Whisky Review #42: Auchroisk 1991 21 Years Old (The Single Cask exclusive bottling)

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The sign outside the distillery.

This week’s review focuses on the Auchroisk 21 Years Old, which has been bottled by The Single Cask for their bespoke range of single malt whiskies.

For those who have yet to visit the bar, it prides itself in showcasing independent and single cask Scotch whisky expressions from unheralded distilleries and independent bottlers, allowing consumers and connoisseurs alike the chance to sample produce from a variety of distilleries that they otherwise may not consider trying.

Before we delve into the review in depth, a bit of history about Auchroisk. The distillery is a relatively new operation in comparison with the established powers, with construction having commenced in 1972 and the first spirit run commencing sometime in 1974.

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The distillery buildings with the kiln chimney in the background.

The distillery was the fourth to be built by the well known company, Justerini and Brooks, after Knockando, Strathmill and Glen Spey distilleries. The intention was for Auchroisk to create a spirit that was similar in character to that of Glen Spey and so an experiment was conducted where water from the well at Auchroisk (which is known as Dories Well) was tankered to Glen Spey to see if the outcome was favourable.

The result of the experiment met the expectations of Justerini & Brooks and the distillery came onstream in 1974 with the task to produce spirit for the company’s famous blended whisky, J&B. J&B was once the second best-selling whisky in the world behind Johnnie Walker, but in recent times has fallen to fifth best-selling in the world with approximately 3.7 million cases sold worldwide.

Justerini & Brooks was purchased some years later by Diageo and is now part of the stable of distilleries under the control of the spirits behemoth.

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The distillery buildings do look like a castle!

Auchroisk distillery is equipped with a 12-ton stainless steel semi-lauter mash tun, eight stainless steel washbacks (with two more to be added in the near future) and four pairs of stills. The character of the new make spirit produced by the distillery varies according to what is needed by Diageo for their various blends at any given moment.

As such, the character of the new make spirit has varied from green/grassy to nutty in recent years given that it is used in several blends including J&B and the Johnnie Walker range of whiskies. Apart from being a vital component in several blends, Auchroisk plays another important role in the Diageo scheme of things.

The distillery is one of several which is used for maturing whiskies from many of Diageo’s other distilleries (another site would be the sprawling Glenlossie/Mannochmore distillery complex) and is able to store up to 250,000 casks in ten huge racked warehouses on site.

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The distillery is a rather busy place due to the scale of the operations.

Overall, the distillery is able to produce up to 5.9 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis and runs 7 days a week at full capacity.

Auchroisk was first released under the name Singleton back in 1986 as the Scottish name was deemed to be too much of a mouthful. It was then replaced in 2001 by a 10 Years Old expression as part of the Flora & Fauna range of bottlings.

In recent years, there have been limited bottlings which included a 20 Years Old expression distilled in 1990 and matured in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, as well as a 30 Years Old expression distilled a decade earlier and matured in refill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.Both were released as a part of Diageo’s Special Releases, with the 20 Years Old expression being released in 2010 and the 30 Years Old expression following in 2012.

Now, let’s get on with the tasting, shall we?

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Auchroisk 1991 21 Years Old (Bottled by The Single Cask, 48.4% abv)

Colour: Straw

Nose: Initial entry presents a green, leafy note coupled with hints of caramelised banana. Mint, heather and honeysuckle also emerge after some time, along with an undercurrent of raisins, which gives this dram a perfumed and almost floral note.

The nose is rather expressive, with hints of the underlying barley notes as well as Japanese green tea (in this case, sencha). There doesn’t seem to be any off notes on the nose and the alcohol seems to be relatively well balanced. (21/25)

Palate: There’s a tiny bit of spice on the palate upon initial entry which is reminiscent of cloves, with lemon citrus and barley sugar intermingling well. The floral notes from the nose are also apparent on the palate, with the heather and honeysuckle particularly prominent.

Mint and a hint of fresh berries appear towards the end along with some menthol, rounding off a relatively lively display on the palate. (22/25)

Finish: Medium in length, with the mint and floral notes particularly dominant. Some of the lemon citrus from the palate makes it to the finish as well. Some coconut notes emerge towards the very end, which is rather surprising. The alcohol burn finally makes an appearance right at the end, but doesn’t overpower the finish. Mouthfeel is slightly drying. (21/25)

Balance: Quite a well balanced dram with an emphasis on the floral and fruity notes. The dram does not require water to be added and is rather easily drinkable on its own. (21/25)

Rating: 85/100

I would recommend this dram to those who would like to try something unconventional and interesting as it is a whisky that exhibits a multitude of different characteristics. It is a rather mercurial whisky that ages rather well, although that is also dependent on the casks used during the maturation process.

The Single Cask bottling of Auchroisk 21 Years Old can be sampled at The Single Cask whisky bar (30 Victoria Street, Caldwell House, Chijmes, #01-25, Singapore 187996) and retails for $37 per dram (plus an additional 10% service charge). The bottle can be purchased at the bar and retails for $422 (plus an additional 10% service charge) if it is savoured within the premises.

The bottle can also be purchased for take away and can be done so for a rather affordable $295.40, which represents a phenomenal 30% discount on the price.

Until the next review, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

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