Whisky Review: Auchentoshan American Oak

During the early 18th century, there were dozens of Lowland distilleries. Then, a potent combination of international politics, burdensome taxation, and an ill-fated foray into the world of gin rectification conspired to undermine the Lowlands, decimating its distilleries and transforming its reputation forever.

But it’s tough to keep a good region down, and these days, the Lowlands are undergoing something of a renaissance. While many of the remaining Lowland distilleries are known primarily for cranking out enormous quantities of relatively neutral grain whisky used for blending, some producers are hanging on to the traditional Lowland single malt style, which calls for triple pot still distillation. Perhaps the most famous of these is Auchentoshan.

Founded in 1823, Auchentoshan has managed to successfully weather the ups and downs of nearly 200 years of whisky history, including losing a significant portion of its maturing stock to an air raid in World War II (a risk of being located so close to Glasgow). Glaswegians have a particular fondness for their native dram, calling the distillery’s famously sweet and fruity spirit “the breakfast whisky.”

This particular release, Auchentoshan American Oak, is the entry-level bottling from the distillery, aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. It was first released in 2014 as a replacement to the Classic expression, but the timing seems fitting in another way, too: 2014 was the year when the Beam-Suntory merger took place, giving Auchentoshan, previously part of the Suntory portfolio, a new and direct relationship with the American bourbon industry. It carries no age statement, and is bottled at a low-key 80 proof.

Auchentoshan American Oak

Tasting Notes: Auchentoshan American Oak

Vital stats: 80 proof, no age statement, single malt, somewhere around $35 for a 750ml.

Appearance: Quite light, a pale gold

Nose: Even though it’s right there in the name, oak is rather muted in the nose. Instead, I get a blast of ozonated grain, like a wheat silo right before a thunderstorm. There’s a light thread of milky vanilla bean that reminds me of ice cream, plus some freshly sliced green apple and charred beeswax. Gentle and subtle.

Palate: Sweet, creamy, and light, this is like the whisky equivalent of a big bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios in front of Saturday morning cartoons. I get a nice dose of vanilla and citrus, plus a bit of musky cracked malt and a burst of warm spice near the end—a testament to the influence of those ex-bourbon casks. The finish is brief and warming, almost reminiscent of dried chili, with a thin, somewhat vaporous mouth feel.

The Takeaway

Based on the marketing materials for Auchentoshan American Oak, I’d say this release is aimed squarely at the on-premise/Millennial market, and that seems like just the right place for this whisky. While there’s nothing totally captivating here, there’s also nothing offensive. It’s a totally serviceable value drinker that’s easy to recommend at its price point, especially for a warm-weather sipper.

3
About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.