Sunday, 30 August 2009

Auchentoshan Three Wood 43% Dram #22

Stood in the warehouse,
The air was awash with wood.
This informed the dram.

My second distillery visit could not have been more different to my first, at least from the point of view of attitude. Almost a year had passed since The Glenlivet when my family and I pulled into the gorgeous premises of Auchentoshan and if all you had to go on was how excited I was, you would not have supposed a person legally old enough to be there. In the previous year, I had immersed myself in as much whisky theory as I could find (or order from the WH Smiths' book department) for the purposes of filling in the crevasse of ignorance opened up after The Glenlivet had hard-wired this passion. At last I had the chance to combine that theoretical knowledge with a practical demonstration of whisky production, every facet of which I had grown keenly enchanted by.

We had booked a more in-depth tour of a greater duration, with added detail and drams. From leaving the car to re-entering it a couple of hours later, my sense of smell was stimulated almost beyond endurance, as the aroma of manipulated barley (as opposed to descriptors of it) comprised a heavenly percentage of the air I breathed. Jenny, our guide, led us from the mash tun, to the washbacks, to the stills, and finally to the warehouse, the prevailing nasal orgy altering in character at each stage.

One thing that has abided with me since my single malt induction in an autumnal Glenlivet was the smell of the dunnage warehouse as oak and malt went about gaining an understanding of one another. At Auchentoshan, the atmospheric ambrosia was not quite as awesome for the door remained open to the fresh air throughout the day, but even so I was not disappointed by the sensuous, calming and significant fragrance. Appropriately for a whisky matured in, yep, three woods, it was here that we were given a sample of today's post. It was my favourite out of the three we had hitherto been plied with on our tour, following on from the Classic in the mash tun room and the 18-year-old in the washback room. I was getting a good idea of distillery character as once again I was enveloped by toffee maltiness and a light, rich sweetness like fresh chocolate brownies. This became my anniversary bottle - what I purchased to mark my first full year of malt infatuation.

ORIGINAL TASTING NOTE, TASTED 23/11/08: COLOUR - Deep, syrupy bronze. A gloopy-sweet fire. NOSE - WoW - Very light. Lemony and fresh. The rich Sherry wades in. Is it the Pedro Ximenez all dark and thick in the background? Raisins full of booze. WW - Fills it out. Better. More of the cake and the fruit. Richly layered but light. BODY - Very smooth. Slippery yet somehow the richness is matte. PALATE - Warm and sweet malt. Delicate. Moist. Very complex. Fruit cake. Cherries. Ginger and cinnamon. Gorgeous. FINISH - Long, fruity. Sweet Sherry nuttiness. Glycerine icing sugar sweetness all around. Chocolate box.

It's a stunning hue, isn't it? This deep autumnal orange was only the second to be awarded full marks in the days when I still scored whiskies on an aggregate basis for Colour, Nose, Body, Palate and Finish.

The nose is completely delightful with a light smooth maltiness closely underpinned by the Sherry. Auchentoshan air-dries their malt but in this dram's richness there is almost a smokiness - at the very least genuine warmth. The Sherry itself is thick and rich with the mightily dark and flavoursome Pedro Ximenez squatting in the background. There is a brittle, shattering vegetal note that attacks the nose in a simialr way to one of the elements in the 18-year-old. Perhaps it is just all that wood. It is also fudgy with jelly sweets.

A little water lightens the aroma still further, presenting a more rounded lemoniness. Then there is the signature sweet demerara sugar malt. The Sherry is more restrained but thickened. Custard creams are suggested as well as hot buttered toast.

The body of the whisky is also smooth and light, qualities that extend to the palate. The mouthfeel of the satiny malt is superb, bedded on Sherry blankets. Almonds and orange zest appear.

I would describe the finish as convivial with a greater Sherry emphasis. It is very long and fruity with citrus notes reminding me of when I tasted the undistilled wash. There is a touch of fine chocolate and sticky, moist fruit cake. Smelling the empty glass provides still more pleasure.

It has never, nor can it ever, taste as it did in that warehouse. The inspiration of these places gives rise to a mood that cannot be recreated which is why I have such high hopes for the Gap Year and all of those singular single malts that will each occupy and make theirs a particular time and place.

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