Auchentoshan Distillery Tour

I was recently down in Greenock for a few days, and being in the area, it would have been rude not to pop into the Auchentoshan distillery for a little visit. And being the great boyfriend that I am I dragged the girlfriend along for a tour – secretly hoping that one day I would eventually make a whisky drinker out of her – so we jumped into the car and began the short drive to the distillery. As we crossed the Erskine Bridge my heart began to race, I felt like a kid on the way to the sweetshop, and after a few minutes more we reached our destination, the Auchentoshan distillery.


Now unfortunately I was the designated driver for the day – woe is me – so we chose to just do the standard tour. We had about 15 minutes before our tour would be starting so we had a wander round the shop, having a look at the range and admiring the £5,000 50yo Auchentoshan, wouldn’t mind trying some of that!


Our tour guide for the day would be Brian, who had only recently started taking the tours about 2 weeks previous. He explained all the health and safety stuff and informed us that we would be allowed to take pictures during the tour. This was great to hear, most distilleries don’t allow you to take pictures because of the ‘explosive atmosphere’ as a result of all the alcohol in the air, what a load of crap! After introductions and rules etc. we headed into the distillery, me skipping along like an idiot, eager to see production.

It became apparent fairly quickly that Brain was pretty new to doing the tours but he still did a great job, he was very funny and personable and made the tour very enjoyable. As I already knew the process pretty well I drifted to and fro between listening to Brian and my own wee world, just taking in the sights and the smells of the distillery. He was able to answer most of my questions, and what he wasn’t able to he asked his colleagues when we got back to the centre, which I was very grateful for.


After the still house we headed across to the warehouse, where hundreds of casks of whisky were just peacefully waiting until the day they would be cracked open. The smells and the atmosphere in there was incredible, there’s nothing quite like it, if you’ve been round a distillery before then you’ll know what I mean. Luckily there were a few others on the tour who had lots questions about the warehouse and production, so we got to linger there amongst the casks for longer than we would have. Such a glorious place to be!


After the tour we headed up to the bar where we got to sample a few whiskies from the range, by this I of course mean I nosed the whisky while my partner enjoyed it, rubbing in the fact that I couldn’t try anything – including the American Oak, which I’ve previously reviewed – Auchentoshan American Oak. As well as this we got a small sample of their distillery exclusive bottling, which as soon as I nosed it I knew it was coming home with me! It was cask #934, filled in 2004, and was a first fill Olorosso Butt, a true sherry monster at a whopping 59.6% ABV, which I hope to review soon.


Bottle wrapped up to keep it safe on the journey we headed to the car for the drive home, heart heavy that it had come to an end. Thank you again to all the staff at Auchentoshan for their hospitality, especially to Brian for taking us round, and hope to see you all again in the future. Until next time…





Isle of Arran 10yo

We are heading back up to Scotland for our next review, back on familiar ground, and heading off once again to the islands. This time to Arran, to the Isle of Arran Distillery, which has been producing some fantastic spirit over the last 20 years or so since it was founded. Today we will be reviewing their 10yo, but hope to be reviewing some of their older expressions soon.

The Arran distillery was built in 1995, and so is relatively young in regards to many in the industry, in the village of Lochranza on the north-western tip of the island. When it was founded there was a lot of speculation as to which style of whisky they would produce, due to its location, would it be smoky, heavy or light. The founder, Harold Currie (formerly of Chivas, and a Speyside distiller) opted for a more Speyside like style of dram – and my goodness does it work. As well as this they have also recently been granted planning permission to build a second distillery, on the southern side of the island, and it is expected that this is where they will distil their peated versions.

As I said, today we will be sampling the 10yo bottling which, like all of their range, is natural colour, Unchillfiltered and bottled at 46% which is very commendable indeed – and how it should be bottled, and as they put it ‘pure by nature’. Anyway, let’s get down to the fun part.


The nose is very reminiscent of a Speyside whisky, and they have done a great job in replicating that style. Lots of fruit upfront on the nose, honey dew melon, stewed apples and nectarines. There’s also a nutty character to this malt, some almonds but mainly coconut, a big coconut character initially on the nose fading into vanilla and caramel. With time, and just a few drops of water, much richer wood spice comes out with more vanilla and nutmeg, as well as pears swimming in a rich, creamy custard.


So soft and creamy on the palate; an absolutely fantastic mouth feel to this whisky, it’s so waxy and thick. Lots of drying malt on the palate, with yet more woody spices, mainly vanilla but also a seasoned woody oak note. There’s also sweet golden syrup and a fizzy citric twist, like tangy orange zest. As the citrus fades pears again come to the fore, and also a slight salty suggestion which rounds off some excellent palate development.


Drying malt, some citrus fruit and a faint briny/salty character on the finish, which is medium to long in length. A lasting finish that is full of flavour, elegant and very rewarding.

I really like the style that they have achieved at the Arran distillery, its sweet and fruity and has a classic island saline note running through it, which complements the fruity flavours very well. For a 10yo malt this whisky has a lot going for it, it’s so characterful and has plenty of depth. I’m really looking forward to cracking open some of their older bottling’s to see how this whisky changes with age, and what flavours develop. For the 10yo bottling that we are trying today I must say that I feel it represents great value for money, coming in at around £35. This dram just oozes quality from start to finish and could easily be enjoyed by the novice or the connoisseur alike, I look forward to getting a few whisky pals round and enjoying the rest of the bottle.




Penderyn Madeira Cask

For this next review we are leaving Scotland and taking a trip down south to visit our Celtic cousins, Wales. That alone possibly gives away which whisky we will be tasting today as it has made quite a name for itself having arrived on the market around 12 years ago, with a visitor centre following this in 2008, it is the Penderyn whisky, and this review will be of their Madeira cask bottling. I got given a set of Penderyn miniatures for Christmas and finally got round to opening them; I enjoyed them so much I simply had to write up a review!

Penderyn was the first distillery to be opened in Wales for over a hundred years and has been very well received by the public, both for the whisky produced and the visitor centre. Located in the village of Penderyn the distillery lies just to the south of the Brecon Beacons and welcomes in excess of 35,ooo people a year! What makes Penderyn unique within the whisky world is their custom designed still – designed by Dr David Faraday – which is a hybrid between a pot still and a column still, meaning that they only have to perform a single distillation, unlike Scotch malt whisky – where pot stills are used – which would be distilled twice. As well as this the unique design allows Penderyn to produce a much higher strength spirit from distillation, coming in at around 92% ABV, a good 20% stronger than what you would get through double distillation with pot stills.

Now I am very happy to report that this whisky is bottled at 46% ABV, unchillfiltered and natural colour, a great start. It doesn’t have an age statement but the distillery is still fairly young so that’s understandable. So let’s get down to the tasting.


Immediately the first thing that comes across from this whisky is a lot of stoned fruit, mainly apricots – possibly apricot jam – and some peaches too. It’s very soft, fresh and fruity, it’s a good spirit that has had some great influence from being stored in madeira casks. It noses like fresh and fruity white wine, just a bit stronger, obviously. There’s lychee, papaya, over ripe white grapes and fruit salad sweets. With time there are notes of vanilla ice cream and marshmallows, chocolate orange and perfumey Turkish delight. As well as all of the aromas of fruits there are also some more wood-like smells, with furniture polish, leather and resinous oak.


A great kick of spirit straight away which is just fantastic, 46% ABV which is great to see. Again soft apricots and lychees come to the fore. And again furniture polish, not that I have tried it but how you would imagine it would taste from the smell of it. There is a nice peppery and spicy development with malty biscuits and bitter grapefruit too. It is far woodier on the palate than on the nose, fresh sappy oak and acidic pine needles.


The finish is medium in length and again is dominated by stoned fruits, as well as woody vanilla and toasted oak. It’s warming and mouth-watering, with a fair acidic twist to it.

I think the Penderyn Madeira finish has the potential to be an exceptional whisky, even if it is Welsh! I think that the spirit is very light and complex with a big fruity character to it. It is still quite a young whisky but is still very good indeed; I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Penderyn develops over a few more years in the cask. At the age it is at now I am still more than happy to enjoy it, though unfortunately I have now finished my miniatures, so I may have to head to the shops to pick up a bottle as I feel this dram definitely has a place on my shelf – especially when it come in at only around the £30-£35 price range!




AnCnoc 12yo

For our next whisky review we are taking a trip back to the mainland, and heading back up north, to the North Eastern Highlands. The whisky we are looking at today was not really visible as a malt until just a few years ago, and since then has come on leaps and bounds, claiming several awards and making a good name for itself. It is the product of the Knockdhu distillery, bottled as AnCnoc (a-nock), and today we are pouring ourselves a dram of the 12yo.

The Knockdhu distillery lies on the eastern fringes of Speyside, and is in fact very close to being a Speyside malt but is regarded as a Highland. The distillery is nestled below the Knock hill (Knockdhu means dark hill), known locally by is Gaelic name of AnCnoc, hence the bottles naming. The main reason it is not bottled as Knockdhu is because a little known company called Diageo own a malt distillery named Knockando, and so to avoid confusion decided to change the bottling name. Knockdhu was among the many distilleries that were closed by DCL in the early 80’s, but fortunately was sold to Inverhouse (now a subsidiary of ThaiBev) around five years later, meaning that we can still get this fantastic malt today. As I said, the bottling of this malt that we are reviewing today is the 12yo, I have tried some of their older bottlings and absolutely loved them so I’m looking forward to this!


A lovely sweet and aromatic nose with bags of character for a 12yo malt. It’s a very floral whisky, with lots of fresh flowers, honeysuckle and heather. This is followed by loads of fruity sweetness, not fresh fruit though, more like fruit flavoured sweets. Orange flavoured boiled sweets, barley sugars, pear drops and zingy lemon sherbet. With time it becomes slightly malty and nutty but overall the nose is delicious and sweet.


It is rich and mouth-watering; the palate is nowhere near as sweet as the nose, the cereal is much more prominent here with a nice spicy development. There’s also a fizzy citric note which again comes across as a sweet lemon sherbet. Overtime the flavours merge together forming a gorgeous lemon meringue pie-like taste, with apple crumble and vanilla custard accompanying it. This whisky reminds me of when you go to visit your Gran for dinner and she’s made five different desserts and throws them all onto your plate, then they all mix together making the mother of all puddings; that’s what this whisky reminds me of and it’s so good!


It has a nice sweet and spicy finish, with a good spirit kick to it too, which is quite surprising for being bottled at 40% ABV. It has a fairly drying finish, with seasoned oak, vanilla, and rich woody nutmeg; it is fairly short and light but is still very good indeed.

The AnCnoc represents a very fine non-sherried Speyside-like whisky; it’s got the classic Speyside fruity-sweetness going for it. As I said previously, I’ve tried several of their older whiskies which are just fantastic (and are far more sherried), but this younger, entry level bottling doesn’t let you down. For a 12yo there is a lot of character here which belies its age. For being bottled at the minimum of 40% ABV and being chillfiltered it does still have a lot of complexity to it. The price that you pay for this bottling (around £30) is very good for what the whisky delivers and I would have to recommend it for that price! To me it just represents the sort of classic Speyside style and it’s a sheer joy to drink.


Gary & Steven