Tomatin 16, Distillery Exclusive PX Cask

More sherried whisky but this time sans peat. I purchased this bottle at the Tomatin distillery this June and filled it myself (see here for an account of the distillery tour I took that day). Tomatin seems to regularly have five casks on offer for hand-bottling at their distillery shop. Both on this visit and on my brief stop in June 2017 these casks were ex-bourbon, virgin oak, ex-oloroso, ex-PX and an older cask. Last year I bottled just the ex-bourbon 12 yo. This year I bottled both the current 12 yo ex-bourbon cask and this 16 yo PX cask. This after getting tastes of both of these and the oloroso. This was not matured for all 16 years in a PX cask (does any distillery do full-term PX maturation?). Instead, it spent the first ten years in a bourbon cask and then the last six in PX. That’s well past the cut-off for what I would call double maturation. Anyway, while I liked it enough at the distillery to fill a bottle, when I opened it a month and a half ago I didn’t like it as much: it seemed much too hot. However, when I took it too my local group’s November tasting it had clearly settled down with some more headspace in the bottle and it was the top bottle on the night (everyone but me drinks blind). These notes were taken after that tasting. 

Tomatin 16, 2002, Distillery Exclusive (55.7%; PX cask #34913; from my own bottle)

Nose: Hotter than the strength would indicate, but that might actually be tannic oak rather than the alcohol speaking. Below it there’s cherry, plum and some malt and some cocoa. Gets nuttier as it sits. With time the oak recedes some and the red fruit becomes more prominent. With more time there’s some dried orange peel and that cocoa note expands and becomes more creamy. Water pushes the oak back further and brings out first some citronella and then some really rich notes of plum sauce, apricot and barbecued pork.

Palate: Oaky but not as tannic here to start; all the other good stuff is here: emphasis on the red fruit and there’s a raisiny sweetness as well. As on the nose, with time there’s more citrus here as well. It’s drinkable enough at full strength but a drop or two of water should help it open up fully. Yes, water is very good for the palate as well: the fruit expands (orange, apricot) and the oak takes a back seat; with time there’s some sweet pipe tobacco as well.

Finish: Long. The sweeter notes linger but give way to spicy, gingery oak. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This bottle has really come on since I first opened it, but it still needs water to show its best qualities. Despite the six years in PX this is not overwhelmingly sweet—I’d guess the bourbon cask/s it started out in was/were pretty active. Is it worth what I paid for it? In the abstract, I’d probably say no, but when at the distillery, I’d say yes again.

Rating: 87 points.


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