This is the oldest single malt whisky I’ve ever had, or am about to have (I’ve had an older grain whisky). Of course, this does not mean that this will be the best whisky I’ve ever had. Still, it’s hard to resist the experience—especially when European retailers sell 60 ml samples for such reasonable prices. By the way, there has been a fair amount of Tomintoul of this general age/vintage around in the last few years. I guess some broker found or came into an old parcel of casks that were surplus to blending requirements. As Tomintoul is not one of the most storied distilleries in Scotland, prices for these casks have been relatively reasonable. (In fact, the last two Tomintouls I reviewed were also very ancient ones, though one was overpriced.)
And as Tomintoul makes a light, fruity spirit its malt also seems theoretically well-suited for overlong maturation—though as alluded to above, the odds of whisky being good tend to reduce once they get past the 40 yo mark; after a point, unless a cask goes dead, odds are high that the oak will overpower the whisky or that it will just go “flat”. Well, let’s see how this cask fared. It certainly hasn’t dropped as close to the minimum allowed 40% abv as you might imagine it would have by this point.
Tomintoul 45, 1968 (47.8%; bourbon hogshead; Chester Whisky; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Oh, the nose has certainly not gone flat: very fruity with overripe bananas, some guava and papaya too. With more time there’s some citrus as well (lemon). Surprisingly little oak given the age. With more time there’s some vanilla and some buttery pie crust. A few drops of water brighten the nose up with the citrus rising to the top.
Palate: Less intense on the palate but not flat here either: slightly metallic and more spicy/tingly but there’s toned down fruit here as well along with very mild herbal or rather rooty hints. The texture is just a little too thin. The wood starts showing up earlier with more time, but it’s mostly in the form of an increased spiciness—there’s no tannic grip per se. With more time the vanilla and butter start showing up on the palate too. Later still, the metallic note begins to expand—okay, time to add water. Water pushes the metallic thing back and, just as on the nose, pulls out more citrus but thins out the other fruit.
Finish: Medium-long. The fruit keeps on for a while and it gets a little sweeter and then, finally, at the very end the oak makes its presence felt. Water turns the oak/spice to pepper (yes, I know pepper is a spice).
Comments: Well, given the low, almost minimal wood impact it seems quite likely that this cask went dead very early in the maturation process (or it was a nth refill cask to begin with). Anyway, this is not terribly complex but it’s a very pleasant, very drinkable, very smooth whisky. The nose is the best part but the rest is very far from bad too (though it’s a little more generically “very old whisky” there—I know, I deserve to die). It’s still available at the original retail price at a few places in Europe.
Rating: 87 points.