Quick Stops at Tomatin and Oban (Summer 2017)


I have already posted accounts of my visits to Talisker and Lagavulin. Those were my second and fourth distillery stops and at both places I did formal tours (well, a warehouse tasting at Lagavulin). Here now are quick looks at the first and third distilleries I stopped at: Tomatin and Oban. Both were as close to drive-by visits as possible. Literally so: both were right by the highway between places we were spending more time at. We got to Tomatin at the end of our first full day, on our way to Loch Ness; and a few days later we stopped at the town of Oban for lunch on our drive from Skye to Kennacraig to catch the ferry to Islay.  Continue reading

Tomatin 21, 1991 (C&S)

Tomatin 21, 1991, C&S
I purchased these samples almost a year ago and have been meaning to get to a review pretty much every month since. Here it is now. I know very little about the bottlers, C&S. I believe they’re another German outfit, but unlike their more bespoke fellow citizens, The Whisky Agency or Malts of Scotland, they offer pretty fair value. And my small sample size would indicate that this is not because they’re bottling any damn thing. I enjoyed very much the Glenglassugh 40, 1972 that they put out a couple of years ago, and if the only other of their bottles that I’ve reviewed (a Tullibardine) was nothing great, it was also not bad. And I’d say the same of Tomatin: my experience of their whisky has also risen on occasion to some exceptional peaks but has not fallen into the valley of regret.

Let’s hope this whisky—from a sherry cask—keeps my streaks with both the distillery and the bottler alive. Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1975 (MacKillop’s Choice)

Tomatin 25, 1975
Mid-1970s Tomatin is as close as you come to a sure thing in the single malt world. Of course, a lot of people say that it’s 1976 Tomatin that’s the sure thing, but, as I’ve noted more than once before, that’s mostly romantic thinking about magic vintages. Anyway, it’s not like Tomatins from even 1976 are easy to find anymore; indeed, the entire decade seems to be exhausted now, with most available casks either bottled as singles or probably blended away. And I’m not referring only to Tomatin—when’s the last time you saw casks of Longmorn or even BenRiach show up in quick succession from the indies? And the little that comes available now costs a king’s ransom. And the tedious, old refrain: just a few years ago this was not true. As it happens, I passed on a chance then to purchase this bottle for not very much money (relatively speaking).

But who knows, maybe there are casks from the late 1980s and early 1990s as well from Tomatin and Longmorn et al that will also astonish us all when they get bottled between 25 and 35 years of age. Of course, I will probably not be able to afford any of those.

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Tomatin 12

Tomatin 12
The Tomatin 12 is another of the entry-level malts I’m reviewing this month. Unlike the Balvenie Double Wood it’s not really an iconic malt and it’s also one that I’ve gone through a number of bottles of in recent years—so there’s no real surprise for me in what’s contained in the review. This whisky continues to be one of the great values in single malt Scotch—coming in below $30 in most markets. Tomatin in general continues to be a good value in the US with the 18 year old a category killer in the $60 neighbourhood and the 25 year old challenging Glenfarclas in the most affordable 25 yo category (and even their 30 year old is cheaper than most distilleries’ 25 year olds). Here’s hoping they don’t also fall prey to the siren call of “premiumization” or start trading in good age-stated whisky for dubious NAS bottles.

This 12 yo comprises bourbon cask matured spirit that is then finished for six to nine months in oloroso sherry casks.
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Tomatin 34, 1976 (The Perfect Dram)

Tomatin 34, 1976, Perfect Dram
“The Perfect Dram” is a series from the highly-regarded bottler, The Whisky Agency, and most geeks would be willing to describe any Tomatin from 1976 as perfect drams. 1976 is considered to be a special “vintage” for Tomatin. This gives me yet another opportunity to register my skepticism about magical years at distilleries (I didn’t get where I am by being shy about accepting the opportunities to repeat myself that I give myself). Here’s what I said on the occasion of my previous review of a Tomatin from 1976:

[T]hose who make the case for Tomatins from 1976 don’t seem to notice that a disproportionate number of casks are simply available from this year as compared to others in that era–close to 60 bottles from 1976 are listed on Whiskybase, but only 23 from 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1978 combined (and almost half of those are from 1977).

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Tomatin 25

Tomatin 25
Lovely photograph, isn’t it? Sometimes when you do sample swaps you receive gleaming jars with meticulously typed labels, sometimes you receive re-purposed miniature bottles with lots of old stickers still attached and just numbers to identify the contents, and you have to scrawl the names on yourself before you lose the key. I don’t particularly care; it’s what’s inside that counts. But I do like to show the picture of the actual sample bottle I’m reviewing and not a glamour shot of a full bottle I never saw. (I believe this sample was from a bottle with the newer rectangular label.)

Anyway, this is a sample of the Tomatin 25 and the actual bottle is not that exciting. Though it’s been discontinued it can still be found in the US for not very much more than $100, which is a very good price. But is it good value? Will it approach in quality the 30 yo at 49.3% (from the 1976 vintage) that I reviewed last year? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin 11, 2002 (for Edina Liquor)

Tomatin 2002
I mentioned this young cask strength Tomatin very positively in my smart-ass list of things to be hoped for in 2014 and I’ve been meaning to review it ever since (as you can see, the photo alongside was taken in the heart of winter). It was bottled for Edina Liquor, a municipal liquor store in the Twin Cities metro area, from a single bourbon barrel. It was initially available for less than $30–reports are that the price has gone up since but even at $40 it represents a very good value. I’d thought initially that if Edina Liquor had their own single cask then surely every other store in the country must too but I haven’t actually seen any such reports, or come across other store bottlings in just the Twin Cities area. Please write in if you happen to know if there are other similar casks out there in the wild.

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Tomatin 30, 1976, 49.3%

Tomatin 30There is a Tomatin 30 out there at 46% abv; this is not that Tomatin 30, and I have no idea what that Tomatin 30 is like. This one is from the 1976 vintage and was released in 2007 at 49.3% as a limited edition of 1500 bottles. It is a vatting composed from whisky matured in hogsheads (presumably bourbon) and then finished in two oloroso sherry butts for three years. Personally, I think that three years is long enough to count as double maturation rather than a finish, per se, but who cares what I think.

Tomatin is situated in the Highlands and has a rather large production capacity (though apparently they put out considerably lower volume than that). Perhaps for this reason Tomatin’s whiskies are often very good values. The 12 yo is available in most US markets in the region of $30, and the 18 yo in the region of $65–while neither are world-beaters they are highly drinkable and excellent values, especially when compared to peers from better-known distilleries (you must look for the newer editions with the rectangular labels–these are at a higher strength). The 15 yo I am less impressed by but it is also very competitively priced.
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