Lowland distilleries were a dying breed until the recent whisky boom gave birth
to Eden Mill, Kingsbarns and Annandale. This is the mere tip of the iceberg as
there’s more in the pipeline with projects coming to fruition in Edinburgh, Glasgow
and Falkirk. Bladnoch is also being woken from its recent slumber so overall
its exciting times for the Lowlanders.
There is one
Lowlander that stands apart from its brethren by exclusively
following the triple distillation practice normally associated with Irish
whiskey and that distillery is Auchentoshan. Situated to the west of Glasgow on
the outskirts of Clydebank there has been debate about when the distillery
was established. What isn’t in question is that Auchentoshan is one of the
oldest distilleries in Scotland so we’ll follow the official date of 1825.
Today Auchentoshan is
perched alongside a busy road and represents the start of the long 125 mile
journey towards Campbeltown (that I plan to endure next year) and potentially
your last sight of whisky production for several hours. It is a striking
mixture of cultivated grounds including a pond originally created by a stray
bomb from World War 2 and traditional distillery buildings. Parking up, we
departed on the Classic Tour which lasts around an hour and costs just £6 with a dram at the end.
are permitted throughout the tour apart from the warehouse area hence why I have
so many to select from. Over the coming weeks and months these photographs will be appearing on my Instagram account. There is a natural organic flow to proceedings despite
the large numbers attending; we were given plenty of time to look around at the
various stages of production. Questions were also encouraged throughout and the
roomy buildings enhanced the relaxed feel to the experience.
kick off at the mill which is conveniently situated right beside the well-aged
mashtun. We discussed the lack of a traditional maltings and the local water
source which comes from Loch Katrine. Then flowing past various informative
pictures and banners we reached the washback area. Auchentoshan has 7 washbacks
in total but only 4 of these are viewable to the public. It just so happens
that these 4 are the wooden washback variety and the trio of stainless steel
incumbents are hidden from view. This actually reminded me of Bowmore (also
owned by the same parent company) that originally tried the metallic washbacks
before returning to the traditional version. I do think it has some influence
on the taste rather than just being more costly to clean.
doors separate each of the areas similar to those seen at Deanston distillery.
Beyond the washbacks awaits the Still Room, which comprises of 3 stills; 1
wash, 1 spirit and an intermediate still. Here its exclusively triple
distillation which Auchentoshan uses as its key selling differentiator. Of
course more mystery surrounds this decision as during the time of Alfred
Barnard’s visit circa 1885, the distillery was following the standard Scottish
practice and only had 2 stills. You’d think someone would know when this 3rd
piece of apparatus was commissioned, delivered or at least installed but ladies
and gentlemen it seems we’ll never know.
In some ways
I do like a mystery to remain as it is. The still house contains detailed charts
showing the triple distillation process and hands on examples of the spirits
themselves. Spending a little time in here clears the senses before you wander
across the picturesque grounds, past an old Glen Garioch still before arriving at a traditional dunnage style warehouse. Camera switched off, we then debated the
various cask types and their costings. A bourbon will set you back around £80,
a sherry butt expect to pay £800 and a prestigious wine cask nearer £1100. All
food for thought and in a room just within the warehouse you can tantalisingly
glimpse a solitary wine cask that is the bottle-your-own option at £75. This separate
area is adorned with cask staves and proudly perched on its own is a colourful
host to a delightful whisky.
criticised Auchentoshan in the past for being a little dull and benign. I was
always told that a true cask strength whisky from the distillery really shows
what it is capable of. This was confirmed when Linh recently gave me a sample
of this delightful Bordeaux cask whisky, which I reviewed previously here. For
£75 depending on what the cask type is, I’d seriously suggest considering this
option despite a well-endowed distillery shop full of other temptations.
The tour then
concludes in a sizeable bar area where we were granted plenty of opportunity to
discuss the whiskies and their differences with our excellent tour guide Jeremy,
before ransacking the shop. It is here that I picked up a several whiskies for
a future vertical tasting I’m putting together for Whisky Rover that will start
with the new make spirit, then the early years before it can be called whisky
and thereafter all the various versions including the travel retail exclusives.
Hopefully it’ll be worth the time, effort and outlay and will be on the site
later this year.
were surprised by how enjoyable the Auchentoshan tour compared to those offered by Diageo which fail to create such an atmosphere
and informative experience. The Classic tour represents extremely good value as well.
Labels: auchentoshan, classic tour, distillery tour, lowland, review, whisky