This is a delightful and intriguing whisky. It never stops giving new aromas, which makes it a lot of fun just to nose. Few flavors in this Scotch jump out at you; there’s a bit of seek and find with it. It demands to be savored slowly and carefully, which was convenient amid the COVID-19 quarantine when WAY TOO FEW PEOPLE WERE AROUND TO INTERRUPT ME! It’s become haggard to see reviewers write, “This whiskey would be best enjoyed by a fire” when too few of us are ever around an actual wood fire. So I’ll speak to the truth of my tasting: This whisky is damn fine enjoyed on a hand-me-down couch with a computer in my lap.
If you’re not a Scotch fan because things like peat or band-aid qualities turn you off, you really should consider a Lowland Scotch. There aren’t a lot of Lowland distilleries, and in my opinion, Auchentoshan does a consistent job of representing the region.
The Bartender’s Malt is the first of a proposed series of limited edition Scotches for the distillery. In this initial offering, twelve bartenders from around the world collaborated to create a whisky by the bartender for the bartender. The idea behind this is to give bartenders a Scotch that could be served neat or made into various cocktails. I chose to test this whisky neat.
It seemed that much of my 2018 involved barrel-finished whiskeys. Scotch, Bourbon, Rye or Irish – all of it jumped out at me. Barrel finishing is an interesting process where the distiller or producer takes an (allegedly) good whiskey and, once properly matured, dumps it to another barrel that previously held something else. That something else may have been another spirit, wine, maple syrup, coffee, or, as we saw with George Dickel, Tobasco sauce.
I would say that it is. Remember back when blended whiskies were in vogue and more sought after than single malts? Well, neither do I, but I understand that used to be the case. Blends were more coveted because of their lighter, sweeter, more accessible flavor profiles compared to the rawness of single malt whiskies of the time. Here we have a hand blended, bottled, sealed and labeled blended-malt that combines the best parts of nine different single malts to come up with an “unapologetically peated, yet warm and welcoming” pour. Adding to its charm, it is non-chill filtered and no artificial color is added.
I first tasted Auchentoshan early this year. It was a 17-year independent bottling sold exclusively at Vom Fass, and I fell in love. I felt an immediate need to find other expressions of Auchentoshan to taste what I’d been missing. I went to my favorite whiskey bar and tried the American Oak, the 12-year, and the Three Wood.
Of the three, I opted to buy the Three Wood. I honestly wanted to buy all of them, but alas, my wallet suggested otherwise that day.
“This whisky isn’t the oldest in my collection,” he said, handing another dram to Bob and then taking one for himself. “But just like you, young lady, age isn’t necessarily a qualifier.” The compliment made her smile. “The whiskey was aged for about eight years,” he continued, “but its upbringing is one of incredible refinement. It was finished in three different types of wine barrels— Mourvèdre and Sauternes, both from France, and then another from Austria, but I don’t remember the type.”
It’s not the most robust Highland Park I’ve ever tried, but certainly presents a reasonable entry point to begin exploring the line. While they state that a ‘high proportion’ of first-fill Sherry seasoned American oak casks are used in the maturation, for my preferences, they didn’t use enough. But then again, more sherry casks would translate into a higher retail price, and I think that would defeat the purpose of this release in the first place.
While I may be romanticizing the past, the palate is not as complex as I remember it being prior to being discontinued, and a bit sweeter. The older variety (again, at least in my memories) had this umami and dry finish – similar to that which can be found in good parmesan cheese – that is lacking in this one. Without knowing much about blending, my guess is that of some of the stronger, peatier, more mysterious blends are less represented in the current ratio than in past iterations of the Green Label. In this generation, the honey from the nose takes center stage on the palate and is supported by malt and cereal. A bit of water adds a little spice that is absent when drinking it neat. The mouthfeel is relatively light, but the best parts of the flavor profile seem to last longer than everything else, which is a nice surprise.
The first thing that hits the nostrils is the smoky peat, and that becomes prevalent before you’ve even finished pouring it from the bottle to the glass. Once poured, the appearance is a lovely gold. Swirling it creates a thinner rim that yields very slow, fat legs.
Talisker Storm also has an amazing, silky mouthfeel. The whisky flows everywhere over the palate, making it easy to get a real sense of the flavors underneath the peat. There is an almost non-existent burn despite its ABV.