Auchentoshan Classic

The Classic bottling of Auchentoshan (a replacement for the previous ‘Select’ bottling of pre-2008) has no age statement, and is likely a vatting of various ages under the flagship 12-year expression. It is matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, which gives it delicate vanilla notes without overpowering the nuances of the triple distillate. I picked up a bottle of The Classic recently and enjoy it immensely. I have also had a dram of the 10-year bottling, which is no longer available, and I thought it was very similar. My notes for the Classic follow:

Lightly colored. Nose is big on the heather (or clover?) and the honey… light and crisp. Not too dry at all. Smells floral and peachy, almost like St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Very perfumed and floral, even without water added to open it up. The water brings out some lemony notes which make it smell a little too much like household spray cleaner to me.

Body is creamy, but not terribly heavy. Caramel praline ice cream developing into lavender and clover honey. The heather pervades, and introduces a green grassy, throat lozenge quality. Finally, a hint of bitter lemon peel. Again, water emphasizes the lemon while also thinning the body and bringing out more of that cleaning solvent character.

Finish is short-lived, but fades with dairy cream, salt water taffy, and honeycomb. Not very complex, but super tasty.

What a satisfying dram. It is delicate and subtle, sweet and crisp. Like a sugary glass of lemonade on a hot day. A little rough and undefined around the edges, no doubt due to its youth, which is also responsible for this whisky’s delightful crispness. I suggest skipping the water. This is, by the way, sometimes referred to as “The Ladies’ Malt”, because it is a fine (light) introduction to malt whisky for the gentler sex. It, however, doesn’t make me any less of a man that I enjoy it! …right?

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Auchentoshan (a toughie to pronounce: Aw-ken/tosh-an) is one of the few remaining Lowlander distilleries in Scotland. It’s also notable for its use of “triple distillation” to make its spirit. This means rather than using two stills to distill the beer-like wash twice, like most Scottish distilleries, Auchentoshan processes the new-make spirit in three stills (three times). This creates a higher-proof final distillate (around 82% ABV) which is lighter and sweeter in flavor than most Scotch. I wonder if they ever release a cask-strength bottling! Wowza! [update: They do, but as the whisky is diluted to typical ‘cask-strength’ of around 63% ABV, it’s not much stronger than other whiskies. What I really want to try is the new-make spirit. 🙂] Note that many Irish distillers also triple-distill their whiskey.
Auchentoshan Classic
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $30-$40
Acquired: (Bottle): Total Wine & More in Roseville, CA. $30

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  • SN,

    I had recently sampled Compass Box’s lineup and thoroughly enjoyed Asyla and Hedonism. This surprised me since I tend to not like light or delicately flavored whiskies. But I found them to be well crafted and very enjoyable. Are there any single malts or other blends that might compare? I had read that lowland scotch like Auchentoshan 12 and Glenkinchie 12 were similar in the light/sweet regard (which is why I’m asking under this review). Any suggestions?

    • Yes, I would say there are a number of single malts with a light style – the non-sherried Auchentoshans (but watch out for Three Wood – that one’s a beast), Glenkinchie, Dalwhinnie, non-finished Balvenie (12 and 15 single barrel), Hazelburn (which is non-peated Springbank), Clynelish 14, any Speysider or Highlander without wine/sherry finishes, like Glenlivet 12, Glenfiddich 12, and maybe Glenmorangie 10 (although that tends to be a little sweeter). Oban 14 is also light, but with more caramel/heavier sugars.

      In general, the “lightness” of blends like those you mentioned are due to the grain whisky, which is lightly flavored no matter the age (Hedonism has some quite old grain whisky in it). You’d do well to look into Great King Street: Artist’s Blend, which is like a better, creamier version of Asyla. It’s admittedly hard to find “good” grain whisky, since most of it is young and used to make inexpensive blends. Hedonism is probably the best example of “good” grain. Cheers!

      • Thanks, SN. I had Glenluvet 12 which was ok. It had this menthol quality that left my throat and, to an extent my mouth, numb (like after a cough drop numb) that I didn’t care for. Glenfiddich 12 was also ok (doesn’t that have sherry influence?). I already picked up a bottle of GKSAB and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ll try your other suggestions in time; thank you for them!

  • Thanks for the review. My liquor shop has a sale on this expression. Your review sealed the deal, I’m buying a bottle today!

  • I’m generally a gin gal. However, lately I find myself drinking scotch. Although I am clearly an amature , I know I love the complexity of notes and boldness a Scotch has. Where can I buy this? BevMo and my local stores seem clueless as me!

    • Hi Jana,
      You might need a bigger BevMo – the one near me has four different Auchentoshan expressions, along with a decent selection of other single malts. If you have one nearby, Total Wine & More also carries an impressive whisky selection. Depending on your state (only some states allow shipment of alcohol), you could try ordering from or If you’re in California (near Redwood City, San Francisco, or Hollywood) you could make a drive to K&L Wines, which is where I buy most of my whisky. Cheers!

  • I really like this expression…to bad that Morrison-Bowmore discontinued it. Not that I am complaining that it was replaced by the American Oak (NAS) expression, it’s good too, but it was the first single malt scotch whisky that I had every tried and liked very much.

    Living within the epicenter of the bourbon whiskey making universe (Louisville, Ky) and having an affinity for all things bourbon, I would always shun scotch as over-priced crap. My only experience coming from a small dram of Cutty Sark back in the late 80s. It tasted grainy and harsh to my 20 something palate at the time. Never would I taste scotch again, and solely devoted myself to the altar of bourbon for the last 25 plus years.

    In the winter of 2012, a friend of mine and I were on a bourbon sabbatical and started experimenting with a broad range of Irish blended whiskies (the usual suspects: Jameson, Paddy, Tullamore Dew, Powers, and Bushmill with Paddy and Jameson being my go to whenever I desire an Irish whiskey) and decided to try Auchentoshan Classic (NAS), since it was triple distilled in the Irish style.

    I absolutely loved it! Many bottles of this consumed before American Oak replaced it. The olfactories being overwhelmed by quick hitting whiffs of lavender, citrus fruits, and coconuts and it’s intense vanilla and bourbon taste on the palate and finish…just a delightful light dram. It was an epiphany to me (my virgin experience with a single malt whisky) and it completely turned my bourbon flavor profile on its head, and opened the door to explore Bowmore 12, Glenkinchie 12, Highland Park 12, Springbank 10 (this one blew my hair back, just incredible) and of course Laphroaig 10, and the Islay giant Lagavulin 16.

    I am a complete convert, and no longer hold any old prejudices against bourbon’s kissin-cousin. You just have to know your flavor profiles and do your due diligence about what single malts your purchasing.

    Scotch Noob, you do an excellent job reviewing whiskies… you and I have similar flavor profiles based upon your reviews. A considerable amount of your reviews have been spot on recommendations for me personally. Thank you for saving me from purchasing bad whiskies!

    I really enjoy your blog…you really have a passion and should write a book. Your prose is tight, informative, honest, and even humorous at times, which I would place on par with Dave Broom and Clay Risen, and you far surpass Jim Murray, and older scotch reviewers may disagree, but even the great Michael Jackson (RIP).

    Are you still in search for your house bourbon? After spending 20 plus years oversees strictly in Asian markets, Diageo has returned I W Harper to the States, even though a well connected few could acquire the rare bottle on occasion here within the Bluegrass. Must Try ( your rating system) in my opinion, but I would love to read a tasting review by you.

    Take care and cheers.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Matt! Have you tried Redbreast 12 year? If you liked both Springbank and Jameson, I think it’d be right up your alley. I W Harper is on my “to try” list, but I am (so far) pretty happy with Eagle Rare 10 as my house bourbon (or Buffalo Trace if I’m short on cash). Cheers!

      • I have not tried Redbreast 12 year…it is one of those whiskies that my drinking friends and I would mention as something that we wanted to try next, but you know how that goes….always bigger fish to fry. It seems to always receive great reviews, and should probably be something in my malty-dry wheel-house, but every time that I am in a big box liquor store and I see it sitting next to it’s other Spot series siblings… I always choose something else.

        Midelton Distillery is amazing ( comparable to Heaven Hill here in the Bluegrass state) with all of the different whiskies expressions that that they produce with their still versatility (i.e. love Jameson and Paddy, but cannot stand the hot industrial alcohol elements that are characteristic with Powers and Bushmill with Tullamore Dew somewhere in the middle).

        Redbreast 12 year is a little pricey here in the Kentucky…running around $60.00 a 750 like you, I economize my whiskies purchases each week. For example, if I am spending $100.00 on whiskies on a particular week, I would rather walk out with three bottles of whiskey, rather than one or two. Like this week I purchased three bottles: Old Pultney 12, Bowmore Small Batch Reserve (NAS), and Old FitzGerald (bonded), and W. L. Weller Special Reserve 7 year…okay, four bottles for under $100.00 (LOL). I am not a collector, but a drinker!

        I am still adamant that you should turn this blog into a book!. You can do it Nathan! I graduated from the University of Louisville (go Cards)…one of my class mates in the graduate history program in the early 1990s (I double major in history and english) is an authority in all things whiskey, and turned his Medieval graduate studies into a 20 plus year career working for Diageo…Micheal Veach, who has written several books on the history of Bourbon whiskey, but he is also very knowledgeable regarding Scotch and Irish whiskies. He thinks, as well as I that your reviews are excellent.

        Take care, and always cheers!