Auchentoshan 3 Wood vs Bladnoch 20

May 18th, 2012

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

LOOK – Bladnoch have neither the time nor inclination for fancy ass packaging.  No box, no marketing spiel, and a basic bottle with a basic label.  There is a certain charm to the homebrew vibe, I’ll admit, and you’ve got to love an independent.  The whisky itself is very pale yellow with a slight green apple tinge.  Yes, it looks even more like a bottle of wee than most whiskies.  Auchentoshan have opted for a nicely shaped bottle and clean, contemporary packaging that whispers, ‘whisky ain’t all about fat old men with faces full of broken veins snuffling away in dark-panelled subterranean gentleman’s clubs any more, you know, this is the perfect thing for the Metrosexual business man or, indeed, woman of today.’  A lot of their whisky is also pretty pale but the sherry casks have imparted an appetising tawny brown sort of a colour to this one.  If your wee looks like this, consult a physician.

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.


Coming next – An island clash of the titans – Talisker 18 vs Highland Park 18.

Posted in whisky deathmatch by Joe Abercrombie on May 18th, 2012.

18 comments so far

  • StephenL says:

    Excellent stuff Joe. Breakfast whisky now there’s a thought, I wish I could get away with that, tea and brown bread will have to do. Roll on round 2, bring on the Greyjoy’s.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Very interesting. I must admit I thought you’d go for the Bladnoch (based on the Darcy comment).

  • Michael says:

    “A memory of flouncy tantrum lingers on the lips and refuses to be chased away.”

    Sure you didn’t nick this from Austen??

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I think these are both Bingley.

  • Nicholas D. says:

    Brilliant, sir. Just brilliant.

  • Curtis says:

    Well that was a review that you could almost taste. Well done.

  • Ravenous says:

    Furious wins!

  • AntMac says:

    It just occured to me that you are a Northman yourself!. These are your “homebrews”.

    “Makes a good impression, don’t he, Bingley, but it’s Darcy they remember…”

    Great line.

  • Ronjo I says:

    But then sometimes, maybe most of the time, you just want to cruise along without being sunk at all, don’t you?
    I do not wish a case of the doldrums either. We must remember this is a deathmatch after all. Does not bode well for the AUCHENTOSHAN 3 WOOD in the next match if it is indeed a Mr. Bingley. I cannot see how a good first impression will help when the truncheons come out.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I suspect the 3 wood, pleasant though it is, will have a tough time in the next round. There are some pretty powerful presences among the other ten. But then it is the cheapest bottle out of the dozen. I drink it very happily…

  • evilsteve says:

    This is just too damn cool! As I read I felt…ringside!

  • Tim H says:

    Joe, you almost tempt me to drink scotch again, though I drink only rye whiskey these days. Just like Anne, whiskey is better with an “e” and rye whiskey has two of them.

    Humphrey Bogart’s dying words: “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” (He apparently switched to improve his health. And rye was not readily available after prohibition.)

  • Caleb says:

    Bah. This makes me want to go out and get a bottle of each and mark my own notes down.

  • Sedulo says:

    That was the wittiest and most amusing thing I have ever read about whisky. “Gooseberries?” I was falling over laughing. I look forward to more of these very much. That is a fine edge between respect and mocking and the balance is nearly perfect. Thanks.

  • Smoochie says:

    Like it, like it. Almost perfect; 99% of the way there (and I know you strive hard for that final, elusive 1%, Joe).

    So: it would be great to know the price of them as part of the comparison. You know, to save me valuble seconds googling it.

  • Nicholas D. says:

    How gauche, Smoochie.

  • JMa says:

    So what were the results??? I started running when I heard laughter on the wind that sounded like the Bloody Nine’s….

  • […] Three Wood came out on top in a lowland battle against plucky independent Bladnoch 20.  I described it as, “Companionable Werthers […]

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