Tobermory 18, 1994 (Wilson & Morgan)


Let’s start the month with a review of a malt from a distillery that is probably one of the most acquired of tastes in all of whiskydom, and a taste that I have not yet quite managed to acquire: Tobermory. The two Tobermorys I’ve liked the most have both been from sherry casks (this 19 yo from The Whisky Exchange, and this much older one from Alambic Classique). I’ve not fared as well with ex-bourbon Tobermory, where the idiosyncrasies of the distillate really get a chance to shine. I’m not a fan of the official 10 yo and nor was I particularly enthused by the 17 yo from Glen Fahrn that I reviewed in January—though I did find things to like about it. (It’s a different story with their peated variant, Ledaig, which I’ve been getting more and more into in the last few years—both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon.)

Well, let’s see how this 18 yo goes. 

Tobermory 18, 1994 (57.3%; Wilson & Morgan; cask #1661007; from a purchased sample)

Nose: That familiar porridgey note but it’s overlaid by honey and lemon. A bit of rubber/plastic rises up through the sweeter notes and it starts getting a bit like a freshly opened can of tennis balls. Some of the usual vegetal bitterness begins to appear too now. It’s an odd mix but as it sits it all comes together and works together somehow. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out more of the lemon and quite a bit of malt.

Palate: Leads with the honey and lemon here too but then the bitter notes come crashing on through: plasticky, vegetal, rooty and also a bit tarry. This would almost work as bitters in a cocktail. With more time the sweeter notes expand and the bitter notes move more in the direction of bitter lime zest. Let’s see what water does. It makes it sweeter and less bitter still.

Finish: Medium. The bitter notes fade faster than I expected they would, letting the citrus and cereals emerge again at the end. A bit sweeter here too with time. As on the palate with water and the finish is longer now.

Comments: Ah, Tobermory—not exactly my cup of tea but one of a kind, to be sure. That’s worth something. And picking up on an aside in the notes above, I wonder if cocktail mavens have come up with ways to work Tobermory’s idiosyncratic spirit in with other flavours.

Rating: 84 points.

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