – Auchentoshan, AnCnoc, Deanston, Tomatin

Here’s another post from our archives, this time courtesy of another member from April 2012…

The evening was delightful with a very special malt selection comprising of Auchentoshan 12 year 40%, AnCnoc 40%, a not so common Deanston 46.3% and a Tomatin 21% received as a gift from the distiller.

Deanston sampling in KLWe liked the bitter chocolate in Deanston and the strong, spicy mint (like pudina chutney not altoids) in Tomatin (quite complex and a great Cigar paring we think).

One found the AnCnoc was almost like Compass Box’s Spice Tree with it’s spice burst. Another loves lowland whiskies so anything from there makes a good after dinner drink for him, whereas yet another chose the Tomatin as his repeat drink.

We also discovered the dramatic difference in the overall experience of tasting the same whisky in two different glasses – a regular tumbler styled glass and the recommended nosing glass by Glencairn.

Fast forward…

While I missed sampling with our merry group, I managed to taste them at a later point… most recently the Deanston in Kuala Lumpur.

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Auchentoshan 12 year, Three Wood and 18 year

For those new to their whisky journey, miniatures are a great way to get introduced to popular brands with well-known expressions. However once you venture a bit beyond the standard fare, there aren’t too many miniatures screaming out “pick me!” Chances are you’ve already had the pleasure (or displeasure) of sampling already.
Auchentoshan Trio (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Trio (Whisky Lady)

As I’ve not really explored much Auchentoshan, when a trio of miniatures came with a bottle of Auchentoshan’s Cooper Reserve 14 year, decided this was a duty-free deal I had waited for.

I didn’t have super high expectations as I’ve had “hit and miss” experiences with Auchentoshan. I enjoyed a couple cask strength whiskies I tried years ago at a now defunct whisky bar in Singapore – guided by their ever helpful staff – and I honestly don’t recall any details. Anything I’ve tried since hasn’t measured up – the perils of starting with the ‘good’ stuff!

That said, I’m always game to challenge my opinion and ‘free’ miniatures are the right price-point. After dragging the dregs of the Auchentoshan Cooper Reserve 14 year out of the whisky cabinet last weekend, decided this weekend was high time to give the wee ones a go!

So invited a friend to pop by and we dove into our tasting journey… Being May in Mumbai meant, as my companion nailed it with her comment “Holy *@*! It is hot. May sweet whisky stop the sweat!!” We also had on hand a mini platter of pita, gouda cheese and olives. Turns out the best part of the whiskies was actually the pairing.

Auchentoshan 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Medicinal, then honey, vanilla, some subtle grass, with a little patience and persistence a bit of woodsiness, stronger vanilla when warmed
  • Taste – Woodsy and generally light, rather frivolous, bland. Think cucumber juice.
  • Finish – Dry, light and not particularly interesting
  • Comments“The kind of whisky people think women want to drink.” “It is like the wine cooler of whiskies.”
  • Overall & pairing – The old biddie of whiskies… like the Harvard Boston Club of whiskies… Works as an accompaniment not the focal point. Pairs quite well with cheese such a gouda.
Auchentoshan Three Wood (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Three Wood (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Three Wood 43%

  • Nose – Raisins, nuts, nutmeg and cloves, like a brandy soaked Christmas fruitcake. As it aired plums joined the mix. Treacle and honey. After sipping, the nose took on pine quality with a flash of mint.
  • Taste – Woody! I daresay yes… three woods? Cinnamon and bitterness on the palate.
  • Finish – Lightly spice, then a dash of bitter.
  • Overall & Pairing – Finally a speck of character! However it is a bit like having Christmas in May – interesting but not the real deal. Again much better paired with light nibbles – especially cheese.
Auchentoshan 18 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan 18 year (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan 18 year

  • Nose – Honey notes with heather and sage, as it breathes apples and pears join the mix, vanilla like the 12 year
  • Taste – Superficially woodsy, not fruity. After a nice break and some pita with cheese, faint walnut element
  • Finish – Slow to start with an odd spicy kick after a bit
  • Overall – While often 18 years is often a great ‘age’ for Scottish whiskies, in this case well… ok… nothing specifically wrong but also nothing distinctly right either

We found all of them went better with a little cheese. We also let all three air and found the 12 year simply became more sweetly bland with time, 18 year didn’t alter much and the Three Wood kept doing its little Christmas in summer routine.

So what’s the verdict on the trio? If you want an easy drinking whisky where the focus is on something else, heck one of these might do. If I had to pick, I found the Three Wood the most interesting whereas my friend thought the 12 year would do when your expectation was a ‘background’ whisky.

Would either of us be tempted to dash out and buy a bottle of these? Nope.

AUchentoshan Trio (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Trio (Whisky Lady)

In closing, we also polished off the last drops of the Cooper’s Reserve 14 year just to see how all four expressions compared. I don’t mean to sound uncharitable, but the Cooper’s Reserve decidedly had the most character. Which given my overall opinion of it solo, isn’t saying much.

Auchentoshan Collection (Whisky Lady)

Auchentoshan Collection (Whisky Lady)

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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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