We had three good reasons to celebrate our visit to Auchentoshan Distillery on the last day of March:
1. It was our first outing of the year;
2. We were joined on the second day of their honeymoon by newly wed members Erik and Laura Burgess; and
3. We were the first people to sample Auchentoshan’s new 18 and 19-year-old malts due for the market early NEXT year.
Our sojourn into the Kilpatrick countryside got off to a pleasant start at The Pot Still. On a quiet Saturday lunchtime we were the only customers, giving the premises the feel of our own private club. The short drive to the distillery found us in a neat cluster of whitewashed buildings in bright sunshine. Lunch was a bowl of warming soup and platefuls of man-sized sandwiches, but strangely, club members missed the tray of 10-year-old Auchentoshan sitting on a bureau. We were soon to make up for that omission.
Distillery manager Ronnie Learmond was to be our guide and talked us through the visitor centre and training room, which was also the venue for Ceilidh nights. First stop was the mash room where Ronnie explained the process, which heralds the start of the Auchentoshan journey. We enjoyed a glass of the 12 year old as we listened. Then it was through to the tun room where the four wooden wash backs have pride of place.
Our second dram overlooking the three stills was the Three Wood, triple distilled, as are all Auchentoshan malts, but gaining character from its immersion first in bourbon, then Oloroso sherry and finally Pedro Ximinez casks.
Next up was the 21-year-old hogshead, a bright copper coloured dram with a palate of mint and chocolate and a long smooth finish chocolate. Sipped in the cool of the warehouse, this was a warming and satisfying dram.
The best was held to the last, though, as we gathered in one of Ronnie’s offices, a small room lined with some of the older products from the range, with a small bar area. Ronnie produced samples from two casks that had been drawn that week and invited the club to become the first outsiders to try the brand new products to be released for sale next year. Both at cask strength for our tasting, the 18 and 19 will be reduced to 43% before being sold. Both were magnificent, with the 18 perhaps edging it in the favourite stakes, while the 19 had been finished with a brief flirtation in port pipes.
Our final dram with Ronnie was an 18-year-old Limited Edition. Only 4800 bottles, but every one a winner.
Time for a last dram in the shop and the purchase of a few mementos before rounding off the day back the Pot Still where we tried to persuade Erik and Laura that 10 days in Mallaig would be more fun that their intended destination -Mauritius!