Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Lowlands/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year

January 31st, 2013

Auchentoshan 1979 Oloroso Sherry Matured, 50.5%, $550

There is a common misconception that lighter styles of single malt whisky, such as those distilled in the Lowlands, cannot cope with maturation in sherry casks without the distillery character being totally overwhelmed, resulting in a one-dimensional, sherry-laden dram.

This cask strength 1979 vintage expression from Auchentoshan, distilled on October 22, 1979 gives the lie to such views, as it has managed to AU_LE_1979_BotBoxCO-hiAuchentoshan Oloros Sherry 1979LRsurvive with its integrity more than intact for 32 years in former sherry casks, and first-fill oloroso sherry butts at that. It is a textbook example of sherry wood maturation at its most sympathetic.

When it comes to sherry cask aging, Auchentoshan already has lots of form, as Auchentoshan Three Wood — matured initially in bourbon barrels, then in oloroso sherry butts, and finally in pedro ximenez sherry casks — is a notably popular element of the core range, while sherry wood-matured spirit is a component of the 21 year old expression.

Additionally a limited edition, cask strength 18 year old from oloroso casks is still to be found in some outlets, and a number of well-aged vintage releases from suchcasks have taken place over the years. The oldest house bottling of Auchentoshan to date, a 50 year old 1957 vintage, was also aged entirely in oloroso wood.

Clearly, the triple-distilled Lowlander from the banks of the River Clyde has enough presence to thrive in sherry casks when the wood in question is chosen well. Oloroso casks probably have a greater effect on the character of maturing spirit than any other, and they give the Auchentoshan 1979 expression a rich amber color while adding muscularity to the body and dark, spicy fruitcake and toffee notes to the classic Auchentoshan orange, lemon, vanilla, and mildly herbal house character.  —Gavin Smith

Whisky Advocate’s Distiller of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

18 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Lowlands/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year”

  1. Whiskylassie says:

    I was very fortunate to try the 1977 version at a society tasting last year! Absolutely divine and all our members really appreciated it.

    Later in the year the heel was auctioned off and my husband won! We brought it over to the inlaws for Christmas. I look forward to having a few more drams and will not feel guilty finishing the bottle! Great Whisky is meant to be drank and enjoyed.

    Truly a special dram 🙂

  2. Gavin Smith says:

    Many thanks for your feedback – very pleased you enjoyed the 77 version. Quite agree abour drinking great whisky and not letting it gather dust on a shelf!

  3. Eric says:

    Did I miss the memo from the SWA on reclassifying regions, i.e. lumping Campbeltown in with the Lowlands? Or Did WA just do this for us on their own for our benefit?

  4. Gavin Smith says:

    As you are obviously aware, the SWA has not made any such reclassification. WA chose to combine the two regions for the purposes of this award due to the comparatively small number of releases emanating from them. However, the two regions retain their separate identities in the Buying Guide.

  5. Rachel Barrie says:

    De-light-ed! This was an amazing whisky to create, probably the fruitiest multi-layered oloroso sherry matured single malt I have ever encountered in my years of whisky-making . Glad you thought so too Gavin and Whisky Advocate. 🙂

  6. Gavin Smith says:

    Glad you’re pleased Rachel. It was a great whisky and I look forward to many more from you!

  7. I’m not surprised but very happy. This is a truly wonderful Auchentoshan. In my tasting notes ( I called this one ‘Graceful’ and states that this was one of the best things to come out of this Glaswegian distillery of late. Very happy that the true pros think so too. Well done, Rachel. Credit where credit is due!

  8. To have Lowlanders and Campbeltowners in one category – I don’t know. They are so different. I understand that due to the low numbers of distilleries in those regions, combining them makes sense, but certainly not character-wise…

  9. OudErnest says:

    I’d like to see “best buy” or “value” picks for each category for us common folk.

  10. Rick Duff says:

    While it sounds lovely,
    at almost $40 for a mini-bottle size portion
    I can buy an entire bottle of something else decent.

    • Rick, very true, but as price was not an parameter for determining the award, it plays no part. And ‘something else decent’ is quite different from something outstanding that is honored as Best Single Lowland of the Year.

      • Rick Duff says:

        Didn’t say it didn’t deserve it or that price should play a part in the award.

        I just am not friends or personally know anyone that would pay that kind of money for a drink, and honestly I wouldn’t care to. If the reviewers or the magazine actually had to pay for their samples, maybe they’d care a little more about the VALUE aspect what they were reviewing. That’s just my editorial comment though. My original comment wasn’t a knock at the whisky’s being chosen, it simply was an observation on price.

        • OudErnest says:

          Well said. That’s been my knock, along with the fact several winners are not sold in the US. This is analogous to a restaurant blog that reviewed the best new restaurants in a city for the year and the vast majority of the places honored were very impossible to get reservations and incredibly expensive and out of reach of most people. Or Rolling Stone picking the top ten music releases of the year and most are hand-pressed limited edition albums sold only by the artist at high fees.

          • Danny Maguire says:

            It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, that would apply. Most normal mortals can’t afford the prices some of these are.

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