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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Thank You Plus Auchentoshan Virgin Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

We don’t keep count here at Caskstrength Towers. We couldn’t tell you how many posts we’ve written over the years, nor how many whiskies and other spirits we’ve reviewed, but needless to say, it has been a fair few.

A labour of love, running a blog can often fast become a way of life; like those lycra-clad folk (I belive called 'mamils') who manage to make going to the gym a regular part of their life. We’re not exercise-shy by any means (Ardbeg Half Marathon, anyone?!) but somehow sitting down at our laptops, with a dram in hand, seems unusually to take the place of the locker room and dumbbells. Goodness knows why...!

If you are signed up to our mailing list (and if you are a regular reader, why wouldn’t you be?) you’ll know that each time we post on here, at 8pm GMT that evening, our scribblings are sent out to your inbox, for you to read on the bus, in bed or on the loo. If you’re not signed up, just stick your email address is the little box on the right; all you’ll get is this blog. Honest.

Once the email goes out, we often receive replies to it, with comments, questions and general feedback. (A special mention here for Wim, with his regular replies) We really appreciate all your comments and kind words.

This week, we found out that we have made one of the five finalists for The IWSC Blogger of the Year award, along with wine blogs Matt Walls, Deby Berd and the Wine Folly and the Sherry Blog, all wonderful places to read about grape-based products.

It is lovely to be nominated for awards, especially one with such a great international reputation, but what really makes writing this worthwhile is your feedback, comments and questions. If a tree falls in a wood and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if a blog is set up and posts written, yet no one visits the site to read it... you get the picture. So, before we start today’s post, we’d just like to say a huge thank you to those of you who keep this blog alive, by giving us a reason to write it.

Exception to the rule - Auchentoshan Virgin Oak

There are always rules in life. And there are always exceptions to those rules. “I before E, except after C” is probably the most famous of the lot and one which, to be frank, is a heinous rule which seems to have become sovereign in our teachings on grammar, confusing not only those foreign to our language but also our neighbours, too.  Unscientific and downright weird, this rule should neither be taught nor learnt.

Can you see what I’ve done there...? Answers on a postcard to Caskstrength Towers (or a simple reply to your email, if you’re on the mailing list, will do).

When it comes to explaining whisky, there is one rule which is usually trotted out, that Scotch whisky is double distilled, whereas Irish whiskey is triple distilled.

Having just returned from a lovely trip to the new still house at Midleton distillery in Cork (home to Jameson, as well as Red Breast, Green and Yellow Spot and Midleton single pot still Irish whiskeys), it is great to see this powerhouse of triple-distilled whiskey production booming, but to say that this is the main difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey is simply untrue. In our next blog post, we’ll focus on what some of those differences are, but for the time being, let’s have a look at that most simple of rules: that Scotch whisky is always double distilled.

Aside from Springbank and their reflux-heavy stills which give not thrice, not twice but somewhere in between levels of distillation (famously their Hazelburn brand is triple distilled), there is one small single malt Scotch distillery which proves an exception to the rule.

Auchentoshan distillery, located just on the outskirts of Glasgow, produces triple distilled single malt Scotch whisky. As a result, the spirit taken for cask filling, from their third still, is at 81% abv, reputedly the highest in Scotland.

Their latest release sees Auchentoshan mature their whisky in virgin oak casks, untouched by any other spirit before use. In theory, this should show up the true DNA of the spirit, giving just a hint of North American oak to the whisky, but let’s find out:

Auchentoshan – Virgin Oak - NAS – 46% abv – RRP £69.99

Nose: Cinnamon dusted apple strudel, with hints of vanilla ice cream, Lily of the Valley and some lemon juice. Over time, the nose develops a more earthy quality which adds depth and complexity. Some tropical fruits after a while.

Palate: Big and fruity (tinned fruit salad), there are certainly elements of pineapple and ginger here, with peach melba, apricot and more pineapple. There are flourishes of lavender and sugary shortbread, but overall this is a very fruity dram and really quite lipsmacking.

Finish: The earthy notes from the nose give good ‘oomph’ to the passion fruit and pineapples found in the palate.

Overall: Right up there for me with some of the best releases this year. My only criticism is the price, which seems a little steep at nearly £70. All in, this is a solid release from the team at Auchentoshan.

Well worth a try (and well worth a visit if you’ve never been), let’s hope this sets a high standard for new releases from them and doesn’t prove to be an exception to the rule.