A Sipping Tour through Scotland - The Lowlands
31-01-2017 By Whisky of the Week

Take a virtual whisky sipping tour through all the Scottish regions with me. In this series, I visit all the Scottish whisky regions and look at what makes each region unique. Join me in visiting the different distilleries along the way and taste a few amazing drams.

It is quick flight from London to Glasgow. Only 1 h 20 minutes and you step out into one of the largest cities in Scotland. Glasgow grew from a small rural village on the River Clyde to one of the largest seaports in Britain. It is the first stop on our virtual whisky sipping tour through Scotland. Glasgow is a bustling city with many things to do. Glasgow houses The Mitchell Library, Scotland’s largest public reference library with the world’s greatest collection of Burn manuscripts. It has a bustling nightlife, and plenty of historic places and in whisky terms, it lies to the left of the Lowland region.

The Scottish Lowlands is the part of Scotland that is closest to England. The Scottish Lowlands in general produces gentle, light bodied, unpeated whiskies. The common taste characteristics for the Lowland malts is a gentle, sophisticated palate reminiscent of grass, florals, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon. However, each distillery interprets ‘light and gentle’ in its own way.

Lowland distillers include Daftmill, Bladnoch and Girvan. Girvan is a grain whisky distillery in South Ayrshire owned by William Grant & Sons. But first to a distillery a mere 30 minutes from the Glasgow city centre. Auchentoshan is located on the outskirts of Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire near the Erskine Bridge. It is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still triple distills its malts. Triple distillation was fairly common in the Lowland region up to the nineteenth century, perhaps due to some Irish immigrants. Now, very few Scottish distilleries triple distill their spirit.

Auchentoshan Distillery

Auchentoshan is owned by Morrison Bowmore which is a subsidiary of the Japanese Suntory company. The Auchentoshan core range includes the American Oak, Three Wood, a 12 Year Old, 18 Year Old and a 21 Year Old whisky. Auchentoshan is known for malty notes, citric fruits and a hazelnut character.

Let’s taste the Auchentoshan Three Wood which was matured in three different cask types: first American Bourbon, then Spanish Oloroso Sherry and finally Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. This gives the Auchentoshan Three Wood a rich and complex feel with toffee and sherry flavors. There are notes of liqueur cherries in dark chocolate, ripe dark fruits of the forest, dark treacle and chewy wood. It is rich and delicious; a dram to savour and watch the world hurry by. Whisky sipping is a slow affair, so it is easy to spend the afternoon relaxing at the beautiful Auchentoshan distillery; however, there is a second stop on our virtual sipping tour.

Auchentoshan Three Wood

From Auchentosan, it is not too far to another interesting distillery which is well worth the drive. Thirty minutes to the north lies a distillery that distills whisky in the Highlands, but matures it in the Lowlands, close enough for a quick visit. Glengoyne Distillery has continuously been in operation since its founding in 1833. It is located on the Highway Line, an arbitrarily drawn line between the Scottish Highlands and the Lowlands. Glengoyne Distillery is set in green fields to the south. The popular West Highland Walk Way passes close by and hikers regularly stop by for a visit. It is small in scale but charming and inviting.

Glengoyne Distillery

Glengoyne is known for their slow distillation process and fruity notes. They use unpeated malt and the Glengoyne character is closer to the Lowland spirits than to the smokier Highland spirits. Their core range includes a variety of drams from 10 Year Old to a 25 Year Old. They also have various Travel Retail releases and Special Releases.

My favorite from their range is the 21 Year Old, so let’s try that. The Glengoyne 21 Year Old (http://whiskyoftheweek.co.uk/glengoyne-21-yo/) is matured in first fill European Oak Sherry casks for 21 years and is perfect as an after dinner drink. It has notes of sultanas, hazelnuts, dried fruits, cinnamon, oak and barley balanced with fresh fruit. The finish is long and lingering and it ends in notes of oak and ginger. Simply delicious! Rich and thick it makes you wish for a fireplace and some snow outside.

Glengoyne 21 Year Old

After the relaxing afternoon tasting at this Highland Distillery, it is time to venture back down to the Lowlands. Back to Glasgow for the night and tomorrow morning an early drive to Edinburgh.