Tomatin Cuatro 3: Oloroso

With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.

It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see.

Tomatin 12, 2002 (46%; Cuatro 3: Oloroso; from my own bottle)

Nose: Starts out dry and yeasty just like the other two but it’s saltier from the get-go and there is a mild leafy note below. With time the dry notes head in the direction of tart apple. A few drops of water and it comes together better with the yeasty notes pushed back and some apricot coming through to join the apple.

Palate: Now this is more obviously sherried in the way that we normally think of sherried whisky. The leafy note carries through here and there’s some raisiny sweetness; the dry notes are here too though. With time the the dry notes come to the fore, the sweetness becomes more simple-syrupy, and the whole gets a bit spicy. Better integrated here too with water and the dry notes are more citrussy.

Finish: Medium. Some sherry separation (as there was on the finish with the Fino and Manzanilla) and it’s sweetest here. A bit of oaky bite too and at the end a bit of milk chocolate. Less oak and more acid with water; and it’s also less obviously sherried now.

Comments: Of the three bottles I’ve reviewed so far, this is the one that’s improved the most after having been open for just under a month. It’s also the one most like what we expect sherried whiskies to be like—probably because, as I said above, when we think of sherried whiskies we’re mostly thinking of Oloroso sherry notes. However, as those qualities go, it’s not particularly distinctive. (On the whole, I preferred it with water.)

Rating: 82 points.


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