Auchentoshan. Not as harsh as it sounds!
I think Auchentoshan looks just like its name sounds. Like a German dictatorship. When in actuality Auchentoshan is Gaelic for “the field of the corner”. Although, it is not on a corner and is kind of right off the highway. Apparently those were all barley fields at one point and it literally was in the corner. Auchentoshan is well liked by some of my friends and family so I decided to take the train to this tour and then drink as much as I wanted. I also found out the previous travel retail Auchentoshan Select I did an article on with my dad is no longer being produced. We shouldn't have drank it! It could be worth money now! As I walked alongside the highway to get there, the nice security guard at the distillery entrance stopped me. His name was Gordon and we talked for about 30 minutes. He talked about how had one true love in Edinburgh, but it didn't end well. Her last words were “how could you” and ever since he looks for her when he’s in Edinburgh. I told him about the one love I ruined. I am a sop for a love story, so I of course stayed and chatted for a while and missed the noon tour.
Let’s talk asethics. I was harsh in saying it looked like a German dictatorship, but once you are inside the buildings it is quite picturesque and the people are very friendly. They have beautiful Oregon pine washbacks and their stills are in beautiful shape. What makes Auchentoshan stand apart from other distilleries, besides Ireland, is that they triple distill their whisky. I was very excited to check out these stills since usually you have a low wines still and spirit still. They have an “intermediate still”. This is supposed to distill an even purer and refined alcohol. Their theory is that when you only distill twice, you have to take more of the heads as hearts (initial bad methanol stuff vs. good alcohol) just to get to that 69% ABV you are looking for to put in the cask. On the second distillation they cut it at 54% and then distill it again to get the truly best stuff out of these quality hearts.
Check out this link if you aren’t familiar with the heads, hearts and tails of a distillation process. We can’t drink everything off the still or else we would go blind and maybe die. Hence the term “black out”! http://donlehmanjr.com/Restaurant/Grappa/g09.htm
This tour, given by Neil from Fife, was much more on the technical side than I am used to. He talked quite a bit about numbers and ratios which I liked. I wanted to share some of them here. They start with about 35,000 tons of grain to then in the end make about 3,500 liters of new make spirit (stuff right off the stills) to be put in casks. You will then of course lose about 2% a year of this once in the cask due to evaporation or angels share. We also tried some of the new make spirit right off the still. This was at 81% ABV where it then will be diluted with fresh water down to the appropriate 63.5% ABV before going into the barrels. This 81% ABV will not only wake up your taste buds, but burn some of them, but cool to try! They currently have 2200 barrels aging on site and are stacked 3 high. In regards to their barrels, a lot of scotch whisky makers will use ex-bourbon casks, but Auchentoshan messes with Pedro Ximenez and Sherry Oloroso as well.
I also want to make note of a real bad-ass in the industry- Rachel Barrie. She is currently the master blender at Auchentoshan, and has held many impressive roles in the whisky industry over the years. Not only is she a female, but is also one of the twelve master blenders in the scotch industry. This term master blender means she tests all of the barrels and determines which barrels of whisky should be “married” together. When you are making a single malt, and all of the whisky has to come from one distillery it is called married, not blended .Blended means the final product could be from multiple distilleries. Either way, she is a legend. Read this article if you get a chance. As you know, I am hoping to be another female “bad-ass” in the industry soon!
I will share my favorite tasting note, but please note that on this tour I tasted four whisky’s total. I decided that in each region of Scotland I will splurge and choose one distillery to do the “ultimate tour” and do all of the tastings.
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Nose: Blueberries, blackberries, cordial, cherry soda, toast with jam.
Pallet: The wood hits hard, leathery, seems old, old fruit on the pallet.
Someone next to me said that this smelled like hot dogs. It totally did and now I will never forget this one or it's smell!
Up next… Deanston.