Mid-1970s Tomatin is as close as you come to a sure thing in the single malt world. Of course, a lot of people say that it’s 1976 Tomatin that’s the sure thing, but, as I’ve noted more than once before, that’s mostly romantic thinking about magic vintages. Anyway, it’s not like Tomatins from even 1976 are easy to find anymore; indeed, the entire decade seems to be exhausted now, with most available casks either bottled as singles or probably blended away. And I’m not referring only to Tomatin—when’s the last time you saw casks of Longmorn or even BenRiach show up in quick succession from the indies? And the little that comes available now costs a king’s ransom. And the tedious, old refrain: just a few years ago this was not true. As it happens, I passed on a chance then to purchase this bottle for not very much money (relatively speaking).
But who knows, maybe there are casks from the late 1980s and early 1990s as well from Tomatin and Longmorn et al that will also astonish us all when they get bottled between 25 and 35 years of age. Of course, I will probably not be able to afford any of those.
Tomatin 25, 1975 (58.2%; MacKillop’s Choice; from a sample from a fellow whisky geek)
Nose: Toasted oak, wood glue, buttery pastry and then the fruit starts to emerge: citrus at first (orange, lemon) and then some peach and apricot. But it stays pretty tight—even after five minutes in a covered glass. Okay, let’s give it a little bit more time and air. The wood gets a little dustier, a little spicier but here comes the fruit now for real: peach and apricot at the top but below them are more intoxicating tropical notes: mango, some papaya, over-ripe plantains; all with honey drizzled over. I bet water is going to put this over the top. Fruitier and creamier as it goes and a bit spicier too. Okay, time to add water. Gets a lot brighter with water and the wood gets pushed back. Softer too now but not finally any fruitier.
Palate: Whoa! The palate does not need any water to put it over the top: the fruit pops as it hits my tongue and then it explodes: tropical fruit cocktail everywhere. And quite a bit of pepper too behind it. On the second sip there’s a lot of ripe guava as well. And it’s still pretty hot: I look forward to a few drops of water slowly opening this up even more. But wait a lot of time in an uncovered glass softens it up nicely too and brings out even more of the fruit (sweeter now and more buttery). Water brings all the fruit together and pushes the pepper back; there’s more buttery oak now, getting spicier as it goes.
Finish: Not terribly long at first, but that’s due to the strength. At first it’s mostly the pepper and some slightly spicy wood that hang around as the fruit dissipates. With more air the fruit begins to hang around longer and longer and longer. With water the spicy wood makes a comeback.
Comments: Great fruity whisky—right in line with the few other mid-1970s Tomatins I’ve had, and very reminiscent as well of Longmorns from the general era. I wish I had a whole bottle to drink down slowly and experiment with to get the air/water thing down right (I think I waited a bit too long to add water).
Rating: 91 points.
Thanks to Jerome for the sample!