Sep 172015
 

Tomatin 40 y.o.059

42.9% abv

Score:  92.5/100

 

This is the apex of the Tomatin range, both in terms of true age-stated lordship and pure ‘intrinsic quality’ (to borrow an apt but overused phrase from our mate Ralfy).  Not a malt you’re likely to come by easily – or affordably, for that matter – but one that certainly stands as an extraordinary offering from this Highland distillery of recent reknown.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the folks at Tomatin have blitzed the market in recent years with an ever-growing range of age-stated and non-age-stated expressions.  Unfortunately however, the latter seem to be coming more to the forefront, and several of the numbered releases are being shelved indefinitely.  This seems to be the ‘worldhood of the world’ in whisky spheres lately.  I’ve not deigned to review the NAS offerings (as regular readers will no doubt understand), but have tried to shed a little light on the rest of the range over the last week or two.  As none of these malts were new to me, there haven’t been a lot of surprises.

In short, the brand is still one that bores me.  Most of the releases I’ve tried have been mediocre at best and quite depressing at worst, but older Tomatin shows that it is a malt that benefits from prolonged maturation.  The 25, 30 and 40 are all quite special in their own right.  Younger than that, though, and I’d generally take a pass.

Seeing as this long gone 40 year old was a very small run of only 1,614 bottles, it’s unlikely that too many folks out there will ever get their hands on a dram of it, and that is truly a shame as it is a really, really nice whisky.  If you do get a shot at it though, this is the one expression in their stable that offers a glimpse of greatness.

Details, for those interested:  A vatting of seven ex-bourbon hogsheads, distilled in 1967 and bottled in 2007.

Nose:  Oh wow.  So sexy.  Very mature.  Oily delivery and immediately has me wrapped around its finger.  Waxy.  Gorgeous fruits that are taking us right into tropical territory.  Pepper and polished wood.  Old cabinets of books.  A little bit of cherry and some latex.

Palate:  Yes!  Tropical and lovely.  Big threads of cherry or pomegranate.  Five Alive with grenadine.  Baking spices, clean grains and soft vanillins.  Incredibly balanced palate.  This is what makes older whiskies incomparable.

Thoughts:  This is right in my wheelhouse.  A beautiful nose and an equally lovely palate.  This is harmony.

* Thanks to Andrew Ferguson at KWM for the chance to try this one.  Slainte!

 

 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:56 pm
Sep 142015
 

Tomatin 30 y.o.009

46% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

So…like almost any malt whisky, prolonged maturation tends to bring out the best in Tomatin.  Yes, I am aware that this is a gross generalization, but it’s at least one that bucketloads of empirical research on the part of yours truly supports.

The age-stated range in the sub 25 year category are all somewhat below par and a little disappointing in my opinion.  The 25, however, was a bit of a revelation (as the price still hasn’t climbed into the stratosphere by that point), and the 30 falls in similar territory (albeit you’re now creeping up a little in regards to cash outlay).  Initially these two malts were priced in close proximity locally, but I think there’s a little more divergence nowadays.  Even the 40 year old came in under $1,000CA when it arrived.  I think it might be a slightly different story if it were to land now.

This 30 year old distillery bottling bears some superficial similarities to its younger sibling (the 25, that is), but think of it like an adopted child that takes on the outward appearance of the adoptees.  This one carries itself with a little more heft and is a slightly ‘darker’ malt than the its contemporaries.  To be a little more clear: the 25 and 40 share a deeper thread of tropical vibrancy that, while still noticeable in this expression, is a more periphery characteristic and somewhat outplayed by the drier tannic profile.  Still a special malt (especially coming from a distillery that I find to be anything but special overall), this one is well worth the price tag if you find it in the low $300s.

I should note, too, that this is another of the ‘archived’ expressions.

Nose:  Nectarine and jammy / syrupy notes.  A nice, spicy nip.  Some bittersweet tang here; almost Five Alive-ish.  Or tropical Lifesavers candy.  Substantial wood.  More on soft, doughy baking spices than the mature fruits of the 25.

Palate:  Almost tropical here too.  Tangy and juicy delivery, before it starts to get a little sour.  Very much something I dig.  Orange and mango.  Ok…it IS tropical.  Just a little too tannic, but not enough to damage the score.

Thoughts:  A toss up between this and the 25 as to which I prefer more, but I think I lean towards the younger one.  Probably a case where a little more research is required.  😉

*Thanks to Andrew at KWM for the sample.

 

 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:54 am
Sep 112015
 

Tomatin 25 y.o.081

43% abv

Score:  90/100

 

This was a really, really pleasant surprise.  I remember being slightly underwhelmed with this one when I tried it in earlier days, but stacked up against the full range it was one of the superstars of a recent sit-down tasting.  There are some stunning old cask notes that blend with the sort of fruits you only get in really mature malts.  The whole comes together magnificently, to be honest.  It’s not without its little bumps, but those are swept away by the overall excitement of something that is more than the sum of its parts.

I’m assuming, since the bottle doesn’t say otherwise, that this quarter century Tomatin was matured entirely in ex-bourbon.  Typically their expressions will be clearly marked if finished or matured in something else.  Not only that, but the nose positively reeks (in all the right ways!) of fine old bourbon barrels.  I think this, other than the spectacular 40 year old, is the best of the Tomatin standard age-stated range.

For the life of me, though, I simply can’t wrap my head around the 43% abv.  Even the 18 was released at 46%.  I think this would have been a point or two higher if served up at a higher bottling strength.  Not that we’re greedy, mind, just that the flavours are so much more vibrant that way.  Oh well.  Still a great malt.

Nose:  A touch of paint and old book.  Poached fruits in syrup…with a dusting of cinnamon.  Peach.  Maybe a little raspberry.  Jam on scones.  Malty, with some chocolate.  Vanilla and polished wood.  Mild and quite attractive overall, but there is one very small off note in there.

Palate:  Those mature, tangy fruit notes are right up front.  Stone fruits, mango, papaya and a little bit of pineapple.  Some sexy old smells of…well…awesome.  Hard to describe as anything but ‘mature’ (kinda dunnage warehouse-esque.  Those lovely tart and tangy notes run all the way through.  Vanilla and malty barley.

Thoughts:  Yes!  Now we’re there.  Finally a Tomatin I can get behind.  Not perfect, but I could be convinced to work on this relationship.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:48 am
Sep 102015
 

Tomatin 18 y.o.019

46% abv

Score:  84.5/100

 

Ok.  Without even tasting this I can tell we’re finally moving in the right direction with Tomatin.  The nose on this 18 is miles ahead of both the choppy 12 and the rather milquetoast 15.  In fact I’d almost think this was an Aberlour if nosed blind.  Not quite a’bunadh territory, to be clear, but Aberlour nevertheless.

The Oloroso influence here is really the main talking point.  The bottle indicates that the malt is ‘finished in Oloroso’ (so not a full blown maturation), but it’s a seriously lengthy finishing period.  Whereas the 12 is a 6-9 month finish, the 18 is two and a half years in sherry butts.  Even so, the sherry notes are more mighty than expected and quite well integrated.  The heft of fruit and earthy tobacco notes kinda makes me think these were wet fill barrels though.  Just speculation on my part.

The unfortunate thing is that the palate simply doesn’t deliver what the nose advertises.  Bad, by no means, but certainly a lot sharper than expected.  And that bitterness?  Hmmm…not quite working for me.  All in all, a slightly unbalanced drink with a better than expected nose.

Nose:  Biscuits and jam.  Freshly milled grains.  Big sherry notes.  At cask strength I’d think we were in Aberlour territory.  A little berry and cherry.  Tobacco and spicy cedar.  Quite lush.  Vanilla cake with thick berry coulis.

Palate:  Fruity and spicy delivery.  A lot of wood.  Coffee notes, with a bit of chocolate.  With a bit of sharp bitterness.  Not nearly as pleasant as the nose.  Too tannic.  Like eating berries with some of the greens or stems still attached.  But…still quite solid.  Some ginger, pepper and apple skins.  Toothpicks.

Thoughts:  This could be much more special at cask strength.  And the nose is miles ahead of the palate, but still solid.  The nose actually hints at barrels older than 18 years.

 

 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:42 am
Sep 092015
 

Tomatin 15 y.o.014

43% abv

Score:  80/100

 

Here’s the big brother (or maybe sister?) of the Tomatin 12 year old we looked at yesterday.  This time with a couple more years of relaxation in wood, and a slightly different cask composition.  Tomatin elected to forego the disharmonious sherry finish on this one and leave the malt a little more ‘exposed’.  Meaning we see the spirit draped in only the gauzy trappings of bourbon barrel influence.  Normally this would be more to my liking, to be honest.  In this case, however, I’m kinda feeling like we’re still not seeing much more from Tomatin than generic mediocrity.  Can’t say there are big outright flaws, but this is a tight malt that takes way too long to bloom.

Perhaps I’m not alone in these sentiments either, as it seems this one has been pulled from production.  The Tomatin website refers to the 15 year old as now ‘archived’.  To be fair this is not a ‘bad’ dram, but it simply doesn’t cast a big enough shadow to distinguish itself from a bunch of other relatively entry level malts.  The 15 is no great loss, and fortunately things do take a step up with the 18 year old.  More to come on that one.  In the meantime…

Nose:  Slightly floral with a touch of pepper.  Apple and spice.  Ginger.  A lot of woody spice.  Some soft jammy notes build with enough time in the glass, but almost too late.  I don’t want to wait 25 minutes after pouring to enjoy a dram. Still an off note.  Like biscuits left in the oven just a minute or two too long.

Palate:  Some peach here that isn’t prevalent on the nose.  Apple too.  A decent amount of ginger and cinnamon.  Fruit leather.  Somewhat wine-y, but still fruity.  Something here is not working for me though.  Quite drying and tannic.  Leaves fruit skins as it fades.  Smooth enough, but should be a bigger abv and fruitier at this age.

Thoughts:  A tiny step up from the 12 year old (I think), but still not a lot of personality.  On a positive note, at least this is a smoother drinker than its younger sibling.

 

 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:56 am
Sep 082015
 

Tomatin 12 y.o.009

43% abv

Score:  79/100

 

Often touted as a great ‘value’ malt, Tomatin has made a huge splash in the whisky world over the past couple of years.  The black, red and white seems to be taking over.  The shelves in our local spirits retailers sag under the weight of an ever-growing range of expressions, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Bruichladdich’s heyday.  This isn’t to compare the two, however, as they’re simply night and day in so many ways.

At the time of writing I’ve worked through the age-stated range (reviews of all coming this week), the peated variants, some of the cask-finished expressions, single casks and even a raw cask sample, and I hate to admit it, but until you hit the quarter century mark, this brand is just not very exciting.  Not only that, it has some rather overt blemishes.  Poor spirit cut may be what is giving those solventy notes, I’d guess.  That or dead and sluggish over-used bourbon barrels perhaps, which haven’t given or taken enough.  The bourbon base with sherry finish seems a little incongruous here and somewhat out of balance; kinda like those home vatting experiments so many of us have tried (who has one of those little barrels?).

Perhaps I’m less forgiving than some others out there, as Tomatin 12 retails for about $60 locally.  I’ve read mention elsewhere of this one selling in the $30 US neighbourhood.  For that price I’d be a little more inclined to see why others are so supportive (even if still not being willing to buy it myself).  At $60 though?  Pass, thanks.  There are way better deals to be found on way better malts.

Nose:  Slight solvent notes. Dough and dry flour.  Kinda gristy.  Smells younger than 12 years old.  Apple pie.  Cinnamon, ginger and pepper.  A mishmash of unidentifiable fruit, but not very lively.  Maybe fruit candy, at that.  Malty.  A smooth toasted vanilla note.  Develops some toffee notes over time.

Palate:  Pastry with fruits and spices.  Orange zest.  Some loud notes from the cask; sherry influence for sure.  Something seems off here.  There is a dry, woody tartness that is not working.

Thoughts:  Meh.  More character than the big ‘Glens’, but more glaring flaws too and nearly double the price.

 

 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:15 am
May 052013
 

Tomatin Cask Sample (A.D. Rattray) Ref #9111005 - Copy

?% abv

Score:  89/100

 

Here’s another quirky one, posted for no other reason than that it’s my site and I can.  A cask sample that hasn’t been locally bottled.  What good is a review like this, you may ask?  Well…it’s not, really, if you look at these little jottings as a potential shopping guide.  If, however, you’re looking for some entertaining education and a bit of whisky nerdery…read on.

Several months back, a good mate of mine, Jonathan Bray of Purple Valley Imports, brought this Tomatin cask sample by.  It was sort of a ‘tack on’ to a private A.D. Rattray range tasting we were doing that night at my place.  A few of the usual suspects crowded around conspiratorially and gloated over many a glass of rare and exceptional whisky.  Y’know…just the average evening with friends ’round here.  😉

On to the whisky…

ADR does things the right way; bottling strong, clean and exceptional malts pulled from distilleries all over the rolling green of Scotland’s distilleries, as well as from owner Tim Morrison’s personal stores of whisky.  For a little more on this, check out a previous ATW piece here.

But…sometimes a certain cask isn’t quite right for a certain market.  Samples are pulled from barrels, and ultimately a decision is made as to whether or not it is ready to be bottled, and where it should be allocated.  In the case of this particular Tomatin cask, I have little to no information.  I do believe Jonathan mentioned it having been bottled for another market, but I haven’t seen it personally.  What I wouldn’t give to try the official ADR release against this advance sample.  The development of whisky through all of it’s stages is one of the things I take huge interest in.

As you can tell by the photo above…there is an awful lot of particulate in this whisky.  Those are bits of cask sediment.  Quite literally, pieces of the charred inner staves of the barrel it was aged in.  We’re not talking miniscule floaties here, as you can see.  These are large chunks of wood.  How delightfully archaic and authentic.  Love it.  Now that’s a high fiber manly malt.  I have one other similar bottle (complete with particulate) from a recent tour at Laphroaig.  I wax sealed the top of that one, and plan to leave it for years to come.  Should be an interesting malt to revisit at some point in the decades ahead.

Anyway…

Let’s talk about Tomatin.  This is a Highland distillery that is on a bit of an upswing of late.  The market has seen an influx of those snazzy red, black and white boxes (12, 15, 18, 30, 40, Legacy, Decades).  Nice to see some variety.  Keeps the game interesting.  I’ve tried the first three mentioned, as well as the Decades, and truly have trouble reconciling those OBs with this single cask.  This is exactly why the single cask market exists.  It is bloody fascinating to see just how much all the factors of the process (including vatting good and bad casks together) affect the end product.

This \tomatin sample has got a warehouse date stamp of 12/Jan/2009, but when this was actually bottled and where it ultimately ended up are a mystery to me.  Fun stuff.

Nose:  Can’t recall ever nosing caramels and florals so intertwined.  Fudge and soft chocolate.  Orange.  Maybe blueberry.  Nutmeg on eggnog.  Heavy cream.  Hint of smoke.  Touch of almond.  Fairly mature, I’d guess, by the rising bread dough and vanilla notes.  Very, very integrated.

Palate:  Enormous loud arrival.  Prickly and peppery.  Coffee.  Mixed chocolates.  Some very tight greens at play for a brief bit.  Develops a little doughy again.  Not quite up to the nose, but still brilliant.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:14 pm