The first edition of the Tomatin Decades was released in 2011 and put together by their Master Distiller, Douglas Campbell to mark his five decades at the distillery. The vatting comprised casks from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. They ranged from 5-6 years of age all the way to 43-44 years of age. And they were a mix of cask types: refill sherry hogsheads, oloroso sherry butts, first-fill bourbon hogsheads. (The refill sherry hogsheads were from 1967 in case you’re wondering—the practice of breaking butts down and re-coopering them as smaller hogsheads is obviously not anything new.) As far as I know, it was never disclosed what the proportion of spirits of different ages and cask types was. And as was not unusual for Tomatin in that era, it was released at 46% abv. Also not unusual for that era was the price. If you came to single malt whisky more recently you may want to avert your eyes. This went for all of about $90 in 2011. There was a second release some years later. I know nothing about that one.
Tomatin Decades, First Edition (46%; 2011 release; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich fruit off the top (apricot, orange peel) along with toffee, roasted malt and a slightly herbal, oaky note. With a bit of air the malt note moves in the direction of cream. With more time the tropical fruit from the palate and finish begin to emerge here as well. Water dilutes the fruit a little and brings out more of the malt and cream.
Palate: Comes in sweet and then the oak comes up from behind. As I swallow there’s a big burst of fruit, sweet at first and then turning tropical heading to the finish. A good drinking strength but the texture is a bit thin. The oak is spicier on the second sip and the tropical fruit (passionfruit) pops out earlier. Sweeter as it goes, tending towards simple syrup and the oak gets just a bit too present (though not tannic). Okay, let’s add water. A couple of drops both push the oak back and add depth, both to the fruit and the texture.
Finish: Long. The fruit crests with papaya and passionfruit (though without most of the acid). The oak expands again in the background and has the last word. The texture thins out a bit more still as it goes. As on the palate with water and there’s some cream here too now.
Comments: I suspect there is a cask or two in here that would warrant 90+ points on their own. The vatted whole is very good too with just a little depth and exuberance missing (on the fruit front), and just a bit too much oak. Water fixes some of that but not enough to take it to the next tier. But I still like it enough to wish that I’d bought more than one bottle at that 2011 price. Now it would be a complete steal for whisky of this quality.
Rating: 88 points
Thanks to Michael for the sample. Here is his review (though it’s obviously not from the bottle from which the sample he sent me came.)