Auchentoshan 1976 (Aged 28 Years)
Whisky Review: Auchentoshan 1976 (Aged 28 Years) 91.5/100
Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted February 13, 2010
The Auchentoshan Distillery is somewhat of an anomaly amongst Scottish Distillers. It is the only Scottish Distillery that triple distills their entire core range of whiskies. Triple distillation is common amongst Irish distillers but extremely uncommon for a distillery producing Scottish single malts. The result of the triple distillation is a more laid back easy-going whisky which is perhaps more floral, but also perhaps less robust in character than traditional single malts. This easy-going style perhaps makes the Auchentoshan Distillery a perfect example of a Lowland Scottish Whisky and a very approachable malt for novice whisky drinkers.
The 28-year-old, Auchentoshan 1976, I am reviewing on the other hand is not necessarily a whisky for novices. The long time spent aging in an oak hogshead cask and the high bottling strength (47.5%) is sure to have produced a whisky with a stronger character and a little more intimidating flavour profile than a typical Auchentoshan Whisky.
The whisky is a Single Cask bottling, distilled in 1976, which is available at CSN Wine and Spirits in Calgary, Alberta. The store purchased the entire cask of 156 bottles and has approximately 20 bottles left in stock. I was given a sample to review here on my blog by the Store Manager, J.P. Sandhu, who had spent some time with me on a lazy Friday afternoon allowing me to sample some of the great selections of rum and single malt whisky which were available in his store.
This is what I learned from my sample.
In the Bottle 4/5
The bottle presentation is pretty standard fare for these single cask whiskies and has me neither overly pleased nor overly displeased. The whisky arrives in a nice display box which protects the spirit from light and makes a bit of a splash in the liquor cabinet. The bottle is a typical style whisky bottle with a label that is smart and crisp but not what I would call inspiring. The date the whisky was distilled is identified as 1976, and the cask number is identified as 1115. My sample bottle is numbered 0087. Based upon the price point of the whisky I would like a little more detail. The maturation cask is identified as a hogshead, but I am left to wonder as a purchaser whether it is American or European oak. This may seem like a niggle but it really isn’t, a refill sherry cask will have an entirely different nature than a refill bourbon, and when buying these ‘super premium’ whiskies the consumer should have as much help as possible to make a purchase decision that suits their palate.
In the Glass 9/10
The whisky displays a golden amber hue in the glass which is a bit closer to copper than it is too yellow. When I swirl the glass and check the legs I find them to be almost nonexistent. What small legs I do find are thin and trickle very slowly back into the glass. This is actually expected as the whisky is bottled at 47.5 % alcohol by volume. These higher ‘cask strength’ offerings generally do not have a rich oily texture, as the higher amount of alcohol dominates the consistency of the liquid.
The initial nose is full of lemon citrus and orange peel. A nice floral bouquet is evident in the glass as well with herbal qualities and a rich taint of heather. I sense a light peat aroma which begins to gain steam and turns smokey as the glass decants. Oak and vanilla have also began to build in the breezes which are speckled with scents of pine and moss. The fully decanted glass becomes rich with sherry notes, dried fruit, and deep baking spices. This is one of those glasses you can just nose and nose and nose.
In the Mouth 56.5/60
The initial entry into the mouth brings forward a lovely light chewy peat with rich floral smokiness. I guess I would call this a whisky lover’s whisky, because when you have cracked open the flavours from under the peat and smoke you are rewarded brilliantly with smoky sweet prunes and raisins, sugar rich dates, ripe fresh apricots, and some lovely caramelized sugars with baking spices. There is so much here to enjoy; the smoke turns to treacle in the mouth; a light brine evolves; and if you look for it, a fleeting iodine scampers amongst the other flavours.
In some ways this sounds like I am describing an Islay rather than a Lowland; but, the whisky is definitely Lowland in character. None of the flavours I encountered were aggressive or demanding. The whisky stays approachable and delicious throughout the journey across the palate.
In the Throat 13/15
This Auchentoshan has a smokey dry finish filled with cocoa. There is just a light burn which is expected at the higher alcohol strength and just a hint of bitterness at the end which forced me to deduct a point.
The Afterburn 9/10
This has been a rather impressive dram of whisky. The flavour is superb and the oak and sherry smoke hold up well in the whisky without either becoming the dominant force. This allows the sweetness in the malt to develop adding a rich layer of flavour to the experience. There is just a bit of challenge initially working through the higher alcoholic bite and the initial smoke. But what follows is a rich flavourful reward.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Rather than suggesting a recipe for the Auchentoshan 1976, I would like to suggest a couple of nice pairings to consider when enjoying this whisky.
The first pairing is rather obvious but I will suggest it anyway. Cut up some rich dark chocolate. Choose a variety that is perhaps leaning towards the bittersweet. Add a few drops of water to the whisky to open the flavour, and enjoy a small piece of chocolate between drams.
The second pairing while not as obvious is just as delicious. Cut some small wedges of lightly smoked Gouda cheese and serve them with a dram of the Auchentoshan whisky. Again a few drops of water added to the whisky to open the flavour is lovely.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)