Distillery Focus

How Low can you go? (Auchentoshan)

The mystery visitor turns his sights on iconic Lowland malt Auchentoshan. Surely he won't savage that, too?
By Mystery Visitor
Apparently the Editor has been getting complaints. Some distilleries have felt that recent reviews have been a trifle harsh, unfair even.But I haven’t been asked to hide my claws, and they haven’t even been trimmed a little. I thought you ought to know that because, as it happens, this report is going to be favourable.So, if you incline to the Simon Cowell school of reviewing, you’d better turn the page now: I’m sure there are some harsh tasting notes towards the back of this issue that would be more to your taste.I try to write about what happens to me, as honestly as I can. Good things happen and sometimes bad. If I find a dirty toilet or an incompetent guide who makes things up (and it does happen), then you hear about it.Shortly afterwards, the Editor hears about it as well but we won’t worry about him.Now Auchentoshan is the possessor of a particularly obscure distinction in distillery visitor centres. Apparently, they had one in the mid 1980s and shut it – which is, I think, unique. It must have been something of a pioneer, so it’s gratifying to see the distillery open again.What’s more, as it’s only a few miles outside of Glasgow and right on the main road to Loch Lomond, it’s very easy to get to. The 10 miles or so from the city centre is a bit of a drag but Auchentoshan itself stands on the edge of some attractive countryside, close to the Erskine Bridge.Apart from being one of the few Lowland malts still in operation (you can also visit Glenkinchie and Bladnoch), Auchentoshan is particularly interesting because it still operates the triple distilling system. For this reason alone you should go and see it.The tour is straightforward enough. You arrive at the distillery, where you can park right at the door (handy in the west of Scotland). A short trip up a spiral staircase takes you into the reception centre, shop and bar.Straight away lots of points were awarded – Whisky Magazine was prominently on display!Tours go all the year round every hour, on the hour, at a cost of £3.50 but you get a discount voucher worth £2 on any purchase more than £20 and a small dram at the end so it’s pretty fair value.Though pleasant enough, there isn’t much to see in the reception centre, unless you enjoy looking at bottles of Bowmore at £4,000.Auchentoshan is part of the Morrison Bowmore group, so the whiskies on sale include Bowmore and the lesser-known Glen Garioch. Bowmore gets a surprising amount of space, but I suppose it’s the star here. After that, it’s the usual clothing and gift ranges.However, I arrived smartly on the hour so there wasn’t much time to linger. As it turned out I was the only visitor so, having paid, off we went. It is, I have to confess, getting harder to simulate ignorance on these trips especially when the guide can focus exclusively on you.My job was made easier, however, by the excellent graphics that are laid out through the distillery. There’s a diorama showing peat being cut; some convincing mock up furnace doors and clear explanations of malting and whisky making.The distillery itself is compact, but immaculately presented and a credit to the owners. The tour route is completely logical and my guide was clear, coherent and accurate in her descriptions and the answers to my questions. Unfortunately, there’s no warehouse access yet, but they’re working on that and by the time this is published you should get into one of the dunnage warehouses before stopping off for your dram.My only criticism is the lack of even limited catering facilities but they’ve even beaten me to that – a small café will be opened next year.So I haven’t just been nice for the sake of it.Perhaps one or two of the moaners should beat a path to Auchentoshan to see how tours should really be done!Auchentoshan Distillery, by Dalmuir, Clydebank,
Glasgow G81 4SJ. Tel: +44 (0)1389 878 561