A quintet of Tomatins

There’s always something that you like “the least”. You may enjoy the heck out of Marvel and then someone brings up Thor: Dark World, or worse, such as Inhumans or Immortal Iron Fist. You may love cinema and someone will bring up Meet the Spartans, or the Emoji Movie, or whatever the hell Alone in the Dark was. You may love things that Elon Musk is doing, and then go into whatever hellscape the Vegas loop is.

No matter what you love, if there is more than one thing of it, you’ll like it the least.

Enter the Scotch regions. A non-set out amount of regions that people sort whiskies into. If you’ve followed me, you’ll know I have Campbeltown (82.65), Highland (79.64), Island (80.03), Islay (82.24), Lowland (80.78), and Speyside (79.78).

So I enjoy Scotch, thus there must be a lower reviewed group, right? Well the numbers above are the mean averages of each region and I frankly love them all evenly, once you account for variance/error. Not to mention the amount of Speysides exceeds the other review numbers because there’s more distilleries in Speyside than other parts of Scotland.

However Highland is at the bottom. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, and I do feel a bit bad about that for some reason. Oh, no, I’m a human being with flawed imperfect views on things. I must be terrible. (All of this is sarcasm).

Enter Tomatin. Calling Tomatin hit or miss is like saying the sun is bright. And we “kinda need it” for life and junk. However, when I’ve enjoyed Tomatin, it’s changed my mind on Highlands. We’re not talking about having Brora legendary change of mind. More like “Huh, stop avoiding the region” change.

Thus when I feel I haven’t been fair to Highland, and can’t get my hand on Brora (because my hunt for pirate gold hasn’t hit the payload yet) or Clynelish (because I’m picky with them and already had all the internet “fights” about them), I go for Tomatin. Are there others? Sure, but recently Tomatin has been the choice.

So let’s see if I can’t find something I like, shall we?

Tomatin Cù Bòcan 2005 Limited Edition

Thanks to /u/EvilAFI  for the sample.

Cù Bòcan is a mythical beast from Scotland. My initial thought was that’s really cool. I love the idea of naming stuff by people in the region from mythologies for that region. Want to sell me Ouzo? Call it Zeus and I’ll be drinking it with a side of fresh fish in a second.

Sadly my love of mythology and monsters and D&D can only go so far. I have tried a few Cù Bòcan releases, which is the peated version of Tomatin, and was less than enthused.

That’s a nice way of saying I no like.

But when has that stopped me? Honestly never. So today we have Tomatin Cù Bòcan 2005 Limited Edition, one of the limited vintage peated releases from Tomatin. Tomatin had started producing some experimental peated malt in small batches.

The result? In this case we have 11-year-old vatted whisky from various bourbon & sherry casks.

Did it turn out okay? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: € 54

Region: Highland

Vintage: 2005

Bottled: 2016

Cask Type: Bourbon & Sherry Casks

Number of bottles 11,500

Abv: 50%

Colour: 5Y 8/8

Nose: Smokey toffee, chestnut, spruce, tangerine, banana funk

There’s some Immediate smoke, some nuttiness, bit of fruit, and then add some water and you get funk. Good banana funk. The type that you smell and think “I gotta make muffins”, assuming you understand what to do with old bananas.

Water is the key, basically. Give it time and you got that funk. I love that funk. We’re locked in.

Taste: Caramel, dry pear, sand, fermented vegetables

Starts out a bit basic. Nothing bad, just caramel, and some dry notes that are close to other peated malts. Bit of brine and some earth, you know, right?

Then you remember this is a Highland Peated malt and earth comes as part of the parcel. Maybe. I don’t know, that’s just something I’ve noticed so far. Try me again after another few reviews and I’ll test it more. What I’m saying is there’s a big ol’ compost pile here, and it’s lovely if you love funk. If you don’t, you may want to bid on other things at the auction.

Finish: Dry apple, sourbracht, tannic, hay, banana funk

Farmy, dry notes, funk, more sweeter funk, and tannic. Confusing finish is unique. Nothing goes crazy but wow is this unique.

Conclusion: Funk forever and ever. That’s what you need to aim for more Tomatin. Funk will set you free! You don’t have to add it to the main (though I’m fine if you do) but whatever happened here is something that should keep happening. There should be more like this. And you released 11,000+ bottles like this? Lock the recipe down buddy!

Fermented funk, banana, interesting dry stone fruits, and nice smoke elements with the sweets. I hope I can have something like this again. It’s a nice release and one you should try, especially if you’re like me and have already (though not completely) written off the scary dog line.


Tomatin Decades II

Thanks to /u/unclebaldric for pouring a sample of this dram for me.

I originally tried Tomatin Decades a few years ago. I had no idea what I was doing. I had asked a buddy to pour me some because I was working on multiple Tomatin reviews. Back then I planned on multi reviews, as opposed to now, when things backup and I need to catch up, so I pair them together.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Tomatin Decades was the favourite of the bunch. Jump ahead a few years and a conversation with a brand rep. lead me to find out that Tomatin Decades II was about to come out (in the UK). Thus when the same person ended up with another sample I again asked for a sample.

So what is it? Well it’s a tribute to members past and present that is a vatting of 21 casks from 5 different decades.

Decade #1 – Distilled 1973, 1975, 1977, all from Refill Bourbon Hogsheads Decade #2 – Distilled 1988, aged in First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts Decade #3 – Distilled 1995, aged in First Fill Bourbon Barrels Decade #4 – Distilled 2000 and 2009, aged in Recharred Verdejo Wine casks (French Oak) Decade #5 – Distilled 2013, aged in Second Fill French oak barrels.

Now if you count the above and say “that’s less than 21”, yes. Some of these decades had more than one cask from the specific year.

Let me be completely blunt: This stinks of a marketing stunt. No joke. Sure, you may have enough barrels from each decade and you can make something interesting and limitations can lead to better art (and don’t doubt that whisky is art), but come on. What if you had the first four sets of casks and didn’t have one from the 10s that fit with it? Some marketer is going to flip his shit because his lovely idea to pull something from each year isn’t going to work on time.

And if you didn’t read that last sentence in a whiney cringey voice you haven’t worked corporate enough, and should keep yourself so clean and pure.

That said, it worked, so I’m eating crow now (good in a brown butter sage sauce). Black Arts from Bruichladdich could be a similar idea (we don’t know), and it’s a chance to try old Tomatin like trying Macallan M is how you try old Macallan (without selling yourself into slavery to do so).

Let’s see if they can redeem it once more, shall we?

Price: £160

Region: Highland

Bottled: 2019

Cask types: Ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, recharred French oak

Number of bottles 3,600

Abv: 46%

Colour: 2.5Y 7/8

Nose: Peach pie, caramel, rosemary, brown sugar

Good baked butter/stone fruit note, some floral/herbal notes, some sugar/caramel, and molasses. Alright, good start, I re-read the last time and I keep reviewing.

Nothing else… huh. Alright, let’s give it some more time then.

Huh, not much change… Okay, maybe some water? Nope, nothing really changed. It’s nice, just… Well, the last one is going to haunt this one like ghost orphans and the Catholic church.

Taste: Caramel, rose water, raspberry, vanilla

Floral note, nice raspberry and vanilla pair. Tastes like a good coulis you get at a place that gives a damn about dessert (insert my grumpy old sweet tooth rant here).

Same thing as before: Give it time? Nothing really grows. Give it some water? Nope, nothing else. It’s tasty, I like it, but the complexity disappears like the actor playing Spiderman every 10 years.

Finish: Cloves, butter, dry apple, grapefruit

Short. Sadly short. Spice, butter, balance with dry apple and tart notes but then it’s just done. Like the simile in this incomplete

Conclusion: Dry syrup whisky, though that finish is really short. So on the one hand I don’t mind a bombastic Scotch. If I didn’t enjoy things that did simple flavours really strongly and well then I would never drink bourbon (fight me).

Big flavours, well paired flavours, and balanced. That’s the plus. The minus? Short simple finish and doesn’t live up to the previous one. Part of me thinks this is a sign of the times. The original Decades came out at a time when releasing a special edition for non monetary reasons as a celebration was the norm. You did it for the distillery manager because (and management will hate this) without them you don’t have a company or a pot to piss in.

Now though? Was all the 1967 Tomatin carrying it? Are we seeing a different impact of a distillery manager? Or perhaps different flavours. Nonetheless I don’t think it lives up to the top, like Compass Box No Name II, or Black Arts after 4.1. Time will tell if there’s another Decades release, and I hope it comes back as good as the first.


Tomatin 15 Tempranillo

Thank you to /u/Forbiddenwaffle  for the sample.

I am not a wine person. That said, I happen to live with and be married to a wine person. Thus she’ll be a great resource for wine facts!

Oh, she’s less “hardcore information nerd” about it and more so “yummy alcohol tasty” about it. Oh well, we all embrace our joys, habits, and interests in different ways.

So what is Tempranillo wine, you ask? Well I asked that question too, and with my wine friend in China, thus I assume his kidneys have been sold and his family billed for him being in the way of them.

Tempranillo is a black grape variety that is made into full-bodied red wines. They’re grown in Spain and Portugal (as well as some New World countries) and are used in Rioja and Port Wine, though it’s typically blended with other grapes as it’s (supposedly, I’m parroting this from Google so for all I know it was Gary Busey’s stunt double in Predator 2) neutral.

Didn’t know that when I put it in my face hole. I just went “neat” and tried the whisky. We’ve had different red wine casks. Typically I find they have a similar impact to some sherry casks. Which I also like.

So let’s see how this turned out, shall we?

Price: €80

Region: Highland

Bottled: June 2012

Cask Types: 2nd fill Bourbon Barrels + Tempranillo Wine Cask Finish

Number of bottles: 3,150

Abv: 52%

Colour: 5Y 9/8

Nose: Grapefruit, caramel, orange zest, floral

Weak nose. Now this may be “throwing stones while living in a glass house”, however first impressions matter. You idiots who are new to my reviews will have to learn that (this is meant as ironic and funny!)

Citrus, sweet, bit of floral, and all of it will leave a circle imprinted on your face from jamming the glass in your face. Water? Bit more floral, nothing else.

Taste: Candied orange, butter, nutmeg, zucchini floral, cheap white chocolate

Wow, that’s a lot of flavours. Which can be a good thing. Sadly orange flavour is in there and I’m no fan of orange.

The initial flavours basically peter out before anything can get started. And they get earthier and chemical/that odd flavour of shitty white chocolate (read: White chocolate for most people) in there.

Nice balance though.

Finish: Coconut, nutmeg, dry pear, brine, mineral, black pepper

Finishes like a virgin oak cask whisky. No connection to the fruit/citrus from before, mostly just slinks away like a dog that done you wrong (did I get any country music fans yet?)

Some spice, mostly just peters out. I don’t really know how you’d get this without using a whisky that was too young, trying to finish it, and then pulling that too quickly. Granted that’s just a guess, maybe they wanted this finish, or perhaps the red wine gave it the finish.

Conclusion: Meh. Nice nose, wish that it wasn’t so weak. Good balance on the taste, but it feels like a Lowland of less age and less alcohol. Makes me want to try more Tempranillo wine cask whiskies though. Especially ones from a Lowland distillery. Get on that (checks book for someone who would actually do that) either Auchentoshan or whomever owns a bad Rosebank cask!

If anything it made for a light, citrus dram. However I wouldn’t really recommend it to most people. It’s an oddity and something to try just to try it. Good try, maybe next time.


Tomatin 13 2002 PX Finish

If you’ve been to an alcohol store in the last (checks watch) 200 years you’ll notice that stores get their own casks. They split these with others, or they sell them to specific groups, or they sell them on a first come, first serve basis.

Different stores have levels of success with this process. Some (cough LCBO cough) tell the distillery to pick something out for them. Which is interesting because if I was buying something that would have my name on it with the variability of a single cask I’d probably check it first.

Others have designated people, some have a variety of people, and others keep it all under their hat. The way to find out? Ask around and if they have a dedicated person, try their picks and see if you like them.

Because one person’s “amazing whisky” is another person’s “sulfuric chocolate orange hell”. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Thus when I pick up the sample of Tomatin 13 2002 PX Finish, I know there’s some PX involved, I know there’s Tomatin, and I know it’s cask strength. When I look up it’s from the Liquor Depot, I have to pause, as I’ve never had something from them.

Friends haven’t either and also they don’t know how these are picked. Thus we’re going in a bit blind, but maybe that’s ok. Maybe we’ll have a fun time.

Or maybe I’ll melt after the red shoe wearing kid in my basement breaks out and spills the water I keep by my whisky? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: €65

Region: Highland

Bottled: February 12, 2015

Cask Type: Pedro Ximenez Finish

Cask Number: 33228

Number of bottles: 650

Bottled for: Liquor Depot

Abv: 55.1%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/10

Nose: Pineapple, goldenrod, papaya, ginger

Tart and tropical, just like my nickname in high school. Some sweeter cereal notes and some heat/spice. It’s not shy at all, which is coincidentally how I got the nickname.

Good mix of flavours, which is good because they all yell like their hearing aids are broken and the soup is too cold.

Taste: Sugarcane, anise, brown butter, mineral, white peach

Earthy sweet, followed by nuttiness, spice, a bit of mineral to balance, and even more sweet notes. It’s less tropical now and more sugar laden at this point. Nothing feels too sweet but it’s dancing with the devil on the line of too sweet.

Finish: Red licorice, sand, ginger, molasses, yoghurt raisins

If you count the beach and the source of molasses, I guess this jumps back to the tropics, however the finish is more so going out to the concession stand at the movies. Well, with less anxiety.

Creamy, more molasses, some of the heat from the nose. All in all a nice dram to sip on.

Conclusion: Tropical sherry bomb, what a world indeed. That’s what I originally wrote, and I think it’s because the nose has such a huge impact on the quality of the dram. It’s really inviting and impressive.

Then you get these creamy, balanced, and sweet notes throughout. Heck it’s even nostalgic to the movies, how can it miss? Joking aside, if you enjoy a fruitier whisky, this rings that bell. If you want something for dessert, it rings the bell. Does it taste like Xmas and strong dark brown sugar? No.

I’d avoid it if you don’t have a strong sweet tooth, or are looking for the norm from a PX whisky. Also I’ll be looking for more picks from Liquor Depot, this was very solid.


Tomatin Cù Bòcan Bourbon Cask

Thanks to /u/EvilAfi  for this sample.

Now I just went into detail above about Cù Bòcan, so if you need a refresher (it is a long post) then feel free to scroll up.

Since I actually enjoyed that offering of Cù Bòcan, it’s no wonder I want to try another limited edition. Also I tend to enjoy ex-bourbon casks quite a bit, as they can add some subtlety and it’s harder (though not impossible) to drown them out like you can with some sherry casks.

Thus we also have Tomatin Cù Bòcan Bourbon Cask to review today, a limited offering of ex-Bourbon cask peated Tomatin. Sadly it’s not cask strength, but it’s also not accountant’s strength (40%), so I’m happy to try some.

Let’s see if I can find two I love in one review, shall we?

Price: € 55

Region: Highland

Bottled: 2015

Cask Type: Bourbon Casks

Number of bottles: 6,000

Abv: 46%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/6

Nose: Ash, pear, brown sugar, apple

Very ashy. Like a strong Caol Ila. However it differs from Caol Ila in that there’s no citrus. Which, as someone who learned the basics of cooking much too late in life, makes a big difference.

Apple, pear, brown sugar: Yeah, all of these work. Even together. But then there’s the remains of a fire all over the place. It kinda works.

Taste: Ash, cocoa, apple, cream

More ash. Lots of ash. Very distinct.

It’s very softly peated, so you do get a bit of apple and cream there. Again I don’t really see the peat working with the other flavours.

Finish: Metal, grassy/anise, apple, manure

Metallic, a bit of spice, some more apple, and some farmy notes. Nothing too off, and frankly I’m happy it’s exploring more to the peat than just “ash”.

Conclusion: A softly peated whisky that is underwhelming. They’ve fixed the issues with rough parts of the whisky but forgot to fill those in with flavours to make it interesting.

On the one hand, it’s not that expensive for a limited edition. On the other hand they were vatting this and ended up with a whisky that tastes like a standard, low shelf offering. The ash note throughout eventually was fine, and the whole thing was just fine.

If you’re a big fan of peated Tomatin then I’d say grab it. If you aren’t, I’d say try some if a buddy has some.


Scotch review #1435-9, Highland review #231-5, Whisky Network review #2122-6

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