Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Review

American Oak Bottle-hi

*Sincere thanks to MS & AS at Savona Communications for the sample.

Auchentoshan American Oak, the new-ish, entry-level, no-age-statement malt from the Lowland distillery, replaces (thankfully) the Classic, which was a very affordable whisky…just not one you’d want to buy. For this expression, Auchentoshan has, in a way, tilted its triple-distilled single malt towards bourbon. American Oak has been aged solely in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, an interesting choice given relatively heavy influence of that kind of barrel and the distillery’s relatively light distillate. In the accompanying literature, Auchentoshan also mentions that this one was created with barrels taken from high in the warehouse and low in the warehouse. Auchentoshan has both dunnage and racked warehouses, so I’m assuming they mean they’re plucking these barrels from the more vertical racked warehouses as dunnage-style warehouses pretty much always stack casks no more than three high. It’s hard to say how big a role this kind of cask selection would make in a Scotch. In Kentucky, thanks to a fairly dynamic climate, barrels on the upper floors of a racked warehouse are exposed to more heat and potentially different humidity than those lower down, and that has all kinds of different effects on a maturing bourbon. Southern Scotland doesn’t have nearly the same range of climatic variation one sees in Kentucky, so you’d think warehouse location would be less of a consideration. Still, that’s a very bourbon-esque way of building a Scotch.

Placing the emphasis on the wood and maturation is a mildly contradictory approach by a distillery that also usually likes to emphasize the unique subtlety of their distillate. It’s certainly not a new idea for Auchentoshan, their Three Wood has been a major part of their range since it debuted in 2002. But to emphasize that bourbon influence in these two ways for their entry-level expression strikes me as a rather interesting move.

The Nose:  A pleasing, but simple and mild nose. At the forefront, honey, cinnamon, and a lot of vanilla syrup, mingle with a bit of baked cherry cobbler. Notes of toasted malt, burnt toffee, lemon, and old oak boards hover behind. In the background are hints of toasted almond and furniture polish.

The Palate:  A bit hot for 40%, I guess that’d be the youth showing. Early on, there’s brown sugar, more vanilla syrup, and lemon curd. Mid palate, there are more almond notes…candied this time, along with a touch of nutty toffee. Mildly tannic oak, hot cinnamon, and fine-ground black pepper lead to the finish.

The Finish:  A medium sort of lingering with nice vanilla and citrus notes, a bit of burnt marshmallow, and just the right amount of oaky tannins

Thoughts:  A pleasantly sweet, easygoing, non-threatening single malt, this is leaps and bounds better than the startlingly mediocre Auchentoshan Classic it’s replacing. It’s definitely not the most earth-shattering whisky in the world, but it does what it sets out to do – show off the effects of ex-bourbon casks on a relatively subtle, gentle spirit. Given the lack of age statement, we can assume this is made up of mostly younger whiskies. Some older whisky and higher ABV would probably give it more depth, but I suppose it would probably make it more expensive then, too. At around $40-$45, this isn’t the greatest value in the world, but it’s a nice introduction to the distillery.

Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky, OB ~2014

40% ABV

Score:  81

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