Auchentoshan (18 year)

I’ve come to the following conclusion about Auchentoshan malt: Unless you’re allergic to flavor, Auchentoshan is best as a canvas for cask-delivered flavor, and does not perform well when aged in a way that minimizes the influence of oak. While distillery marketing departments might argue that this style “showcases the purity of the barley” or “lets the distillery house character shine”, these are just justifications for products that taste good… but also taste of little.

Auchentoshan 18, like its younger siblings the Classic, the 10-year (now retired) and 12-year, is triple-distilled Lowland single malt that is aged only in ex-bourbon casks. Judging by the color and flavor, we’re talking refill casks here. This bottle used to retail for the refreshingly low price of around $80 (not bad for an 18 year-old), which made up for its dryness and general lack of flavor. That price has, however, risen past $105 recently, pushing this way out of the range of acceptability. Auchentoshan 18 at $80 would have been a middling Recommended. At $105, I say look elsewhere – Glenlivet 18 might be a good alternative in the same style, and it’s still $80!

Nose: Somewhat hot. Classically Auchentoshan – lots of distinct cereal grains and minimal wood. Vanilla, sugar cookies, white chocolate, and blonde fudge.

Palate: Nice medium body, just the right amount of tongue burn – enough to announce its presence. All of the aroma notes are repeated on the tongue.

Finish: On the short side. Sugar cookies and vanilla fudge continue to be a theme. On the finish, a note of nut skins creeps in, suggesting tannins, but doesn’t get bitter.

With Water: Water brings out a little more sweetness in both the nose and on the tongue. The effect is additive, and makes a few drops of water a good idea with this malt.

Overall: Auchentoshan 18 is a clean, light, elegant malt. That said, it doesn’t show a great deal of improvement over younger Auchentoshan, and seems to be aged in a way that picks up minimal wood. For some people that might be a blessing, as it showcases the purity and delicacy of the malt (something triple distillation does, as well). For me, that just means it has less flavor and less complexity. As far as the price goes, I think I prefer Glenlivet 18, which is better-priced and similarly light, but which carries a bit more complexity, and some fruity notes to boot.

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 (18 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $105 - $120
Acquired: (30ml sample bottle)

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  • Never really been a fan of Lowland whiskies, and you’re review has confirmed to me just why that is. There’s just not the flavour there in many of the Lowlands.

  • We had pretty different experiences with this one. I felt like it had actually just hit the mark in terms of wood impact – there were some great mango notes that lifted the bourbon barrel influence. I’ve also tried the 21 Year and thought it was a bit over the hill. But that’s how it goes with different palates – everyone gets something different.

    As a small note, the 12 Year actually has some sherry casks in the mix. I was surprised to learn that, as the flavor isn’t too noticeable, but I’ve had it confirmed by their master blender.

  • All of the lowlands are not bad Scott. Ive never met a bladnoch i did not like, however getting your hands on a bottle is a bit of a challenge. For all practical purposes you are right though.

  • Your mention of price points for 18 year old whiskies reminded of Tomatin 18 year old. It’s quite good and it retails for $65 where I live. I have no idea why Tomatin is so much cheaper than just about every other single malt (the 12 costs less than a lot of blends – maybe the 12 sucks). It’s not the Highland Park 18 year old by any stretch, but it tastes a lot better than $65.

    • Thanks for the tip, Eric. I have notes in my tasting journal that says “Tomatin 12 – Underwhelming” but I haven’t yet done a review of it. My whisky shop doesn’t carry the Tomatin 18, but I will keep an eye out for it. $65 isn’t much to drop on an 18 year, although I remember the Glenfiddich 18 was cheaper than that once, and I’m enjoying the Kirkland 18 (unknown distillery), which was $35 or so.