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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Auchentoshan, Glasgow, Scotland

While we lived in Aberdeen we didn’t get to Glasgow much, and with so many distilleries on our doorstep in Speyside and the rest of the Highlands it seemed I would probably never get to this one. However we took a brief holiday in February 2011 and landed in Glasgow airport late on a Friday night and decided to stay in hotel in Glasgow rather than drive the two plus hours back to Aberdeen. The next morning a detour via Auchentoshan was negotiated and agreed with Tammy and my daughter. I really liked this tour, they allowed our daughter to come along and it was just the three of us on the first tour of the day. The tour guide was knowledgeable and the tour was detailed, even explaining in considerable depth the complex triple (well more like 2 ½) distillation process unique to Auchentoshan in Scotch whisky. They also had some unique features on their tour, for example they allowed me to taste the fermented wash right out of the washback prior to distillation. I found it tasted like apple juice or rough cider but soured with some vinegar, brought back memories of the short lived Cider Gate in Exeter in the early 1990’s. They also allowed you to hit a barrel in the warehouse with a sledgehammer to pop the bung out! All good fun.

Did some tasting at the end of the tour from the Auchentoshan family, but had to restrain myself as I had to drive for next couple of hours and we ended buying a bottle of the 18 year old (as well as an unusual bottle of Drambuie made with 15 year old speyside whisky).

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Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

When I planned my recent business trip to Canada I had my heart set on visiting my first Canadian whiskey distillery. I had expected / thought / hoped it would be Forty Creek as that is the whiskey that completely and forever changed my opinion about the possibilities of Canadian whisky. Sadly, with my schedule and limited visiting times at the distillery during the fall and winter I had to rethink. Thanks to Johanne McGinnes (aka the Whiskylassie) I was introduced to Barry (and Barry) of Stillwaters and found my way to their industrial unit in the suburbs of Toronto.

While not a formal distillery visit / tour, Barry (but not Barry, he was busy) was kind enough to spend some time with me and show me around the place. Like most craft distilleries this part did not take long. We discussed (distilled perhaps?) their journey via vodka, independent Scotch bottlings, gin, single malt, brandy and finally (and perhaps saving the best until last) the bottling of their 100% rye expression which was ongoing when I arrived.

I had tried the Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength single malt on a Twitter Tasting (also organized by Johanne) and while I liked it there was nothing about it that stood out for me, other than its youth. However I had heard “good things” about their rye and as a “rye guy” I was happy try it. Glad I did. I did not take notes but recall vividly that the nose was rich and fruity and the taste had all the spice, fruit and chocolate notes I have come to love in ryes.   Well balanced with a herbal, minty finish I was impressed. Will definitely pick up a bottle if it ever makes to Texas. I also re-tried their single malt and at 46% ABV and found it better balanced than the cask strength (for my palate) and would happily have drunk more but for the plane home I had to catch.

So with a Canadian notch freshly carved into my distillery bedpost I now have to find a way to get to Japan so I can say I have been to the “Big 5” of whisky producing countries; Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada and Japan.

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