For many years Auchentoshan billed itself as the only triple distilled single malt Scotch whisky. The distillation technique is commonly publicised, especially by Irish distillers, as a method which results in a narrower selection of cut spirit and an eventual lighter make – ergo a ‘smoother’ final whisky. But, Auchentoshan have been far from the only Scotch whisky to produce triple distilled spirit – Benrinnes and Springbank (via Hazelburn which was first introduced in 2005) have both used partial triple distillation, and latterly, Benriach, Benromach and Bruichladdich and have all produced small batch whiskies using the technique.
The process was more widespread in the 19th Century than it is today – the scarce whiskies from Lowlander Rosebank used to be triple distilled – at least partially (and the revitalisation looks to be following this historical trend with the installation of three stills) and the long lost Dunashill, Clydesdale and Greenock distilleries all produced triple distilled spirit – though at the time these were primarily for blending purposes.
But, it’s true to say that in Scotland currently, only Auchentoshan utilises triple distillation exclusively. Likewise, all of its production is used for single malt rather than blending. When compared to the ‘other’ current commonly available triple distilled spirit – Hazelburn, Auchentoshan’s production methods are starkly different – whilst Hazelburn runs a blank second distillation (no cuts are made) to increase the volume of heavier compounds within its make, Auchentoshan takes a single cut from the second distillation. This is passed to the spirit still at high strength, whilst the lower strength cut is redistilled in the intermediate still. The result has less reflux than Hazelburn and an overall lighter style of make.
The Auchentoshan range has grown to become quite extensive – a core age statement range which runs from 12 through to 21 years of age – four travel retail expressions (Blood Oak, Heartwood, Springwood and Noble Oak – which clocks in with a 24 year old age statement), Three Wood and the more recently released Bartender’s Malt – a whisky which is positioned as a cocktail blending base.
Auchentoshan 12 year old was released in 2011 as a replacement for a previously issued 10 year old. At the time, the branding was arguably old and stuffy, and so the shakeup of the range was accompanied by a fairly radical relaunch – new glassware, new modern styling, and a change in emphasis away from highlighting the Lowlands as the region of origin, and more towards triple distillation and the brand name itself. The styling of the range has remained near identical in the 8 years since.
The 12 year old bottling is delivered at 40% ABV, and can be picked up for around £36 – indeed, as of writing, Master of Malt have a special offer of £34.65 for the expression. Interestingly I tend to see the more expensive Three Wood in the shops around me more commonly than I notice either the lower priced American Oak or 12 year old expressions.
Nose: Poached pears and dusty spices – cinnamon (highly pronounced) and anise sit on top of a bed of wild honey and breakfast cereals. Later, unripe apples and fruit pastilles are joined by moist tobacco leaves and green grassiness. Quite fresh, quite clean and altogether rather pleasant.
Taste: The low AVB leads to a insubstantial arrival – lacking body and definition – but at the same time it doesn’t necessary feel thin – just stretched. Green apples, fresh ones and candied ones (Jolly Ranchers) are joined by underlying maltiness and cereals. Rolled pastry and brown sugars sit with vague citrus notes whilst pear juice, ginger and chopped hazelnuts form the back-palate. Inoffensive, but not a great deal going on.
Finish: Short with maltiness supported by orchard fruits and wine gums.
Auchentoshan 12 year old has a memorably pleasant nose. Bright, fresh, fruity and crisp. Alas, the rest of the experience fails to live up to this introduction. It’s rather vague and innocuous - and whilst certainly not unpleasant, lacks the defined character the nose promised and falls back on its gentle, triple-distilled origins far too easily. That said, let’s remember this is an entry-level expression, and as such you could certainly do much worse if you’re looking for a reasonably priced, light summery dram.
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