Recently I was privileged enough to join a tasting put on by Tomatin, through the Toronto Whisky Society.
Tomatin is an interesting distillery for me. I am not the biggest Highland fan, however, years ago I decided to dive deep on them due to (no joke) a request for more reviews from distilleries that start with T.
Tomatin, of course, means Hill of the Juniper Bush. The juniper bushes have since been relocated, which if you’ve run through a juniper bush in shorts understand why, but the name has stuck. Maybe they’ll bring out a gin someday. Until then, let’s see how their Scotch tastes.
Astute insane readers of my reviews will note I’ve reviewed Tomatin 12 before. And originally my plan was to enjoy the dram, write notes on the ones I haven’t had, point you towards the others, and Bob may, in fact, be your uncle. Or acts like a positive person in your life that you’re grateful for nonetheless.
But enough about how great Bob is. Turns out that when Tomatin 12 changed the bottle (which is the last one I had) they also changed the formulation. Well that means we have to get a new review.
So let’s see how it’s changed, shall we?
Price: $64.95 CAD at the LCBO
Casks used: Ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks (Oloroso)
Colour: 2.5Y 8/10
Nose: Raisin, cereal, vanilla, orange drink
Sherry is evident but doesn’t take over completely. More vanilla, a simpler, sugary orange like note.
Nothing too rich keeps pretty balanced on the nose. A bit lighter than I’d like, but let’s see if that continues.
Taste: Vanilla, coconut, orange drink, nutmeg, molasses More of the bourbon cask whisky comes out on the taste. More of that vanilla and some dry notes. Sadly the orange is still very weak and comes off a bit too sweet.
The sherry hangs out around the sides, with spice and a molasses note. It’s nice to be balanced, though this is hitting on some sherry vibes that I love.
Finish: Coconut, nutty, cinnamon, raisin/plum, heat
I feel that the finish is where this melds properly. There’s no cheap flavour, and instead, we start to get the full fruitcake aspect. Some heat here too, it is still somewhat young, but not enough for me to turn down a glass.
Conclusion: Light fruitcake, wish there was more to the nose. This is out there for all of you who want a sherry based entry-level whisky. I enjoyed it, would want a bit more for the nose. Expect a spicy, drier sherry based whisky with balanced notes of vanilla from the bourbon casks.
I was told after the tasting that some other whisky nerds encounter some variation in bottles, and I may have ended up with one of the honey bottles. So I’d recommend trying this out there and seeing how you like it.
Tomatin 14 Portwood Finish was up next, and there were some knowing looks shot my way. Okay, I love port casks. They act weird. They can be fruity, have those spices I love, and can be floral too. That’s all in my alley.
So how does Tomatin take to a Port cask? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $109.95 CAD at the LCBO
Casks: Bourbon barrels then finished in ex-Port Pipes
Colour: 2.5YR 5/10
Nose: Cherry, honey, saline, red licorice, cashew
Fruity, a bit of floral, some salt. And then a lot of red licorice. That’s taking the main stage and kicking those understudies down the stair.
Taste: Peanuts, papaya, cherry, mint, cinnamon
Nutty, tropical fruit, and lots of spice that builds slowly that decides to keep racing. Like that Cake song. No, not the one about the sheep and goats.
Lots of spice is what I’m saying.
Finish: Red licorice, anise, iodine, peach, nutmeg
Back to the red licorice, but now that slight hint of sweet anise brought along her hard-partying cousin anise who drinks nothing but ouzo and eat fennel.
Some fruit and salt round it out, but yeah. Spices. Very much spices.
Conclusion: Spice heavy. Tons of spice dominate the dram. And that’s okay. Really, it is. I know I’m not the only person who loves Xmas spices. Otherwise, Cinnabon wouldn’t be in business.
That said I wish some of the fruit was a bit stronger. We have tons of spice and some elements of cherry that try but they’re not enough. I think there’s a group of people out there that would love this, but try before you buy, because it may or may not be you.
Tomatin Cù Bòcan 1988 Vintage is a bit different. Currently, when you have an offering from Cù Bòcan, it’s a peated whisky that’s made from peated malt in their now peaty stills.
Back in 1988, things were a bit different. It was all unpeated. Eventually, a peated cask ended up in the warehouse, and then some of the other older casks ended up in that peated cask.
Is there a difference in how this turned out? Is this going to be the branch between the Tomatin 18 and the peat? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $697.95 CAD at the LCBO
Vintage: December 2, 1988
Bottled: May 23, 2016
Cask Types: Refill Hogshead, Refill Sherry Casks, and ex-Islay single malt casks
Number of Bottles: 2,200
Colour: 10YR 7/10
Nose: Sourkraught, rich anise, apple pie, dried nori, smoked pear, yeast/bread
Sour, kinda fermented flavour. Some really nice spices going on. Think salty, cinnamon, and some rich anise.
Water brings out a yeast aspect too, and there’s some standard stone fruit but smoked here. Unique spice forward nose.
Taste: Ash, dark chocolate, chilli, tahini, papaya, cashew butter
Very ashy. If ashier food isn’t you’re thing, it may throw you off. Good nuttiness/seed notes, some dark chocolate/cocoa, and a bunch of heat and ash.
If I had to compare this, I’d say it was a not quite well mixed experimental smoked dessert on the taste.
Finish: Chocolate, peanut butter, iodine, campfire, apple cider
Finish brings more of it together, though in doing so goes a bit simpler. Think somewhere between Laphroaig Quarter Cask and a peanut butter cup. But a really good peanut butter cup from a good bakery.
Conclusion: Nutty, interesting, goes in some new directions which I appreciate. Really in a world where “hey, it’s peat” has become quite homogenous, this went in some different directions.
That all said, it felt like separate parts rather a cohesive whole. It starts spicy, goes sweet, and then becomes simpler. This is a good dram to have with dessert or if you’re a big fan of Cu Bocan and want to see where it’s going.
Tomatin 36 is a 36-year-old whisky that’s made up of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask matured spirits. There are multiple batches, all of which people seem generally happy to drink.
That all said… it’s an older OB, and not at cask strength. I’m happy to have it part of a tasting, as typically I’m not the target for these. So am I going to enjoy this? Am I going to flub this?
Well let’s see, shall we?
Price: $1,499 CAD at the LCBO
Cask Type: Ex-Bourbon & 1st Fill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Casks
Total number of bottles: 800
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Fresh peaches/peach bellini, leather, strawberry jam, cinnamon buns
Immediate strong, flavourful, and fresh peach note. Really, really strong. I’m impressed because peach is a typical flavour, but here it’s just a lot better. Like when you’ve had shipped in fruit and you splurge because we live in a dystopia and fresh fruit is now a luxury.
Eventually some leather, strawberry, and even some of that fresh bread/cinnamon mix, but trust me: Fresh peaches in the height of summer is wonderful.
Taste: Fruit bread, sour cherry, cinnamon toast, caramel crunch, banana candy
More yeast, sweeter fruit, and some acidity to balance it. The fruit is turned down but the sweets are turned up. Nice flavours that meld well and play nicely together.
Finish: Guava, leather, banana, mango, good fruit platter, dry apple, fresh peaches
Way more tropical notes. Think spending too much at breakfast. And then getting a peach cobbler made in Niagara at the right time of year. What time? Get on my lever plebs! We got peach season!
Conclusion: Think of the best peaches you’ve ever had. This is those expertly used in baked goods and breakfast foods with leather and tropical fruit platters.
Lots of flavours, lots of tropical fruit, sweet aspects. And it goes together. The whole thing screams breakfast or tasty desserts and keeps up with that idea. And let’s be honest, great breakfast is tasty dessert by any other name.
I can definitely see why people love this. I can see the love. It’s one of those whiskies you save for a special gift, it’s consistent, and that’s rare these days. So kudos and be on the look out for this one.
Scotch review #1164-7, Highland review #195-8, Whisky Network review #1794-7