My group and I met in Edinburgh this morning and immediately starting making our way toward the western isles and Islay. Our first stop along the way was the Lowland distillery of Auchentoshan, which produces the only full time triple distilled single malt whisky still made in Scotland. Triple distillation was once common among Lowland distilleries, but was declining long before the early 1980’s when the only other triple distilled Lowland distilleries closed: Rosebank, Littlemill and St. Magdalene(Linlithgow).
Auchentoshan is derived from Scots Gaelic to mean in the corner of the field. This was an apt description at the time it was founded as there would not have much else around, unlike today where it is surrounded on three sides by a Glasgow suburb and on the other a freeway at the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills. At its founding in 1823, as with most 18th and 19th Century distilleries, it began as an offshoot of a working farm. But the city of Glasgow and its suburbs grew rapidly through the 1800’s and into the 1900’s. The distillery is known as Glasgow’s because of its proximity to Scotland’s largest city.
The distillery is located in the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills just south of the Highland-Lowland boundary. Though the whisky is made and matured in the Lowlands, the water is from the Highlands, specifically Loch Katrine. During the Clydebank blitz of 1942, when the Luftwaffe was trying to destroy Glasgow shipbuilding and industry, the distillery was struck by a bomb which took out one of its maturation warehouses. Evidence of the raid can still be seen today, the crater left by the bomb is the distillery’s cooling pond. Last year the distillery produced 1.2 million liters of spirits, and the goal for this year is a surging 1.6 million liters.
We had a lovely tour, tasting and lunch at the distillery, with visitor center manager Meji. After the tour and before lunch we sampled a range of malts including a few which are only available for purchase through Duty Free. We also sampled an old bottling of Bowmore Mariner which is no longer available:
1. Auchentoshan Springwood – 40% – 6-10 year old whisky – Matured in American Oak Ex-Bourbon – My Tasting: Nose: Fig Newtons, citrus, nutty notes; limoncello, grassy floral tones and herbaceous notes; Palate: toasted, malty and very grassy/herbaceous; dry with green oak and burnt citrus; Finish: light, citrusy, and soft with fading oak.
2. Auchentoshan Heartwood – 40% – Bourbon and Oloroso Casks – My Tasting Note: Nose: nutty, spicy and sherried with soft leather; brown sugar, raisins and chocolate; Palate: spicy, earthy and then very fruity: raisins and dark fruit; becomes nuttier with more dried fruits; Finish: dry, spicy and smoky with fading tropical fruits.
3. Bowmore Mariner 15 Year (old bottling) – My Tasting Note: Nose: toffee and fudge, milk chocolate, some tropical fruits: melons and papaya; Palate: soft, fruity, creamy and perfumed; more tropical fruits with clean salty smoke and soft toffee chews; Finish: dry, spicy and smoky with fading tropical fruits.
From Auchentoshan we made our way to Inverary where we would be spending our first night. Before checking into our hotel we paid a visit to Loch Fyne whiskies, one of the world’s best whisky shops. Relatively speaking it is located in the middle of nowhere. That is until you factor into the equation the fact that it is located along the road to Islay and Campbeltown from Glasgow. It is a beautiful little town famous for its castle, seafood and its whisky shop. Richard Joynson has turned a hole in the wall shop into an important destination for whisky lovers. Don’t let the size of the shop fool you, it’s one of the world’s most respected whisky shops with an incredible selection. They even have their own blend!
After checking in, five of our intrepid party headed out for a little hike, climbing the hill behind Inverary Castle. The climb up took about an hour, but the view is well worth the slog, which is probably why there is an old stone watch tower up there. Built in the 1700’s the tour is 800-1000ft above the castle with views down both sides of the Loch. I look forward to touring the castle on a future visit.