Here’s a pair of very recent Auchentoshans from Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range. I tried the 14 year old at the Whisky Show last year, and it was so refreshing and so Auchentoshan I bought a bottle. Of course I can’t just go round opening bottles of whisky when there’s so much open already so I just sometimes gaze at it longingly, dreaming of the day when I get to try it again. Meanwhile, another came out without fanfare. And so, this side by side tasting! Thanks to Douglas Laing for make my dream a reality…
Nose - As I remember it, so floral and delicate, with a deeply malty backbone. Women's perfume, milk chocolate and stainless steel, a touch of earth and truffle. It's more like big, bold white burgundy than a whisky in some ways (leaving aside the chocolate) - beautiful. And Auchentoshantastic.
Body - Light and elegant, floral and citric. Ruby grapefruit?
Finish - Medium but tasty, citrus tannins at the end, milk chocolate. A feeling of a blanco tequila in here too (don't let that put you off if you're a tequila hater)
This is an evening opener, a 5pm on a Friday in the early summer starter. As a lover of nearly all styles of Scotch, I love Auchentoshan for being this style, it's a million miles from most modern blockbuster whiskies but it has its place.
Nose - Much more “big single malt Scotch”. A big, deep, cask wax, almost like BBQ sauce on the exhale (sweet, caramelised sugar, charred wood). This deep sweetness and almost candied malt is completely different to the 14. Big and balanced, it pulls its punches by being "pre-watered-down" to 48.4%, but it's so full compared to the 14. It's really beautiful but less Auchentoshan and with less truffle or funk.
Body - Ripe, fruity, a big numbing background to it with deep floral, petrol sweetness. This is Auchentoshan again now, but played through a euphonium rather than a trumpet. A touch more cardboard and tannins at the side of the tongue, more of an mid-evening dram. Maybe stood round a fire.
Finish - Medium, fruity, sour and heavily wooded. Orange travel sweets and the bitter, lemony, numbing woods of Szechuan peppercorns at the end.
This is an excellent whisky, but not austere and ultimately less challenging (not that that’s a bad thing).
Comparing the two: The 14 is boiled sweets and Asian fruits on the nose, compared to the deep, waxy, musky cask of the 17 (the nose on the 17 is particularly good). The 14 is austere and woody at the front of the delivery, but that floral chocolate is so addictive later. In comparison, the 17 is practically a port cask - big, spicy, sharp and zesty, with the floral funk retranslated into something like a wine cask with a tiny bit of sulphur and lots of tannins. The 17 is much more of a blockbuster, and I think would be more universally popular, but I hold a special candle still for the 14’s ability to start a party. Both highly recommended, anyway.