In 2017, I took part in no less than five tastings and masterclasses at Christiansen’s Fine Drinks & Cocktails. Since I really enjoyed each and every one of these experiences, I came out of hibernation rather early this year to make sure I would not miss the afore-mentioned bar’s kick-off event for 2018. Under the guidance of Beam Suntory’s Whisky Brand Ambassador Tanja Bempreiksz, me and over 15 other drammers got treated to six delicious sips from three different Scotch distilleries owned by the Japanese-American mega-conglomerate: Auchentoshan from the Lowlands, Glenrothes from Speyside and Ardmore from the Highlands. Before we savored the first whisky, however, we oiled our palates with another pour, namely a Gin Tonic made with Suntory’s new Roku Gin.
While we enjoyed this exotic welcome drink, Tanja briefly recited the “Whisky 101” to make sure everyone was on the same page. Backed by well designed PowerPoint slides, she took us on a trip through Scotland’s differing whisky regions, filled us in on the industry’s key terminology and walked us through the individual steps of the distillation procedure. Admittedly, this was nothing new for me and most of the other whisky enthusiasts in attendance. Nevertheless, I always cherish such recaps as pretty good means of staying up to speed. And when they are accompanied by a longdrink as nice as that Gin Tonic we were given earlier, time flies and the fun doubles…
Our whisky journey then began in the Lowlands, about 20 miles outside of Glasgow. Auchentoshan – who are the only Scottish production unit taking pride in triple-distilling every drop they bottle – are a rather small distillery. Yet, they rank among the best-selling single malt producers in all of Caledonia. The reason: Unlike most of their competitors, they do not give any of their output to blenders and thus their entire production counts towards their single malt account. From them, we had the savory American Oak and the sophisticated 18 Years Old, both of which were smooth, fruity, malty and pleasing. As Tanja pointed out: “Auchentoshan is a whisky you can have at ANY given time or occasion”!
Next in line was Glenrothes, a rather big Speyside distillery that predominantly functions as a provider for blends. Among others, their distillate goes into the recipes for Cutty Sark, Ballantine’s and Chivas Regal. However, their light but creamy whiskies have lately also caught the attention of single malt fans, who hold both the distillery’s core range and their limited editions in high esteem. We started with the Sherry Cask Reserve, which had the most beautiful nose of all the drams we tried that evening, and contrasted it against the Peated Cask Reserve, which received an additional finish in Islay casks. I really loved the interplay of the fruity, spicy and phenolic notes in the latter!
The last two drams of the evening came from a distillery that often seems to fly a bit under the radar. Although Ardmore is a real working horse producing over 5,000,000 litres of alcohol per year, they rarely seem to get the recognition they deserve. Maybe that is because they were never conceived as a stand-alone unit, but were originally created for the sole purpose of being a supplier for Teacher’s (which remained their main business activity to this day). Or it is because they have a likeliness to fall between the cracks by creating a whisky that is not peaty enough for the Islay fans, but too smoky for many of the Highland connoisseurs. One way or another, Ardmore is one damn fine distillery as both their entry-level Legacy and their well-aged Port Wood Finish showed. Personally, I would not have minded if the 75-minute event had lasted a bit longer, so that we would have had more time to learn additional details about the expressions in our glasses. But that is just a minor issue. Cause at the end of the day we still got six nice whiskies and lots of fun for an unrivaled fee of 25 Euro! Slainte… and see you at Christiansen’s upcoming Talisker cruise in February!
Roku Gin (Gin / Japan / NAS / 43% / ~25.00 Euro)
Auchentoshan American Oak (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 40% / ~25.00 Euro)
Auchentoshan 18yo (Single Malt / Scotland / 18yo / 43% / ~75.00 Euro)
Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 40% / 37.00 Euro)
Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 40% / 43.00 Euro)
Ardmore Legacy (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 40% / ~20.00 Euro)
Ardmore 12yo Port Wood Finish (Single Malt / Scotland / 12yo / 46% / ~50.00Euro)
Auchentoshan @ Web: https://www.auchentoshan.com/ (Distillery)
Glentrothes @ Web: http://www.theglenrothes.com/ (Distillery)
Ardmore @ Web: http://www.ardmorewhisky.com/ (Distillery)
Christiansen’s @ Web: http://www.christiansens.de/ (Location)