Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 10

10 12 2015

My immediate thought upon pulling out tonight’s whisky was:  “Again?”  Hadn’t I just seen this bottle before?  Well, yes and no.  Day 4 featured another scotch from independent bottler Gordon & Macphail’s Connoisseurs Choice range, the 1999 Ledaig.  Tonight’s bottle, six days and five whiskies later, featuring a slightly differently shaded but otherwise identical label, was the 1996 Auchroisk, at 18 years the oldest whisky of the calendar to date (quick tangent: the age figure on a whisky denotes its period of maturation and ends at bottling, so this whisky, bottled in 2014, is an 18-year rather than a 19-year in whisky-speak).  As this is a totally different scotch from a totally different distillery and region (the Ledaig was from the Isle of Mull, while the Auchroisk is from Speyside), I suppose I have no grounds to have felt a twinge of disappointment at seeing the familiar label come out of the box, but I think I would try to keep any and all similar bottlings as far apart from each other in the Advent order as possible.  That said, don’t think the presence of both the Ledaig and the Auchroisk in the Connoisseurs Choice lineup makes them kindred spirits or anything; the Gordon & Macphail website lists 152 different CC whiskies, so it’s not exactly an exclusive club.

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Auchroisk (actually pronounced “oth-rusk”) was built rather recently in distillery terms, in 1974, and is found in the northeast of Speyside, which itself is in the northern part of Scotland.  This bottle states that whiskies from Speyside “are known as the ‘Premier Cru’ of Single Malt Scotch”, which I have literally never heard anyone say, and which might well cause a revolt in the other regions, but who am I to doubt a label slogan?  The ’96 oth-rusk was a pale watery lemon colour and went through an instant metamorphosis on each sip from nose to palate.  It smelled flowery, like potpourri, and soapy, like Thrills gum, with clear vegetal notes, sharp salinity and a lingering Brie cheese aroma (the latter two of which made me write down:  “sherry casks?”  Answer:  yes.).  But it was much more approachable, comforting and pleasurable once you tasted it, sweet and spicy, balancing cornbread, orange and tangerine fruit flavours with charred oak, smoke and pepper, but finishing deft and pure rather than bitter.  I can’t decide if the two-faced nature of the whisky made it more interesting or more annoying or both, but at $140 even that uncertainty is a problem.  Quite happy to have it in 50 mL form, however.  40% done the spirit blogging marathon!

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