You see, I wrote a review of a couple bottles of Auchentoshan. Specifically, the 12, Three Wood and the 18 (click here). I was not gentle in my opinion. And I stand by it with respect to the super mediocre Auchentoshan 12 and the shamefully overpriced and uninspiring 18. But, I erred with respect to my comments concerning Auchentoshan Three Wood.
The Three Wood I had tasted was musty, of damp wood, bilge water, black coffee and pickled beets. My whisky club friends agreed that the Three Wood was . . well . . . pretty dreadful stuff. And guess what? The bottle we had was terrible.
So, where am I going with this?
I received many comments on the Auchentoshan review I posted, and a fellow "JK" suggested that maybe, just maybe, I had a flawed bottle of Three Wood. JK is in Los Angeles and also belongs to a whisky club. Other comments he has made on this blog suggests that he knows quite a bit about whisky. Bottom line: I respect this dude's opinion, and when he tells me that maybe I got a flawed bottle, I gave it some serious thought. To ignore JK's opinion is up there with dismissing out-of-hand Ben Bernanke's public musings on the direction of interest rates.
Accordingly, I inspected the Three Wood bottle I had. There was no cork floating around in it. There was no bad odour. Just that damn mustiness on the palate. Tasting of bad wood. The master distiller at Auchentoshan could not have blessed this bottle, I thought. Well, there was only one way to find out.
Moses would not be impressed.
Stocking a shelf was a pot bellied, 50ish, seriously grey haired, ex-hippie judging by his hair pulled back into an unkempt ponytail, yellow stained fingers, black tee-shirt, and jeans. He had some tats on his knuckles too. He was kinda of a what you would get if you crossed Ron Jeremy with Jerry Garcia, if such a same-sex mating was possible in some bizarre alternate universe.
"I want to exchange this bottle. It's flawed," I said.
"It's flawed," I repeated. Somebody's short term memory is seriously gone.
"Whadya mean it's flawed?" said Mr. Cannabis.
"It tastes bad. Musty." I was gonna add that it tasted like cat pee, but I feared he would ask: How do you know what cat pee tastes like?"
"I never heard of scotch going bad," Captain Bud replied.
"Well, it's bad. Taste it. Check it out. I just want another bottle." I thought about hitting him over the head with it, pulling the cork and shoving it in his mouth for a taste. I mean what's the harm? He wouldn't remember the experience an hour later. But, wisdom got the better of me and I continued the highbrow banter.
"So, you don't want your money back."
"No. Just another bottle."
There was a painful pause.
"Okay, I can do that."
. . .
Back home, free of Mr. Hippie, I settled into my lazy-boy, poured a dram of Auchentoshan Three Wood and was pleasantly surprised. The mustiness and beet preserves on the palate were gone.
Peat and floral. Really floral. Fragrant.
Sweet, smooth entry of chocolate, hazelnuts, malty notes, with oak and subtle orange rind.
Sherry/raisin, black grapes and peat. Some black coffee.
The Auchentoshan Three Wood price point where I live is $63. Too much. If this was $44, I would be all over this malt like a bra on Salma Hayek. Anyhow, at this price point, I feel I am paying too much. I require more complexity and refinement. That being said, this is a good, decent malt that is pleasing. It delivers its constituent flavors of oak, malt, milk chocolate with a zing of peat and orange rind quite well. Kinda reminds me of a really good, well put together blended scotch.
We should all remember that whisky is an organic compound that is susceptible to damage due to excessive heat, light, maybe cold, broken seal, air or bad cork. When you get a bad bottle, it may not be readily apparent. If it tastes seriously bad, maybe it is flawed. Err on the side of caution and take it back to your retailer and tell them you don't want your money back but rather another bottle. Usually as soon as they hear that you don't want a refund, you are representing to them that you are not some sort of a scammer. If they still resist tell them that hey, you paid good money for a product that is defective. The primary function of whisky is to deliver great flavor. If you buy a TV that doesn't work, what do you do? You return it. And that is just what you are doing with a bottle of defective whisky. Moreover, they can get a credit from the sales rep for the distillery so that they are not out of pocket. How can they argue with that?
Quality Assurance Issues?
What makes me hesitant to buy another bottle is the past experience of a friend of mine with the Three Wood. James bought a bottle a couple of years ago and regarded that experience as contributing to one of the worst single malts he ever tasted. James, I must say, is not a fussy single malt consumer. He's your average joe consumer. He tends to like it all with rare exception. So, was his bottle from a couple of years ago flawed too? I dunno.
All this talk makes me think of Woodford Reserve, a bourbon that had problems a few years ago with quality assurance. Lots of flawed bottles were making it to market. I bought one so I have direct knowledge of this. Click here for a discussion thread on the Whisky Magazine Forum on this issue. Apparently, Woodford Reserve has addressed this problem.
So, the $64,000 question is: Are there any significant quality assurance issues with Auchentoshan Three Wood, or just my bad luck?
If you have had the misfortune of a bad bottle, post a comment and let me know.
In any event, I like the current bottle of Three Wood I have in front of me this evening. And, I like it more when I can pick it up at a good price. This is not earth shatteringly good whisky. It's the Teacher's Highland Cream of single malts. What I mean is it's good single malt to chill out with. Put that brain in neutral and watch TV, stare at the beach, read a book. Listen to some Jerry Garcia too, but no, do not imbibe in this and watch any film featuring Ron Jeremy!
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission, except photographs of Ron Jeremy and Jerry Garcia. Those photographs are reproduced here pursuant to a Creative Commons License. Specifically, photograph of Jerry Garcia was taken by Carl Lender. Photograph of Ron Jeremy was taken by Nate Igor Smith. Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.