Auchentoshan Classic – Review

Let’s ponder, shall we, for a moment, the word “classic”. As words go, this one really gets around. It can be academic and literary when referring to the halcyon days of the Greek, Roman, and Mayan empires, or their accompanying literature such as Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, old’ Virg’s Aeneid, or the classic Mayan motorcycle adventure Yum Cimil in my sidecar. In the sports world, cycling has its Classics, those one day racing monuments like Paris-Roubaix or Milan-San Ramo, that would destroy mere mortals, or Baseball’s annual sleep-aid, the mid-summer classic All Star Game. Advertisers and marketers make dubious use of the term when they want to insinuate a certain level of status in a product that may or may not have such status, or they’ll use it when someone just royally screws up. (Classic Coke). “Classic” is a term oft-ascribed to cars of a certain age, quite apropos when you’re talking about a mint ’62 Ford Falcon 2-door Station Wagon but perhaps less so if the car is a 1975 Pacer. Speaking of 1975 Pacers, it’s a fair bet that most of the music played from 8-tracks in those rolling blobs of questionable design would now be considered classic rock. This is perhaps the most egregious use of the word classic. While it might be hard to say what Classic Rock is, it’s a lot easier to say what it isn’t. It’s not the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or even Buddy Holly, and it’s not disco or 80’s synth pop. As far as most non-professional-music-critic people can tell, Classic rock is often somewhat chunky men in ill-advised patterns singing about working a lot or going on some kind of ride, be it free or slow. It’s ok to admit you like Classic Rock, lord knows I do, but it’s also important to admit that much of it is crap and pretty much all of it is grossly over-played.

Auchentoshan has also jumped into the “Classic” game with this entry-level, value priced, no-age-statement single malt. Lowland distilleries like Auchentoshan are often distinguished from their more northerly brethren by their method of triple-distilling, rather than double-distilling their spirit, resulting in a cleaner, lighter, more delicate whisky.

The Nose:  Fresh and crisp, but also a little spirit-y. Vanilla cream sandwich cookies, lemon zest or even pith ( a little sour and bitter). Toasted coconut and burnt sugar. That’s the good news, the bad news is that spirit-y quality reminds me of a lightly lemon scented cleaning product. That coupled with somewhat farm-y dried hay and harsh grain doesn’t do the nose any favors.

The Palate:  Thinly oily entry that’s also thinly fruity with some lemon curd and sweetened grain. This sort of disappears on the palate for a moment, then comes back with a little more nondescript fruitiness and the addition of some mildly tannic, mildly spicy (white pepper & ginger), and not so mildly youthful and harsh wood and grain notes.

The Finish:  Brief. Spirit-y. A little harsh yet a little sweet. Brief.

Thoughts:  Just so underwhelming…and not what I’d call “classic”. Certainly, for around $25-30, one doesn’t expect the most complex, interesting malts in the world, but still, quality can be had. There are some positives here, the nice vanilla cookie notes of the nose and initial smoothness of the palate, but that’s not enough to counter the spirit-y quality or the youthful harshness that carries on throughout. In some ways the slightly empty palate and all-to-quick finish are a bit of a relief…and that does not bode well for a whisky. There are many whiskies in this price range, the Speyburn 10 being a great example, that are much better whiskies, and therefore much better values than this one.

Auchentoshan Classic, Lowland

40% ABV

Score:  71

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8 thoughts on “Auchentoshan Classic – Review

  1. In general, I regard Auchentoshan to be one of the most mediocre distilleries in operation. This review continues to confirm what I already know.

    I’ll never understand how great distilleries (ie. Brora) get mothballed and the likes of Auchentoshan keep pumping it out much like a cannery of sardines.

    Nevertheless, always a pleasure to read your reviews.

    1. Thanks Jason!

      I meant to mention this post on your round-up of Auchentoshans but didn’t get around to it. I tend to agree with you, I haven’t been wowed yet by ‘toshan, though I’ve only tried three expressions so I’m not willing to pass judgement on the whole distillery yet.

      The Triple Wood didn’t do much for me, but I did have a nice Signatory release a few years back.

      Now that Rachel Barrie, formerly of Ardbeg, has joined Morrison Bowmore, it will be interesting to see what she does with Auchentoshan.

  2. Jason, I have an answer to your question. It’s me. I’m the reason Auchentoshan is around. I’m not afraid to admit I’m a scotch wuss. I simply can’t handle the smoky or peaty ones. Highland Park 12 is too strong for me. I like the “delicate” ones, and I absolutely LOVE every Auchentoshan I’ve had (although I’ve never had the ‘Classic’). I know you’re cringing. I know how much you hate them. Perhaps I’m an anomaly. But someone out there is drinking the Auchentoshan, that’s certain.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Martini!

      That’s the beauty of Scotch and, I guess, whisk(e)y in general, one man’s poison is another man’s ambrosia. I know a lot of people that know their stuff that think highly of several Auchentoshan releases so you’re definitely not alone out there. I certainly look forward to trying more of their expressions, but as for this “Classic”…I’d save your money. Have you ever tried anything from Glengoyne? They, too, lean towards the more subtle, delicate end of the spectrum.

      1. Thanks, I’m sure you’re right (in both cases). I’m not an expert by the wildest stretch of the imagination, but I’ve read enough reviews to know when I may or may not like a whisky. And so I think I’ll skip this one.

        No, Glengoyne is one I haven’t tried yet. It’s a bit pricey here in Ontario. $100 for the 17 and $155 for the 21. But maybe I’ll splurge at Christmas. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Martini, you have probably touched on the appeal of Auchentoshan. It is totally inoffensive and reasonably priced for a single malt, if not among the cheapest.

    A lot of people consume scotch only rarely or on holidays and for them, they do not want too much peat, smoke or other flavors. Indeed, when I first started drinking scotch, I much preferred blended scotch because it was never over powering or offensive.

    1. I should add that while I initially preferred mild mannered whiskies (ie. many Irish like Bushmills White) over time my tastes evolved and I learned that by taking very tiny sips of stronger whiskies, a whole new world up to mel

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