Don’t be alarmed. It’s not that caststrength.net have opted to balance the sexes by opening the floor up… to a ‘girl’. But I was invited by Neil Caskstrength (my other half) to explain my partial whisky ‘epiphany’ that I had recently experienced.
You see, I’d been asking for a bottle of Auchentoshan Three Wood for a while when Neil Caskstrength presented me with one as a Christmas present last month. This being most unusual for me since I don’t proclaim to be a ‘whisky drinker’, far from it. Over the years I have struggled to enjoy the fine flavours and complexities of whisky on my palate, despite many efforts to overcome this. But there was something different about this Three Wood release when I tasted it last summer at the Taste Of London Festival. Something that actually made me think I could claim this as the one whisky I would like to taste more of and savour on a regular basis.
Auchentoshan - Three Wood - 43%
On first nosing, it seemed so different to the previous drams I’ve tried. Soft, fruity (orange zest, anyone?) and buttery, not that overwhelming kick-back, that a novice whisky drinker senses when approaching a glass. I felt suitably intrigued to go in further and see if this might be something I could enjoy more of. And indeed it was. More of that butter smoothness on first taste, almost a whole Werther’s Original in there, followed by the subtle smoky textures you would expect from a bottle called ‘Three Wood’. Lots of dried fruit notes also grabbed the taste buds, reminding me of some of the Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherries I tried on a recent trip to Porto.
Finally, a Whisky I can definitely envisage myself curling up on the sofa with. It’s been a long time coming but well done Auchentoshan, hopefully this will be the turning point for me and I’ll be able to sample a few more from the Caskstrength vaults with a more open mind to see what all the fuss has been about over the last 3 years!!
Our final dram from this wonderful trip has a special resonance for me. In the past year, i've been putting together a list of birthday whiskies, to enjoy with friends on my 40th birthday. Although it's still 5 years away, i'm a bit of a hoarder and I certainly feel like buying a few decent bottlings now, before the price goes through the roof, just in time for all those folks who turn 40 in the same year. So I picked up a bottle of Linlithgow or, using its alternative name, St Magdalene. The distillery, based in the town of Linlithgow, not a million miles from Glenkinchie fell silent in 1983, along with that other long lost great from the Highlands, Brora.
This Murray McDavid 'Mission' bottling was distilled in 1975 and bottled in 2004, making it 29 years old. The last time I tried a St Magdalene/Linlithgow was in a bar in Cape Town and, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I decided to open this now for a sneaky dram, as my curiosity got the better of me. Let's see where it takes us...
St Magdalene - Murray McDavid Mission bottling - Distilled 1975 - bottled 2004 - 46%
Nose: Very dry and grassy at first, but then leading into some quite pronounced floral notes (jasmine, lillies). A hint of dry oak begins to dominate, but with a drop of water, we return to the floral fruitiness with the merest dash of Rowntree's Fruitgums.
Palate: Initially a little bitter, with the oak again taking precedence, but given a few minutes in the glass, this evens out giving more of the Fruitgums, some vanilla sweetness and a dash of green apple skins. Not very developed, but with a bit of vitality hidden away behind a big oak door.
Finish: The palate dries off to a slightly bitter tannic note, with the remnants of the grassy/fruitiness remaining for a short while.
Overall: I can't help but feel a little let down, although it does possess lots of lighter, softer qualities, which are beaten down by the heavy oakiness. I imagine a younger bottling of this would be rather excellent, in a similar fashion to a younger Rosebank, a distillery which, in my opinion also seemingly doesn't age particularly well. Fortunately, I have a trump card up my sleeve when, a few years ago, I bought an extra bottle of The Whisky Exchange's phenomenal SMS 14yo Rosebank, as modelled here by Mrs Ridley. What a corker, eh... ;-)