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Auchentoshan is a peculiar distillery in Scottish terms being the only constant exponent of the triple distillation method, which is more commonly associated with the Irish whiskey industry. How this...
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Auchentoshan is a peculiar distillery in Scottish terms being the only constant exponent of the triple distillation method, which is more commonly associated with the Irish whiskey industry. How this came about at the distillery is lost to the annals of time. Sadly, the definitive resource of Alfred Barnard and his voyage across distilleries during the 1880’s, revealed that there were only 2 stills on the site and the mystery continues.
Simply stated triple distillation involves an extra step beyond those commonly used by Scottish distilleries and was likely influenced by the proximity of the distillery to Ireland. Triple distillation by its nature produces a higher alcohol strength, but a lighter purer spirit at the expense of heavy components in the liquid that are sacrificed. The only other specific Scottish triple distillation sometimes takes place at Springbank distillery when they are producing Hazelburn. Whereas a small selection of old distilleries may use a hybrid of such methods to distil more than twice such as Mortlach, Springbank and Benrinnes; these are due to historical approaches to their distillation that has created a distinctive character in each case, which cannot be replicated by other means.
Auchentoshan means the corner of the field and it is one of the few remaining Lowland distilleries from this period with their number soon to swell thanks to the recent whisky boom. Originally most of the Lowland distilleries practiced triple distillation, but over time adopted the more common Scottish approach. The distillery is located west of Glasgow, at Dalmuir which is on the outskirts of Clydebank and easily accessible from the A82 road. It’s a very picturesque distillery, situated in maintained grounds and offers an engaging tour with a well-stocked distillery shop and the recommended option to bottle your own from the nearby warehouse.
The exact date of the foundation of the distillery varies but 1823 is quoted and it originally started out as Duntocher distillery. What is likely is that an illegal distillery was in operation on the site prior to the arrival of the Excise Act. Quite often these illicit distillers selected the best site possible not just for avoiding detection but also an excellent water source and access to barley. The distillery remained in hands of local businessmen (initially a corn merchant, followed by a farmer, then a fisherman) before a Glasgow spirit merchant took over in 1903.
Being situated near the Clyde which was a major hub of industrialisation for Great Britain including ship building during the 2nd World War, meant that Auchentoshan came under fire from above. Several warehouses were destroyed by bombing in 1941 and the large pond to the rear of the distillery was created thanks to a stray bomb. Rebuilt, the distillery changed hands several times, experiencing refurbishment in 1969 before coming under the ownership of Morrison Bowmore in 1984 that marked another period of improvements. This company was acquired by Japanese giant Suntory in 1994 and today it retains ownership of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch. Their purchase of Beam Inc. during 2014 for the modest fee of $16 billion, added the distilleries of Ardmore and Laphroaig to their portfolio.
Together the wash, intermediate and spirit still worth in harmony to produce around 2 million litres annually for an increasingly popular whisky but the distillery does not run at full capacity currently. Most of this is kept for the single malt market and it’s expanding range of bottlings with the distillery also strongly supported by the independent bottlers. Auchentoshan is unpeated making its whiskies very approachable with a light bodied emphasis, but enough subtleties to showcase Lowland fruits and a refined smoothness. An extensive core range is available with various age statements and no age expressions that highlight different aspects of the triple distilled spirit. The Three Wood is a particular highlight combing ex-bourbon barrel maturation with a sherry cask finish to good effect