Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Auchentoshan New Releases Debut in Chicago

Binny's of the South Loop blessed its single malt patrons with the first U.S. tasting presented by Jamie MacKenzie on October 1, 2008. Jamie is an eight year veteran for Morrison Bowmore, which runs this distillery for Suntory as of 1994. For those unfamiliar with 'Aukie," (pronounced "och 'n' tosh'n" and rhymes with the Jewish Purim Pastry, Hamentashen), it is a Western Lowland single malt scotch distillery. Achentoshan Distillery has pride in its triple distillation process. Located in the vicinity of Glasgow, Scotland, It was founded in 1825 near Kilpatrick Hills. Fortunately, Mr. Mackenzie saved the best for last; I now know why he wears his Bowmore Shirt with pride. However, I suspect that there are a few killer casks in Aukie's Warehouse worthy of a premium bottling.

Suntory's Auchentoshan Distillery is run by six men; its senior blender, Iain McCallum has many years of experience for a 32 year old. Aukie presently ages its malt in bourbon casks from Heaven Hills Distillery. Tonight those present at Binny's were able to officially taste five of its new introductions. However, those able to pay the modest charge were lucky enough to test three additional selections.

The first selection was the Aukie Classic. This is the youngest and lightest version of the five primary selections for 2009. I nosed the Classic as Testor's Model then Mucilage glue followed by Tie Guan Yin Tea, then cucumbers and a slight mint. The dram was light to the palate, but smooth. I don't recall the alcohol content, but it seemed like watery honey, but arguably vanilla-like to the palate.

Of all the selections, the Classic seemed the mostly likely to be treated as a mixed drink. Some have mixed this single malt with a concoction of mint, lemon, and honey. One claimed that cane sugar and lime worked quite well. The bottle will retail for $29.99. I like drinking my scotch neat; I was not that much of a fan and found it watery as it tingled and lingered, when it was imbibed neat. Please bring the mint, lemon and honey; build it and some of us may reconsider. However, I agree with Iain McCallum's position that Aukie Classic is more of a summer scotch based upon the fragrance and flavor.

The Aukie 12 year old has now replaced the 10 year old. This new introduction for the U.S. was rather complex to nose. There was a tinge of one day cut grass with an arguable tinge of mucilage glue with vanilla. I agreed with Mackenzie's tastebuds that the dram palated walnutty and another observer who tasted ornosed candy corn, but the bottling was noticeably complex and reasonably smooth for an economical offering. Water brought out an apple tast in this single malt. It was valued at $49.99. This was an improvement on the Classic, but not my dram of scotch, yet. However, an excellent food pairing may win me over.

The Three Wood was iffy. The manufacture of this Aukie is a bit more seductive. This single malt is aged for ten years in bourbon casks, then transferred to an Oloroso Pedro Jimenez PX cask for 1.5 years, and finally finished in a sherry cask for six months. This is more of a digestif that tastes sweet in the front and finishes 'chewy.' The amber Three Wood is touted as a cigar malt. This is dark and arguably noses fig, carmel and toffee. This measures at 43% alcohol, but is marketing to both men and women drinkers. I was not infatuated with the Woody, which retails at $59.99.

Moving on, I will abreviate the opinions of the 18 and 21 year olds, which retail for $99.99 and $129.99, respectively. the 18 year old has a mix of 85/15 bourbon-sherry cask aged malts. I nosed carmel tootsie rolls, but the 18 year old flavored my tongue sweet and orchardy with slight licorice twig on the finish. The 21 year old was arguably eucalytus, but I found it nosed like one day old smoked almonds. Of all the affordables, the 21 year old, which retails at $129.99 was the most conceivable seller. Again, I was left with interest, but not compulsion, except for two of the three extra choices not officially on the tasting.

The Aukie Select and 1957 bottlings were not presented at the tasting, when I was present.

Of the three, all were great, but two were more tempting with an emphasis on the 'White.' Two were presented as test samples from two casks, one was amazing, like hickory smoke and salt, but an Aukie with an 81.2% alcohol content. It was bazaar in that I have never drank such a potent yet palatible single malt. What an outrageous proof! The second tester was a 69.1% Bowmore, which was worthy, but not as memorable. The final knockout turned out to be the upcoming Bowmore White. White will also be a 42 year old likely aged since 1966. This was the hands down 'shot across the bow!' The entire tasting seemed like a trivial exercise without the 'White!'

The fruit on the Bowmore White is a rare pleasure. I wish that the Bowmore Whites and Blacks were allowed to mature and appreciate in value on more experienced collector's shelf at a more affordable price. These selections retail at over $5000 and are limited. The 2007 Bowmore Black was a 824 bottle offering. I guess the most astute collectors in the Far East place a premium on this distillery. I agree! You won't read about Black or White in Michael Jackson's Tomes. The hickory smoke scented Aukie and Bowmore White were the stellar tastings that made the evening. The Hickory rates at 98 points.

I now appreciate why Suntory bought out Stanley Morrison. I hope that we will eventually see such exceptional offerings as the White for $500 to $750 or less. Perhaps, I need to look at another distillery. I have thoughts. I recognize that the family from Japan has found an incredible series of 1966 casks that undoubtedly rate 100 pts. Hopefully, I will get another opportunity to have a wee bit more, since I cannot recall a better dram. However, with four years of experience and devoid of a single trip to Scotland, I need wee bit more time with the Johnson's Tot in hand.

Jamie Mackenzie did us all a favor last night. We need to communicate with those distillers who hord the uber drams of this world. Some of us appreciate the effort and skill, but must put their funds into the mortgage and the trip to Leith, among other priorities. For those who are not convinced that Bowmore is worthy, you missed its complete vindication!