Whisky Deathmatch 2012 kicks off with a Lowland battle. Lowland whiskies are traditionally delicate and subtle. Perhaps a little out of fashion with the popularity of all that muscular peaty stuff, there are only five lowland distilleries working today, though with some more on the way, apparently. Bladnoch, which takes great pride in being the southernmost distillery in Scotland, was mothballed for a while before being bought for conversion into holiday homes. The new owner had a change of heart, though, and decided to go back into the whisky business. While waiting for new stocks to mature, they’re keeping things ticking over by releasing old stocks, which means you can pick up a nicely aged Bladnoch pretty cheaply. This 20 yr old is the most aged readily available. Auchentoshan, which takes great pride in practicing the traditional lowland method of triple distillation, is a more established outfit, Glasgow’s local distillery. Their no-age statement Three Wood sits in the upper middle of their standard range, and has spent a bit of time maturing in Sherry casks as well as the usual Bourbon ones. Two different sherry casks, in fact. Hence Three Wood. Geddit?
Auchentoshan Three Wood – 43% ABV, £37.95
Bladnoch 20 – 46% ABV, £43.49
SMELL – The Bladnoch is very mellow, with a squishy tropical fruit sort of vibe. Ripe green melon? Lilt? A whiff of the jungle. The Auchentoshan is more sweet-shop-y. Toffee and caramel memories of me childhood and a bit of a woody note edging in on the end. Three woody notes, perhaps…?
TASTE – The Bladnoch – Mellow, still, very much so considering it’s bottled at 46%, but a zingy tartness emerges. Gooseberries? That lemon barley water stuff they always used to have for the players at Wimbledon and they’d never drink it. A slightly petulant, acidic edge, perhaps. A memory of flouncy tantrum lingers on the lips and refuses to be chased away. The Auchentoshan – soft and creamy, sweeties, marmalade, then a woody backbone comes through at the end. Easygoing. Such pleasant, easy manners, like Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. Makes a good impression, don’t he, Bingley, but it’s Darcy they remember…
CONCLUSION – Bladnoch 20 – Soft and delicate with squishy melon and lurking cynicism. Recommended PoV – Finree dan Brock. Auchentoshan Three Wood – Companionable Werthers Originals with a three-woody backbone. Recommended PoV – Collem West. Both very drinkable, inoffensive lowland malts. Good breakfast whiskies, perhaps. Something to get you over the hump before elevenses. Neither likely to blow you out of the water. But then sometimes, maybe most of the time, you just want to cruise along without being sunk at all, don’t you?
RESULT – The Auchentoshan is supremely easy drinking, perhaps to the point of flirting with blandness, but also happens to be the cheapest whisky out of the dozen. The Bladnoch is still pleasant, and not a lot more expensive – I’ll certainly be interested to see what the distillery produces in due course – but that slight acidity doesn’t jive so well with me in this case.
The Winner – AUCHENTOSHAN 3 WOOD.
Coming next – An island clash of the titans – Talisker 18 vs Highland Park 18.