Chieftain’s 1995 Auchroisk 16 Year Old – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

Auchroisk…the distillery says that it is pronounced Auck-Roysk, but apparently the locals beg to differ and pronounce it Ack-Rask…or Ath-Rask. Those last two look different enough to me that it seems like the locals are just begging to differ all over the place, but what do I know? I suppose you could forgive everyone for having their own jaw-cracking pronunciation of this one, the distillery is relatively young, opening in 1974 near Rothes, and its single malt has not been on the shelves recently enough to be a (easily pronounceable) household name. Owned by Diageo, the Auchroisk site not only produces 3.8 million liters of spirit a year, it is also large enough to warehouse barrels from several other distilleries and serve as a “part-blending” location, meaning that several malt whiskies are pre-blended here before going on to a location where the final blending happens. Auchroisk has always spent the vast majority of its time in the service of the fairly ubiquitous J&B Rare blend, and today pops up as a single malt only in independent bottlings and the occasional Diageo special release. There was a time, however, from 1986 to 2001, when it bore the Singleton name and was a well-regarded single malt due to the ahead-its-time technique of finishing the 10 year old bourbon cask matured malt for two years in ex-sherry casks.

This 16 year old from Ian Macleod’s Chieftain’s range was distilled in 1995, and aged in an American oak hogshead. As with all Chieftain’s, this expression is made up of 276 bottles of non-chill-filtered, non-colored whisky.

The Nose:  A lighter and rather straightforward nose. Floral honey and Meyer Lemon marmalade (I know this because I had some on my toast this morning) with a bit of lemon zest and damp hay. There’s a little powdered chocolate malt mix in the background, but not much alluding to 16 years in a cask, just a hint of soft, slight vanilla.

The Palate:  An oily mouthfeel starts with more lemon-y citrus and raw ginger. A bit of unsweetened chocolate leads into nuts of both the sugared kind and the roasted and salted kind, think candied almonds and salted pecans. The wood is much more evident on the palate, nutmeg, cardamom, white pepper, and clove with a bit of coarse cinnamon.

The Finish:  More sweet and salty nuttiness, vanilla bean, clove and cardamom linger for a bit.

Thoughts:  A good whisky; light, citrus-y, floral, and honeyed on the nose, a bit weightier and complex on the palate. The wood influence doesn’t really make itself known until the palate, throwing the balance off a bit, especially with the lighter, cleaner nose. Not the most adventurous I’ve ever tasted, but a decent afternoon dram for a warm spring day.

Chieftain’s 1995 Auchroisk 16 Year Old, Speyside

46% ABV

Score: 82

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