Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Scotch Tasting: Auchentoshan, Bowmore & Glen Garioch

I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
--Humphrey Bogart

Scotch Whiskey has a rich history and an excellent reputation, often seen as the benchmark for whiskey all around the world. Japanese whiskey has become major competition to Scotch, but Scotch will always remain a classic, one valued by many whiskey lovers. In the middle of autumn, as the leaves fall and there is a chill in the air, a glass of Scotch can be so welcome, helping to warm your body and soul.

The Auchentoshan Distillery was founded back in 1823, at the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills overlooking the River Clyde.  It has changed owners multiple times, and in May 2014, Beam Inc. and Suntory Holdings Limited merged to create Beam Suntory Inc, which now owns the distillery. The name "Auchentoshan" is from Gaelic and translates as "the field of the corner." It is one of six malt whisky distilleries in the Scottish Lowlands.

It is the only Scottish distillery which uses a third still, creating the  highest distillate of any single malt distillery. Usually, Scotch production involves two stills but Auchentoshan adds a third, known as the Intermediate Still. This creates a spirit that is 162 proof, rather than the usual 140 proof.  This extra distillation is more costly and time consuming, but creates a more pure, elegant and delicate whiskey. They produce five main single malts and numerous limited edition bottlings.

The Auchentoshan American Oak ($39.99) is matured in American bourbon barrels and has a 40% ABV. It is their lowest tier whiskey, but is still very much a quality single malt. With a light gold color, it has a nose of vanilla and coconut, with a hint of baking spices. All of those smells also come through on the taste, along with citrus notes and a touch of sweetness. It is elegant and light, a smooth, easy drinking Scotch.

I was impressed with the Auchentoshan Three Wood ($59.99), which has been matured in three different barrels, including American Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry and  Pedro Ximenez Sherry, and has a 43% ABV. With a darker hue, you get more sherry notes on the nose, including brown sugar and raisins. The taste is rich and complex, with delicious flavors of caramel, dried fruits, baking spices, and nutty accents. It has some sweetness to it, but plenty of savory flavors too. With a lingering finish, this single malt intrigued and delighted me. Highly recommended.

Glen Garioch, which was founded in 1797, is located in the town of Oldmeldrum, near Aberdeen in North East Scotland. They generally produce small batches of their whiskies, and the style is considered to be a hearty and creamy Highland malt, which is also non chill-filtered. They also make a line of vintage single malts, though not every year.

The Glen Garioch Founder's Reserve ($45) was matured in American bourbon and Spanish sherry barrels, and has a 48% ABV. With a light gold color, there are aromas of vanilla and baking spices, and on the palate, there were tasty flavors of vanilla, green apple, and baking spices. It has a creamy texture, a long finish, and plenty of complexity. Another smooth, easy drinking Scotch.

The Bowmore Distillery:was founded in 1779, and was the first recorded distillery on the island of Islay. It is located on the shores of Loch Indaal, which leads into the Atlantic Ocean. Islay whiskies are known for being peaty, and Bowmore smokes their malt in a peat-fired kiln, just as was done two-hundred years ago.

The Bowmore Small Batch ($39.99) is aged in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks, and has a 40% ABV. After the aging, the whiskey is blended together, each barrel adding its own distinctive aspects to the final blend. With a pleasant smoky aroma, the taste of this whiskey brings to mind the sea, with its briny elements, combined with smoke, lime, vanilla and baking spices. It has a mild smokiness, blending well with everything else. A lengthy finish and plenty of complexity make this a delicious single malt.

Out of the five Scotches I tasted, my favorite was the Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest ($74.99), which is aged in bourbon and sherry barrels, and has a 43% ABV. Its final three years of aging are in Oloroso Sherry barrels, and that is why this was the darkest of the five whiskies, with a darker amber color. This whiskey was smooth and complex, a delectable melange of smoke, baking spices, chocolate, dried fruit, vanilla and hints of nuttiness. The smokiness was around mild, but pervaded every taste, gently caressing your palate. The lingering finish seemed to go on and on, satisfying long after each sip. Not only was it my favorite of these five, but is definitely one of my all-time favorite Scotches. Highly recommended.

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