Whisky Tasting: Tomatin

Cu-BocanAnother Thursday, another trip to friends in Skipton. Another whisky tasting. Not complaining though – these are often lively events, very entertaining and always without fail delivers a new whisky experience.

This time, the little known (to me) Tomatin, pronounced, I am told, with emphasis on the ‘ma’, ie; ToMAtin. So there you go. Tomatin, for those not in the know, is a single malt from the Highland region. To be even more specific, it’s south of Inverness – in the Monadhliath Mountains – a stone’s throw from Loch Moy.

Hosted as ever by The Wright Wine Company, Tomatin was tonight represented by the knowledgeable Alistair Mutch. Alistair presented the history of the distillery in his own passionate way, with talk of ‘drovers’, the size of the distillery (largest in Scotland in 1974?) when it had 23 working stills. (and may still have – i have not researched this). And in between, we tasted 6 whiskies;

Antiquary 12 Year Old
A 50% malt/50% grain blend, this was light, heathery/honey and sweet. Very drinkable with a hint of pepper, but not spicey. It finished with vanilla smoothness.
Final note – due to Latin American demand, this is coming off the UK shelves later this year. But fear not, there was plenty more to replace it.

Tomatin Legacy (NAS)
Named after Tomatin’s, well, Legacy I suppose, this has a young feel. Virgin oak and used bourbon casks, this naturally leads the tastebuds down the vanilla route – but with increasing spice.

Tomatin 12 yo
This was the first which grabbed me. (There’s a tick next to it in my notes). Very smooth with a hint of tobacco. This is finished in Oloroso sherry butts to finish, so the unmistakable influence is there. There’s more to this one, and the finish is longer and offers more.
As a side note, we were told that the bourbon casks come from Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill. Mainly.

Tomatin 14yo
Yes, that’s right – a 14 yo. At the time of tasting (24 April) we were ahead of official release by a matter of just hours I think. Or, perhaps we were on the official day of release. Anyway, details aside, this was a great whisky. A slight pink hue to the glass due to an influence of port if i recall correctly, this had also spent it’s time in bourbon casks. At 46% abv, this has more bite and therefore more on the palate and finish.
I put an asterix next to this one, and subsequently bought a bottle.

Tomatin 15yo
Why a 15yo? Well I think this was around before the 14 having being released in 2009 and now being phased out. (They don’t need 12, 14 and 15).
This is 100% bourbon cask maturation and is light at 40% with a citrus touch. It’s crisp, it’s light, it’s clean. But for me, the 12yo works better.

 Tomatin 18 yo
This follows on where the 14yo left off. Very, very smooth, but surprisingly, little finish to it. With 16 years in bourbon and 2 years in Oloroso, it’s had a whopping 18 years maturation and in 2013 and 2014, it was awarded “Best Highland SIngle Malt” (13-20 years) by World Whiskies Awards. Additionally, we’re informed that it’s Douglas Campbell’s favorite dram..

Antiquary 21 yo
Back to the blended stuff which I have no issue with. This is rich, sweet and has a big mouth-feel. It’s sherry and bourbon and very almost has an oily finish to it, but by no means in an Islay sort of way.
Interesting, but I think at this point, I was smitten with the 14.

Cù Bòcan
Named after the legend of a creature which has stalked residents of the remote Highland village of Tomatin for centuries, his legend embellished by the hellhound’s increasingly fractious behaviour. Sightings are rare, once in a generation, always terrifying. A distillery worker, out walking late, was once relentlessly pursued by an imposing black beast, steam spiralling from flared nostrils, teeth bared…
OR, is it so called “last wolf” because Tomatin do a peated distillation on the last week pre the silent season…?
So what of the whisky?
It’s a lightly peated single malt, matured virgin oak, bourbon and sherry casks. It’s only at 15ppm but noticable. Initially light and spicy, this builds to something more.
Unfortunately, for this Lagavulin and Ardbeg lover – it doesn’t do enough to elbow it’s way onto my drinking shelf.

So, that was that. An enjoyable evening was had by all and whisky tasted, drunk, bought and discussed.
As with all these distilleries I was unfamiliar with, I can now heartily recommend Tomatin and look forward to cracking open the 14yo, perhaps this evening..

Visit them at: www.tomatin.com
Buy local at: www.wineandwhisky.co.uk

Alistair Mutch, Tomatin Tomatin

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