Auchentoshan Bartender’s Malt 2017

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Auchentoshan. A company that, when I bring it up around whisky fans, has different results.

A lot of whisky fans, of whom I sometimes crawl out of my hole and talk to, haven’t had a lot of Auchentoshan. They had the 12, or the new American wood, or some one that was an entry malt, and left it at that.

That’s okay. We’ve all had those moments. We try the entry, it isn’t for us, we have a finite amount of time/money, other places don’t have the upgrades, blah.

However I, on the other hand, tried Auchentoshan, and thought… hmmm, that’s the entry malt. I wouldn’t never drive a Viper after driving a Neon, even though the same company builds both (feel free to rant about cars below, I’m completely lost on cars). So I kept trying Auchentoshan. And I started enjoying certain versions, particularly those that were high alcohol content, I started stating the benefits of the company.

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Thus when I was privileged enough to watch the Canadian leg of the New Malt Order cocktail competition, I was interested in the final outcome. Turns out the winner, along with 11 others, won a trip to Auchentoshan distillery, and, under the supervision of Rachel Barrie, the chance to select a whisky that would eventually be vatted together into this expression. They were given ‘unprecedented’ access to the distilleries whisky stocks.

Aka something that, if given the chance, I’d go for and be found happily passed out days later.

So what went into it? From what I heard, no whisky is younger than 6 years old, they range from the 1970s to the 2010s, and the casks included German oak (okay, I’ll learn about a new oak later, don’t mind me), ex-rum barrels, and ex-Laphroaig casks.

But how did it turn out? Did the personalities of these 12 bartenders from Germany, Sweden, the US, Canada, and the UK meld, or did we end up with a schizophrenic malt that psychiatrists will be studying closely for years to come? Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

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Price: $74.95 CAD at the LCBO

Region: Lowland

Abv: 47%

Colour: 5Y 8/8

Nose: Mango pudding, cardamon, wood, brown sugar, lemon balm

Lovely fruit flavour. There’s some creaminess here, lots of citrus, and tropical elements.

It’s not a strong whisky on the nose. This isn’t a cask strength whisky. It’s meant to complement mixing in cocktails, after all, and can’t have it too strong in there. So give it some time to open up.

Taste: Jujubes, ginger, anise, mineral, hops

Fruity. Very fruity. Lots of fruit. And sweet. So basically sweets. However given some time, there’s more spice to it. I’m guessing a little of that ex-Laphroaig cask one is popping up.

Also the floral element that is so present in Auchentoshan is more of a hoppy flavour. I know for some people that’s good and for some it’s bad. It is a polarising flavour. I liked it here, however I can understand why some may not.

Finish: White pepper, butter, cocoa, floral/hops

Hot finish at first. With time it has more of a floral chocolate thing going on. I enjoyed it, though I don’t think it’s equal to the taste combination or the nose. Needs a bit more to it.

Conclusion: Auchentoshan is a dram that benefits from a high abv., an interesting vatting, a challenge to the master blender (in this case, ex-master blender, as she’s moved onto GlenDronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh), and the idea that this malt is meant to complement mixing in cocktails.

That’s a tall order. Not to mention, as I mentioned on a recent whisky that was made in a similar fashion, we hope they had a alcohol strength in mind when the bartenders were tasting from the casks, however they may have been tasting cask strength whiskies. That’s me wondering, and not seeing anything anywhere about that.

So what did we end up with? A spicy, nose focused scotch that has the base for cocktails yet was nice enough for me to sip on. The higher alcohol content is the true benefit here. If you’re a bartender, you were already buying this just to play around with it. And from my view, it works as a cocktail mixer.

However it also works as what Auchentoshan should be putting out: Higher strength whiskies. Their malt tastes great at a strong alcohol content. This one works because of good people picking and a target being met.

Is it perfect? No, the finish is a little too much earth/weakness. The taste is good, but the nose is more complex and that could be a let down. But try this, and I look forward to trying next years with the new winners input.

81/100

Scotch review #770, Lowland review #37, Whisky Network review #1265

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