Tomatin 12, 2005 (Distillery Only)

After a couple of stops in the eastern Highlands (at Glencadam and Fettercairn) let’s take the bourbon cask train back to the northern Highlands, to Tomatin. Tomatin is the southernmost of the distilleries usually grouped in the northern Highlands—south of Glen Ord, Teaninich, Balblair etc. and quite a bit south of Clynelish and Pulteney. It’s also actually further south than a number of Speyside distilleries. But all of this is neither here nor there.

This is one of my more timely reviews, being of a whisky bottled this June. But it’s still not very useful as it was bottled by hand, by me in the distillery shop—it’s not available for sale outside the distillery (except at auction, I suppose). The shop (my report on which you may remember) had five casks available for filling bottles from in June. They kindly allowed me to get tastes of whatever I was interested in, even though I had not done a tour, and this 12 yo ex-bourbon cask was my favourite. It was my first time filling a bottle at a distillery and I don’t mind telling you it was very exciting. This is my first time drinking it since tasting it at the distillery and I’m interested to see what I make of it now that the excitement is behind me. 

Tomatin 12, 2005 (58.3%; bourbon hogshead #2709; hand-filled at the distillery; from my own bottle)

Nose: Polished oak, wood glue, waxy citrus, pineapple and malt. With time the wood glue expands and is joined by some vanilla/pastry crust. Water pulls out more of the vanilla/baked goods complex.

Palate: Pretty much everything from the nose and in that order. Rich mouthfeel and very drinkable despite the high strength. The citrus gets stronger with every sip and the mango from the finish joins it and the pineapple here. Stickier with water and the texture gets oilier.

Finish: Long. The fruit expands here and gets more tropical (mango) before spicy oak shows up for the finish. Longer still with water with some brown sugar and some pine joining the party.

Comments: Very glad I filled a bottle from this cask. This is as Tomatin as you could ask for. It’s not hard to imagine this distillate maturing into an old-school fruit bomb if put away in a second-fill cask for a couple of decades. Of course, with an oloroso cask and a PX cask also available alongside this one—to say nothing of a virgin oak cask and a 25 yo—this was the least tapped of the casks when I was there in June. I got bottle 94 from this cask; meanwhile the two sherry casks—which tasted more generically sherried—were much further along. It’s no surprise then that Tomatin is not releasing ex-bourbon casks more widely; peat and sherry is where it’s at. But if you make it to the distillery, do check out whichever ex-bourbon cask they have (I assume this one must be getting on at this point).

Rating: 88 points.

Okay, I will close out the month on Wednesday with the last of this run of bourbon cask whiskies, going further north still.



20 thoughts on “Tomatin 12, 2005 (Distillery Only)

      • Gotcha. So what idea are you getting at near the end where you make the “least tapped” comment about the casks’ relative levels?

        Maybe I’m just confused. Thanks.


        • Oh, I see what you’re getting at. You’re right that maybe there is no comparison to be drawn from the relative levels. However, blowing up the original picture of the five bottles (see the Tomatin distillery visit report), I see that the oloroso cask is cask 5218. As per Whiskybase, it seems to have hit the distillery shop in 2016. However, the label on the filled bottle in my picture says it’s bottle no. 519. Whereas mine was bottle no. 94 from the ex-bourbon cask. Depending on when the oloroso cask started being filled at the shop, that could still support my hunch that the sherry casks are more popular; or it might possibly mean that the ex-bourbon was actually being drawn down faster (if it got to the shop not long before me). But here’s another piece of evidence to throw on the pile: there’s another bottle from my cask on auction here. It was filled almost exactly 3.5 months after mine and it’s bottle 171. So in that time only 77 bottles of the ex-bourbon were drawn (and that in high tourist season).

          Interestingly, the casks at the shop are all the same size, which would also seem to imply that there are two of these oloroso casks (the casks in the shop are too small to yield 500+ bottles). I’d guess they transfer the hand-fill selections to dead casks so that they don’t age unpredictably over their time in the shop.

          I guess I could email the distillery and ask them if they can shed any light on whether their sherry hand-fills are in fact more popular than their ex-bourbons.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Tomatin, and a chance to sniff around some new casks in the cooperage, a couple of years ago. I would have drawn from the ex-Bourbon cask too, had I not been cycling. Peat and Sherry can be extremely generic but a good Bourbon cask can achieve a very palatable fusion after twelve years. The old 15yo was especially good: lots of white chocolate and green plum.
    There is something winningly honest and individual about Tomatin, despite the Cu Bocan and expensive recent vintage release stuff. I always find myself wishing them well.


  2. Peat and ex-sherry always sell better better than ex-bourbon. Sometimes I think people don’t actually like whisky.

    I’m not sure why you classify Tomatin as a “north Highland”–it’s on the Findhorn, well southeast of Inverness, which makes it a Speyside in my book. Whatever you call it, it sounds interesting–I’ll make a point of checking it out next year.


  3. One year on and the casks are largely the same – 5 year old virgin cask, 12 year-olds bourbon and sherry, 16 year-old PX finish, and 27 year-old bourbon.

    Tasted all of them and I too preferred the 12 year-old bourbon to its sherry sibling, if only slightly. However, I had just bottled my own at Balblair the day before (which was a bourbon cask), so I got a bottle of the sherried Tomatin in order to have more diversity in my haul.


    • That sounds like the line-up when I was there in mid-June. Despite having purchased the ex-bourbon last year, and also having purchased the ex-bourbon Balblair cask a week previous (I really liked my taste from that cask at the shop), I purchased a bottle of this ex-bourbon too, as well as a bottle of the PX cask—which I liked more than the oloroso.

      I’ll have a writeup of my Tomatin tour (just the basic one) up in a few weeks. I’ll be interested to hear what the more detailed tour adds on.


      • My tour was two and a half hours long – in the beginning I imagine it’s similar to the basic one, with a walkthrough of the process. We did get to see more warehouses, and the main attraction was the tasting at the end, which consisted of new make and the five casks that are available for bottling. I also got to try the 14 year-old, 18 year-old, and Cu Bocan from their core range. The guide was good though not particularly experienced, but was very generous with his offering of samples as the latter three were not officially part of the tasting.

        I’ll wait for your report and add more details if necessary.


      • Oh, also in terms of popularity, he did say that the Virgin Oak, Oloroso and older bourbon are the more popular ones during tastings, and the Virgin Oak and Oloroso are the most bottled ones in the shop.


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