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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Single Malt Report: The Singleton of Auchroisk 10 year old 1985 (US release)

The Tale

Auchroisk distillery is younger than many of my readers. In 1972, Justerini & Brooks (aka J&B) started building Auchroisk in Banffshire, but before the year was over the company was bought by Watney Mann which in turn merged with Grand Metropolitan. Construction completed in 1974, and Auchroisk has been used primarily, often entirely, for blends (including J&B) ever since. Today the distillery is surrounded by "ten, huge racked warehouses with the capacity of storing 250,000 casks and further planning application for another four has been approved," as per The Malt Whisky Yearbook. Either Diageo thinks this spot has prime maturation climate for its many distilleries' casks, or it's some cheap open land.

The Bottle

Like Monday's Singleton, this Singleton of Auchroisk also has a quirky age statement.

You can't really see it from the above photo, but the bottom label tells a similar story as the 1981's. (Whiskybase has this info as well.) I'll just repeat what I wrote yesterday because it's the same tale:

Distilled in 1985, bottled in 1997.......10 years old? One of four things is happening here:
1. Bad Math
2. Casks were dumped into steel in 1995 or early 1996, thus the whisky had only aged for 10 years.
3. There is some 10 year old whisky in the mix, that was not distilled in 1985
4. The brand wanted to keep the 10 year old age statement on The Singleton range. So they called it 10 years old, which doesn't actually break any rules because the whisky is in fact at least the age stated on the label. If they had said it was a 15 year old, then it would have been a violation of SWA laws.

Got it? Cool. I obtained a sample of this from an SCWC event two years ago. Time to drink.

The Review

Distillery: Auchroisk
Brand: The Singleton
Ownership: Diageo (Grand Metropolitan, at the time)
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: at least 10 years old (1985-1997, see above)
Maturation: ex-sherry casks
Bottling year: 1997
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered: Maybe
Colorant Added: Maybe, but not much

Note: I tasted this side by side with the 1981 Singleton to gain some perspective.

The nose has a lot of bright dried fruit notes from the sherry cask, especially golden raisins and dried apricots. There's also some celery and musty funky barrel notes in there. And just a thin floor of vanilla bean. The palate begins with mellow milk chocolate, black tea and prunes. Very little sweetness to it. With time it sharpens up. Black peppercorns, tart cherries and a hint of bitter coffee. It finishes with a nice sherry cask feel, reminiscent of recent GlenDronach 12. Some cherries in dark chocolate. Black grapes and a peach. More spicy than sweet.

I think this could be compared favorably to GlenDronach 12yo overall. The sherry/European oak cask notes are rich and focused. It doesn't have the subtle peat note that the 1981 had, but the '85 does have a bit of funky old whisky character to it. I liked it a lot. It's not smooth nor is it sweet, so I can imagine it wasn't a crowd pleaser 19 years ago. Sadly this was the last vintage they put on the 10 year old before it became vintage-less, and then was plucked off the market soon after. I recommend this vintage over the 1981 and it's probably equivalent, in my irrelevant estimation, to a $40-$50 whisky if you ever see this gathering dust on a shelf.

Availability - Secondary / auction market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85