I often say that every distillery is capable of producing high quality malt. But I have to admit that Auchentoshan is one of the distilleries that really tests my faith in this proposition. In my years of drinking single malt whisky I have not yet come across an official Auchentoshan that I have wanted to purchase or even drink again; and, more damningly, I have not also come across any indie releases that have convinced me that owners Morrison Bowmore have been blending quality casks away, whether in the official vattings or in the group’s blends. I’m not denying the possibility that they exist; merely noting that I have not yet randomly encountered one. Of the few I have reviewed, I liked this 23 yo from Archives the best and I gave that 86 points. But hope springs eternal and perhaps this will be the one that rewards my faith. Like some of the other whiskies I’ve been reviewing recently it too was a release from a long time ago—I’ve been sitting on this sample too for a while. Well, let’s get to it now.
Auchentoshan 15, 1997 (50%; Old Malt Cask; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Mild lemon mixed with cereals and a bit of oak, both dusty and powdered ginger. As it sits there’s a bit of aspirin as well and the ginger expands, picking up some floral sweetness. The floral notes expand with time. Water pushes the sweeter notes back and brings out citronella and some earthy notes.
Palate: Pretty much as advertised by the nose. A good bite at 50% but very approachable. There’s a medicinal note here—no, not phenols, more like old rubber-capped medicine bottles and droppers. Pricklier with time—pepper, almost ashy. Let’s see what water does. Hmmm it seems to pull that vegetal/astringent note out quicker and there’s a bit of talcum powder too.
Finish: Medium. Not much really happening here. Gets more acidic as it goes and then a bit astringent/vegetal. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is pleasant enough but, alas, it’s not the Auchentoshan I have been hoping to one day find. Not much of interest here but this is decent enough bourbon cask whisky. A good summer sipper, probably, and if I had a bottle I’d be tempted to add soda and ice. As a sipper I preferred it neat on the palate though I did like the nose with water.
Rating: 82 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!