The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.
You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years. In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished.
For one thing, it’s not clear if the set of sherry casks were all themselves of the same oak type: if some were European oak and some American oak, the effects of different wood influence might trump the effects of different sherry influence; and if all the sherry casks were American oak then it’s not clear if just three years of double maturation would be enough to impart enough sherry influence enough or if some might not just taste like 12 yo ex-American oak cask whiskies. For another, it’s also not clear if these were true sherry casks or if they were seasoned with sherry. Again, I assume the sherry influence would be more muted in the latter case.
Still, even with these reservations, it’s an unusual experience. The only thing that compares is Springbank’s various sherry cask releases over the years—though those were never (I don’t think) whiskies distilled and bottled at the same time; and I suppose a case could be made for Glenmorangie’s original wine cask releases as well. Anyway, let’s see what this first one is like.
Tomatin 12, 2002 (46%; Cuatro 1: Fino; from my own bottle)
Nose: Porridgy and bready at first (quite yeasty) but there’s fruit below: apples at first and then some tart lemon and lemon zest. Gets muskier as it sits but the sour notes never go away. More of the musky fruit with water and more integrated on the whole.
Palate: Tart fruit from the get-go (not much of the bready/porridgey thing) and some oaky bite. Good texture. With time the fruit gets muskier here too and the bready/porridgey thing appears in a malty incarnation. Let’s see what water does. It pushes back the oak and, as on the nose, ties everything together nicely.
Finish: Medium. Prickly as the fruit recedes and then the sherry separates a little. The sherry separation disappears with water—at first anyway: there it is again at the very end.
Comments: A very pleasant fruit-forward whisky that’s better with water. This is not sherry-influenced in the way that we normally think of sherry influence; until the slight sherry separation on the finish it tastes and noses like an ex-bourbon cask. It will be interesting to see if the others in the series—especially the oloroso and the PX—bear the sherry influence more explicitly. This, I have to say, sort of tastes like the regular 12 yo at 46%. For all that it has the higher abv, I can’t say I like it so much more.
Rating: 84 points.
So not much of the dry saltiness that is, I think, typically attributed to Fino sherry?
I’m tasting it again now and I would say there definitely is some salt on the palate and finish. My notes were taken when the bottle had been recently opened and the bready/yeasty notes dominated. Now that the bottle is down to the quarter full mark, those notes are less dominant and there is more salt to go along with the acidic fruit.
Aha! Would you say it’s getting more salt “in a good way”?
Saltiness is almost always a positive for me, but I suspect that experience is not universal.
Yes. Some of the previous yeasty/dry complex has given way to salt. A little more balanced now. This is salty, I should add, in the way that Clynelish often can be; not briny.