After a couple of stops in the eastern Highlands (at Glencadam and Fettercairn) let’s take the bourbon cask train back to the northern Highlands, to Tomatin. Tomatin is the southernmost of the distilleries usually grouped in the northern Highlands—south of Glen Ord, Teaninich, Balblair etc. and quite a bit south of Clynelish and Pulteney. It’s also actually further south than a number of Speyside distilleries. But all of this is neither here nor there.
This is one of my more timely reviews, being of a whisky bottled this June. But it’s still not very useful as it was bottled by hand, by me in the distillery shop—it’s not available for sale outside the distillery (except at auction, I suppose). The shop (my report on which you may remember) had five casks available for filling bottles from in June. They kindly allowed me to get tastes of whatever I was interested in, even though I had not done a tour, and this 12 yo ex-bourbon cask was my favourite. It was my first time filling a bottle at a distillery and I don’t mind telling you it was very exciting. This is my first time drinking it since tasting it at the distillery and I’m interested to see what I make of it now that the excitement is behind me. Continue reading
If you’ve been reading along for the last week you’ve probably noticed that I posted reviews of the four releases of Tomatin Cuatro (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX). Of these I liked the PX release the best. Though I didn’t dislike any of the others, I didn’t find them to be particularly distinctive. I didn’t find the Fino and Manzanilla to be particularly sherried either, for that matter, in the way that we normally think of sherried whisky. It could be argued, however, that their dry, yeasty qualities might well be expressing the character of Fino and Manzanilla sherry quite well. The Oloroso and especially the PX casks were more in line with what whisky drinkers expect when they see the words “sherry matured/finished”. But because Tomatin does not clarify the kind of wood these casks were made of, it’s not clear if the greater stereotypical sherry influence of these two releases is down to the type of sherries these casks previously held or if it’s because these two releases had their second maturation in European oak while the other two were re-racked into American oak casks after the first nine years. Without this information it’s a little hard to come to any meaningful conclusions about the effect of aging in casks that had previously held different types of sherry. Continue reading
And so, the last of the four whiskies in Tomatin’s Cuatro series: the PX. For those who came in late (salute yourself if you get the comics reference), I’ve previously reviewed the Fino, the Manzanilla and the Oloroso releases in this series. All were distilled in 2002, matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks and then re-racked into the specific sherry casks for the last three years. I didn’t find too much difference between the Fino and Manzanilla releases; which makes sense, as Fino and Manzanilla sherry are not that far apart, and so the odds that nuances between them would extend to whiskies double matured for three years in ex-Fino and Manzanilla casks were slim to begin with. The Oloroso had darker, leafier notes, more reminiscent of what we’ve come to think of as sherry cask notes, and I expect this PX cask will be similar: both Oloroso and PX sherries are made “oxidatively” and have more in common with each other than they do with Fino or Manzanilla sherries. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading
With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.
It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of the first in Tomatin’s Cuatro series of sherry cask releases: the Fino. That post has all the relevant information on the series but if you haven’t read it and are too lazy to click, here’s the crucial bit: all four releases are of whisky distilled on the same day and aged for nine years in ex-bourbon cask and then then re-racked into Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks for another three years each. Unlike the regular 12 yo, these are at 46%. I did not find much overt sherry influence in the Fino release—as such I’ll be surprised to find very much of it in this Manzanilla version. The two sherries are broadly similar—Manzanilla is basically a regionally constrained version of Fino (it can only be made in a particular part of Spain).
Let’s get to it. Continue reading
The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.
You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years. In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished. Continue reading
I last reviewed the Tomatin 12 about two years ago. It’s a malt that I’ve always enjoyed as a casual sipper and it was historically always a very good value (as is the Tomatin 18). The Tomatin packaging has received a makeover since then: with all new bottles and labels and a generally more premium look (I suppose: I always liked the clean labels of the previous design). It didn’t see a bump in the abv, however. Anyway, I’d been curious to see if there had been any significant change to the whisky inside the bottle as well and picked up a bottle late last year. I’ve since taken it to two of my local whisky group’s tastings (always blind) and it did well at both—this was particularly pleasing to a few of our members who are forever complaining that I make them taste whiskies that they like but can never actually find. You won’t have any trouble finding this one, no matter where you live. But what is it like? Here are my notes. Continue reading
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
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
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.
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.
“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).
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
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.