Saturday, March 13, 2010

Review: Auchentoshan 12 year old - Single Malt Scotch Review

I had this a couple of weeks ago at a whisky tasting.  It was the second one up.  The first dram was from the Glen Scotia distillery and was unremarkable.  The Auchentoshan was very malty and even had some complexity I thought.  So, I made a mental note to buy a bottle and review it.

I bought a bottle even though a friend of mine, James, had mentioned that the Auchentoshan 10 year old was one of the worst single malts he has ever had the misfortune of tasting. 

Price Point
I paid $54 for a bottle.  Very reasonable in my part of the world for a 12 year old single malt.

Nose (undiluted)
A little smoke, very malty, faint pine needles.

Palate (undiluted)
Ridiculously smooth.  Definitely malty.  Cloves, sweet cinnamon sticks and the slightest taste of spices.

Finish (undiluted)
Oak.  Very subdued zing of ground pepper and quite grainy.  How a single malt can be grainy on the finish is beyond me.  Especially odd when you consider grain alcohol does not make up a single malt.

Add Water?
I did.  The results were not an improvement.  It became slighlty bitter.

General Impressions
Not impressed.  I feel like I wasted some money on this scotch.  I expected something more.  It did not live up to my recollection of the scotch tasting.  When I buy a single malt, I expect flavors that are superior to blended scotch in the same price range.  Not true in this case.  I'd take Chivas Regal 12 year old over this any day of the week.

It is not a horrible whisky, just sweet, malty, flat and boring.  There is nothing to this one.  It is an ingredient single malt in Ballantines Finest, and quite frankly, I would also drink the latter over this.

When I compare this 12 year old single malt to other 12 year old single malts, the disappointment deepens.  Highland Park 12, Cragganmore and others are light years ahead of Auchentoshan 12.

Who should buy this? 
If you have never tried a single malt scotch, I could understand trying this as a novice scotch fan and enjoying it.  Why?  Because of the smooth texture, the complete lack of any offensive flavors, virtually no peat flavor (novices rarely enjoy big peat flavors) and just a little spice and smoke on the finish to let you know that you are drinking scotch and not cherry Coke.

Auchentoshan scotch regardless of the particular bottling, is triple-distilled like many Irish whiskies.  The result is a very smooth scotch.  If you prefer Irish whisky over scotch, this may be one you will enjoy.  It shares many common characteristics with Irish whisky like Bushmills.

Auchentoshan 12 year old (which replaced the old 10 year old bottling) is not terrible.  It has no 'bite' or 'roughness' but no memorable flavors.  Again, this is one for someone new to scotch or for the ladies.  Guys, if you are caught sipping this, I and others are gonna wonder where your purse is.

For me, I detected little complexity of flavor whatsoever.  For unabashed scotch fans, who like some intrigue and challenge, skip this Plain Jane and continue your search for a Jayne Mansfield. 


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.


  1. Hello Jason,

    Good to see your quality, un-biased, honest reviewing. Too many spirit reviewers will cream themselves at just about anything with proper "motivation", and it is good to see someone who has not "sold out". You, frankly, are really my favorite, most relateable (is that a word?) fellow whiskey reviewer, and I'm not just buttering your buns by saying that.

    The Auchentoshan 12 yr sounds like something I may have enjoyed more (well, not all too long ago...) as an entry into scotch in general. Now I can really see how the serious scotch drinkers, such as yourself, can claim certain whiskeys as "boring": It's not for snob-appeal afterall! I believe the first single malt I ever tried was the Glenlivet 12 yr, and since then after searching for different scotchs, have taken your advice more than once. I'm currently a big fan of very peaty/smokey scotch, such as the Ardbeg 10 yr as a more "everyday" scotch, but also enjoy some of the speysides. Anyhoot, keep up the good work!!

  2. I've seen this malt on the shelves often with a decently sized discount. Thanks for the warning, I'll be staying well clear! Any recommendations for Bushmills? I'll be visiting the distillery in May.

  3. Hello Yochanan! A guy like you who is a serious Ardbeg fan will certainly find Auchentoshan 12 year old to be a bit boring. It has virtually no peat and scant smoke in terms of flavor. Glad you enjoy the reviews!

    Raithrover, Bushmills 12 year old Distillery Reserve is great. The Black Bush is also worth a tasting, but it is another one that can get a tad boring. Avoid the Busihills White label as it is another snoozer.

    Enjoy the tour!


  4. Hi Jason,

    Hope all is well.
    Have you tasted the 18?

    Best, Arturo

  5. Hello Arturo!

    I have not tried the 18 but hear it is quite good. I will have to review it at some point.


  6. I wish my brother-in-law had read this review. I opened a can of worms then I bought my son and by brother-in-law each a single-malt this spring for their birthdays. My son, the blended scotch drinker, got a bottle of 12 year old Glendronach and my B-I-L, the single malt 'snob,' got a bottle of Jura Superstition. The Glendronach was a big hit with all involved (most of us being single malt neophites.) B-I-L was impressed and I was converted when we tasted the Jura. 6 months later I gave mum a Singleton of Glendullan and I received an Auchentoshan 12 year old. The most common comment about the Auchentoshan was it tasted 'strong.' The truth is quite the opposite; it comes across with a grain bite without any whiskey character to back it up. B-I-L summed it up as 'a cognac with a smoky finish.'