Auchentoshan Distillery Visit

by Oliver Klimek on June 3, 2010

After my week on Islay I spent three days in Glasgow. Glasgow? Wasn’t there a whisky distillery somewhere nearby? Actually I had passed it when the coach from Kennacraig came into Glasgow on the Great Western Road, not far from Erskine Bridge.

To be honest, after having seen eight Islay distilleries in just four days I originally wanted skip Auchentoshan, but then the virus came back, and I went for it nevertheless.

Auchentoshan distillery can be easily reached from central Glasgow by taking the 66 bus until the very end at Mountblow Loop. The distillery smokestack can be seen from the bus stop, but don’t make the mistake to take the street that seems to be the direct way which turns out to turn away into a completely different direction. Just walk up to the dual carriageway ahead and follow the footpath alongside, you will be at Auchentoshan within a few minutes.

Today, Auchentoshan (meaning corner of the field in Gaelic) is fully integrated into the suburbia of Western Glasgow. Not the most romatic surroundings you can imagine, but the site istelf is rather nice looking. Old distillery buildings and a few warehouses are dispersed on a spacious area that even boasts a small pond.

I had arrived on time for the first tour at 10. And it turned out to be another private tour, which I found rather amazing given the short distance to the biggest city of Scotland. Very unusual for a distillery tour, I was offered the traditional free whisky right at the beginning as a warm-up dram. Like at Bowmore, the bar is located upstairs of the visitor centre. Seems to be a Morrison Bowmore company policy, I wonder if it is the same at Glen Garioch. You can buy drams from the other distilleries there, too.

The Auchentoshan distillery tour tries to educate visitors more about whisky basics than the Islay distilleries. You learn about the Scotish whisky regions, the malting process, and they even have little replica of a kiln oven to demonstrate the making of peated malt.

The mash tun has less than half the volume of the standard 60000+ l sizes commonly found on Islay. Washbacks are made from traditional Oregon Pine. I happily accepted the offer to taste the fermented wash which seemed quite sour compared to the ones I had tasted on Islay.

As most of you will know, Auchentoshan is the only distillery in Scotland that triple distills all of their spirit. I have heard speculations that the reason for this were some early connections to Ireland, but I think this was more a deliberate decision to create a spirit that is unique among Scottish distilleries.

I asked the tour guide if the distillery had plans to take advantage of their three stills for experiments with other distillation methods (double or 2 1/2 like Springbank). Much to my suprise, the answer was that they were actually thinking about that but no final decision had been made yet.

The stillhouse is very small, and I had trouble fitting all three stills on a picture. Production is rather low compared to other distilleries (1.6 million litres a year) and I was told they don’t procude for blends anymore.

Again like at Bowmore, the warehouse shown at the tour has a small “vistor corner” with some old cooperage tools, but unlike on Islay, I was actually allowed to enter it. Auchentoshan use a mix of bourbon and sherry casks as well as some wine cask for their new 17yo Bordeaux finish.

Sadly the standard 12yo at the beginning was not followed by second free dram, but I decided to pay for a dram of the Three Wood anyway which I had not tasted before (no tasting notes, quite nice, but a wee bit watery).


The distillery looming in front of Erskine Bridge. Don't walk this way!

A little surprise nearby

Probably the prettiest yeast store in all of Scotland

The entrance of the visitor centre

The mash tun

Washback made from Oregon Pine

Anorak fodder - The yeast

Three stills crammed into the tiny stillhouse

Gotta love those shiny spirit safes

A glimpse into the wash still

An ill-lit warehouse

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Ian Thomas June 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Looks like you found a little gem of a distillery there. I now know what to expect in August when I travel there for the whisky festival. If your ever in Scotland again the Edradour distillery (smallest legal distillery in Scotland) is well worth the visit along with the Glenfiddich distillery. Both have excellent tours and tastings.

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