When I recently attended the TWE Whisky Show in London, I went with the plan to try only whiskies I’d not had the chance to sample before to help broaden my tasting experience.
One such brand that I came across when I first arrived at the show was Tomatin. The whisky – which is made in the Highlands, just south of Inverness – has been made since the late 1800s. But it wasn’t until 2004 that the company’s single malts hit the shelves as it had focused on selling whisky in bulk to go into blends before that. Rewind 30 years to 1974, and it was one of the biggest distilleries in the world, with 23 working stills. It went into liquidation in 1984 before being bought by Japanese firm, Takara Shuzu Co in 1986. Ten years later J&W Hardie became a part of it as well, and in 2002 the stills were decreased down to 12 and a focus was put on single malts.
Alastair, a UK sales manager was on hand at the stand to take me through the drams and we started with the 12 year old – a 40% whisky which has a six month finishing period in sherry casks. On the nose, it was gentle with subtle hints of butterscotch and wheat. The palate was filled with sweet lemons, cake, golden raisins and a teeny hint of smoke. A great summer time whisky, I thought. It retails around the £30 mark.
Next up was the 15 year old – this is a 100% bourbon cask whisky bottled at 43%, which has been available since 2009. Alastair said, “I describe it as an old-fashioned whisky.” On the nose it was much fruitier than the first, with oranges and pineapple shouting through against a backbone of vanilla. The palate was fresh and spicy, with that orange drifting around the mouth as well. It had a very clean finish. This one will set you back around £43.
Following this, I sampled the 18 year old. This was the first non-chill filtered whisky produced by the company. It spends 16 years in bourbon and a further two years in Olorosso sherry casks and is bottled at 46%. I found this whisky much heavier on the nose – it was thicker, sweeter, more caramelised and raisiny. But on the palate, it was surprisingly light and not as sweet as I was expecting. Like the others, it had a clean finish. It would cost around £50.
While it seemed logical to continue the age progression onto the 21 year old, Alastair instead steered me to the 30 since the younger whisky is cask strength. Only 1,500 bottles of the 30 year old are released annually. It is bottled at 46%. It was, as it turns out, one of my favourite of the whiskies I tried that day. On the nose it was full of banana peels, mango, pineapple and vanilla. On the palate, there was a crescendo of tropical fruits: pineapple, cherry syrup, mango and a light spiciness. It was beautiful and so sprightly for a 30-year old. Very impressive indeed. It’s £122 so not one to run out and grab, but if you’ve got a Christmas wishlist I recommend.
After the 30 year old, I moved back in age to the 21 year old. This special edition cask strength whisky has a limited release of 2400 bottles a year. It is made from a mix of whiskies aged from 21-24 years, and a combination of six bourbon casks and one sherry cask. Bottled at 52%, this was a cakey, caramel apple and licorice spice whisky on the nose. The palate surprised me – especially at that strength. It didn’t come off as being 52% at all. It was creamy, with notes of caramel flan, custard, delicate fruits and a wafting smoke. This limited edition retails at £125.
And finally, there was just one more dram: the granddaddy of the bunch, the 40 year old. This bourbon cask whisky was distilled in 1967 and there has been a limited release of 1614 bottles of the 42.9% whisky. To my nose, this was a very “traditional” dram. It smelled of wood, leather, brown sugar, dust and oranges – a belter of a dram, with considerable oomph from the wood. The palate, however, surprised – there were sugar and cream notes, but that fruitiness which seems to be a typical style of Tomatin came through again near the end. It was lovely, but I still preferred the 30-year old. This whisky retails at £425 – not bad for a 40-year old.
All in all, I was very glad to have popped by the Tomatin stand. I’d not come across any of the line before in my whisky adventures and I feel I’ve found a new quality dram to look out for.