The shape of this bottle tells you that this is not a current release from Tomatin. This harks back to a simpler time when Tomatin’s core portfolio consisted of three straightforward and very fairly priced malts: a 12 yo (one of the great values in malt whisky back in the day), this 15 yo and the 18 yo. In recent years, however, there’s been a big overhaul. The bottles have become more squat, and presumably more premium, in shape and the line has expanded drastically. While the 12 yo and the 18 yo made it into the revamped line, the 15 yo—matured in refill bourbon casks—has been dropped. Instead there’s now a 14 yo matured in a combo of bourbon and port casks. (I have not had that one—if you have an opinion on its merits, please share it below.) The old 15 yo—and it’s not that old as is evidenced by the rectangular label—can still be found in the US, however, and sometimes even at the old reasonable price not far above $40. And so this review is not as pointless as you thought. Joke’s on you.
Tomatin 15 (43%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lemon, a bit of pineapple, musky malt; a little grassy. Very pleasant indeed. The fruit expands as it sits. Water pushes the fruit back and pulls out a bit of toffee.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but with a little more oak. Good texture at 43%. Nothing new with time but also no drop-off. With water there’s less oak but the fruit gets washed out a bit too.
Finish: Medium-long. The fruit builds, gets a little muskier, and then some pepper joins the party. Gets oakier with time. Less oak here too with water and the fruit pops back out again at the end.
Comments: If I can find more at the price I paid for this in November, I think I’m going to need to sock another bottle or two away before it disappears completely from local shelves. You may think that my spare notes above don’t justify this enthusiasm but it is flawless whisky of its type: light, fruity, slightly grassy. Complexity is great but you don’t need complexity every night. This is a very pleasant easy-drinking malt, just perfect for the summer months, and also perfect for guests who enjoy a nice whisky but don’t want anything too hardcore. Oh yes, in case it wasn’t clear, water is unnecessary.
Rating: 84 points.
When I was a student, Tomatin did a tasting for my university whisky society. In a line up that included the 30YO, the 15YO was my pick for exactly the reasons you list. It is uncomplicated and rather gorgeous.
I believe I’ve had the 14YO Port on a visit to the distillery. I wouldn’t rave about it.
In the bottom third of this bottle now and it has become maltier and has picked up a bready/cereal note as well on the palate. Still very pleasant.