Back when I was rugged deckhand in the early 1800’s, when I was hoisting a jib and batoning down the hatches to make ends meet instead of doing whatever it is I do now, we sang a lot of songs at work. That kind of thing probably wouldn’t fly in today’s hi-rise workplace, but back then, out on the open seas, we were a lonely but pitch-perfect bunch and bursting into song helped the days move along. One particularly morose little sea shanty was called “Lowlands Away”, which depending on one’s mood was either about pining for your dead girlfriend while you were out at sea or your girlfriend pining for you after finding out that, while at sea, you had died. Though this tune made it to America and was a smash hit in all the cotton ports of the South, it most likely came out of the British Isles.
“Lowlands Away” by James Yorkton
Whether or not it really does, I like to think that the Lowlands they’re talking about are the Scottish Lowlands around the River Clyde, which, while pure conjecture on my part, makes some sense since the Clyde was a major shipping waterway used in trade between Glasgow and the New World. I’m guessing those sailors enjoyed a tipple on occasion and while there were a lot more distilleries in the Lowland region back then, for the sake of this historically inaccurate post, let’s just say they drank a lot of Auchentoshan.
The Auchentoshan Distillery has a long and fairly impressive history, being founded in 1829 and making the good stuff pretty much continuously since then. Surviving several ownership changes as well as a horrific WWII bombing that destroyed nearly the entire region, its spirit was used primarily in blends with the single malt being released only recently in the early 70’s. Today, Auchentoshan is distinguished by being one of the few Lowland malts and by its unique-to-the-Scotch-world process of triple distillation.
This bottling was the lead-off hitter for the recent Signatory tasting.
The Nose: For some reason, the nose made me think this would be a perfect Spring-time after school malt…not that I ever drank scotch when I got home from school (my mom forbade it which made no sense to my 8-year old brain). Light and honeyed, there was the expected floral quality with a nice bit of cantaloupe and red delicious apples. Unexpectedly, there was a decent breath of graham crackers, biscuity and lightly buttery.
The Palate: Honeyed still with soft, round, flowery quality. Lightly spicy and increasingly salty. There were nice grain notes here and a little of that graham cracker quality carried over as well. I thought more than once that it was very smooth for a 10 year old, I expected at least a few sharper edges.
The Finish: As expected, shortish with the grain and saltiness lingering.
Thoughts: A great way to begin the tasting, this Auchentoshan was a nice, light, refreshing dram, nicely balanced and mature-seeming for its age. That biscuity, graham cracker on the nose was a pleasant surprise and worked really well with the lighter fruit notes. While not an earth-shattering dram (would a Lowland ever be thought of as earth-shattering?), this stuff obviously came from a good barrel and makes for a very smooth, calm, relaxing whisky.
Signatory 1999 Auchentoshan 10 Year Old, Lowland