Here is the last of the five whiskies I opened in the week I turned 50, all bottles either distilled or bottled in years that have been important ones in my life. I’ve previously reviewed a Glendronach 19 distilled the year I left India for the US; a Bowmore 11 bottled the year I met my partner; a Springbank 12 bottled the year our older child was born; and a Highland Park 27 bottled the year our younger child was born. Here now to complete the set is a Tomatin 40 that was distilled the year I was born and bottled the year our younger child was born.
Tomatins from the early-mid 1970s have a very strong reputation. I’m not sure, however, if I’ve seen many reviews of Tomatins from 1970—indeed, this particular release does not seem to have been reviewed at all—even Serge hasn’t gotten to it. This might explain why I was able to purchase this bottle from the Whisky Exchange back in 2011 without having to pay and arm and a leg. But as we’ve recently seen, a good price on an older whisky does not in and of itself mean that it was money well spent. What’s the story with this one?
Tomatin 40, 1970 (Old Malt Cask; from my own bottle)
Nose: A lovely wave of musky fruit: ripe plantains, tart-sweet mango, passionfruit, preserved lime. On the second sniff the old wood emerges: glue, camphor, the tin the tinned fruit came out of. Pretty consistent with time and not much change with a few drops of water either (I am not complaining).
Palate: The wood is in the lead on the palate but the fruit is here too (just not as expressive as on the nose). Despite the low abv this has a nice bit and texture. On the second sip the fruit expands and some salt shows up as well. More malt and mild notes of cocoa as it sits. The texture thins as it goes. Three drops of water fix the texture and bring out more of the citrus and malt.
Finish: Medium-long. The woody tingle and the acid are the top notes here. Saltier as it goes and there’s a gingery, malty note as well. As on the palate and quite a bit longer of a finish with water.
Comments: This is not the most exuberantly fruity old Tomatin, and one could argue that there is just a touch too much oak on the palate. And yet it displays many of the qualities you look for in older bourbon cask whiskies: the mix of fruit and oak and camphor, and the delicacy of the interplay of the elements. I certainly have a few bigger hitters sitting unopened on my shelves but I am glad I picked this one for my 50th birthday (I’m not as exuberantly fruity as I once was either).
Rating: 90 points.