Auchentoshan 12 Year Old

Auchentoshan is the only Lowland malt I have so far had the opportunity to try, but I will admit to being a bit of a fan. I don’t remember when I bought my first Bottle, but I’m sure it has since crept into my personal top 3-5 of most frequently purchased malts. I find this realization surprising (and a bit confusing) since I probably wouldn’t name it among my favourite drams.

Auchentoshan claims to be the only Scotch distillery that employs a triple distillation process. Triple distillation is common amongst Irish whiskies but it is apparently unique amongst Scotch whiskies, where double distillation is the norm.  The distillery would have us believe that this extended process results in a smoother whisky with a more complex profile. Auchentoshan 12 Year Old is a single malt bottled at 40% abv and is available in my market for approximately $45 per bottle.

To the Eye

This whisky displays as a bright honeyed-copper with flashes of orange. After a spin of my Glencairn, it took some serious patience to wait for the moderate legs to release and trickle extremely slowly down the glass.

In the Nose

Apples, first and foremost. Ripe red ones!  I’m not sure I’ve encountered a dram that so clearly exhibited a specific fruit on the first sniff. Further exploration reveals kiwi fruit and grapes – Oloroso sherry casks, of course!  There are gentle citrus notes and vanilla, evoking a hint of a orange soda and ice cream float. More patience allows bits of leather and peppercorns to join the party and a slightly smokey, salty aroma as well. For whatever reason, I’m also thinking of sesame snaps. I can’t believe how much I have written here since I wouldn’t have labelled the nose of Auchentoshan 12 as “complex” but, obviously, I’m glad I took the time to find out what was hiding behind those apples!

On the Tongue

Not nearly as sweet as the nose suggests. Grapefruit pith and freshly shelled walnuts – you know that slightly bitter walnut skin you sometimes get a little bit of? There is a surprisingly assertive oakiness, considering that it was not more prominent on the nose. There’s also sponge toffee, as well as a little bit of black pepper in there.  Again, not overly complex, but neither is this whisky a one note wonder. The finish is relatively short, as far as flavour is concerned, although a hint of pencil shavings lingers along with that walnut bitterness.  I do like it… quite a bit, actually!

Final Thoughts

Auchentoshan 12 is somewhat of an enigma for me. I can’t bring myself to name it a favourite, but there is definitely a reason why I almost always have a bottle of it in my cupboard.  I think it’s kind of a Darcy Tucker of whisky! (You will probably have to be a Maple Leafs hockey fan of a certain age to properly appreciate this comparison!)

To clarify, this whisky may not necessarily stand out as exceptional in any particular way, but it is so darn solid in every way that it endears itself and deserves respect and appreciation!  At the very least, I think you find this dram to be smooth and easy drinking – approachable for the newbie Scotch drinker but with enough to offer that more sophisticated palates will still appreciate it.

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Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky

It’s been too long since I added a new post, so what better way to get back in the saddle than with a review of my favourite Canadian Whisky!

This beauty is another fine expression from Highwood Distillers located in High River, near Calgary, Alberta. The first bottle of Ninety-20 that I ever picked up was as a Father’s Day gift for my Dad. Fortunately, we shared a nip when that first bottle was opened, so I was able find out in short order that this was a whisky that needed a home in my cabinet as well.

Ninety 20 Year Old is bottled at 45 abv (hence the brand name to reflect that it is 90-proof) and is available in local liquor stores for about $43. I know, 20-year old whisky for that kind of price… You almost can’t afford not to drink it!

To the Eye

Straw-coloured liquid gold, this whiskey looks exactly the way a Canadian dram ought to look. There is obviously no artificial colouring here and I doubt that any special casks were involved… Probably just good old charred oak, which should allow the rye to shine. A swirl of my Glencairn produces reasonably thick, stubborn legs.

In the Nose

The breezes above my glass reveal, at first, a fairly typical Canadian profile. There’s plenty of dusty rye and an obvious oakiness, along with a good dose of sweet corn. But, as the glass breaths, a very untypical – for Canadian whisky – richness develops. Honeycomb comes to the forefront, along with butterscotch and cinnamon. I can’t put my finger on a specific type, but there is also a subtle fruitiness lingering in the background as well. This nose is gentle and inviting, but surprisingly complex!

On the Tongue

Wow! This dram is rich, yet balanced, and extremely delicious. Right away, I get a gentle but firm hit of oak, along with some assertive dusty, grainy rye. The rye brings a spiciness that is well-balanced with some butterscotch and vanilla and a subtle nuttiness… hazelnut? I can also taste that fruitiness that I was picking up in the nose but, again, it’s difficult to pin down. It seems a little bit like citrus peel, but maybe somewhat more herbal like cilantro. Whatever, it’s wonderful! Surprisingly, this is also a Canadian with a moderately long finish, where the rye returns with baking spices and that dusty, drying rye character that will guide you to the next sip.

Final Thoughts

For me, this is the one – the best Canadian whisky I know of! Rich and complex, in my opinion, Ninety 20 Year Old can hold its own against almost any other whisky out there. At the same time, this dram somehow stays entirely true to the Canadian style, remaining light and clean on the palate. Flat out, this is a remarkable whisky!