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Friday, April 25, 2014

Single Malt Report: Tobermory 10 year old (new label)

Today, it's the last of this week's Tobermory Trio.  Tuesday, it was a sherried 18 year old indie.  On Thursday, I looked at and (sadly) drank the previous version of the official 10 year old.  Today, it'll be the new edition of the 10 year old.

Just as a reminder here are the pics from yesterday's post:

The whisky I'm reviewing today is the one on the right.  I tasted the one on the left yesterday and found it to be disappointingly poor.  The one on the right is much different.

The updated edition of Tobermory 10 began retailing in Europe in 2010.  It came to The States in late 2011.  The old version was 40% ABV, colored, and probably chill filtered.  The new one is 46.3% ABV, and neither colored nor filtered.

I've had the pleasure of trying this new version on several occasions, but usually wasn't taking notes.  For the purposes of this review, my main notes are from the above Master of Malt sample.  But I also have some brief notes I took during a tasting led by brand rep Travis Tidwell, last November.

ALSO, as an extra bonus, this is the fifth of Five Fab Fridays of simultaneous reviews between Diving for Pearls and My Annoying Opinions.  I'll post the direct link to MAO's review of this new version of Tobermory 10yo once I wake up this morning.  And here's the link to his review.  It's a little different than mine...

TOBERMORY 10 YEAR OLD, current edition

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Tobermory (the distillery's unpeated malt)
Ownership: Burn Stewart Distillers
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: all ex-bourbon casks
Region: Isle of Mull
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Colored? No
Chillfiltered? No

The color is plain ol' amber.  The nose is intensely herbal at first sniff, think anise and juniper.  There are lots of grasses, dead and alive.  Pungent burnt grapefruit peel, pine sap, mild hand soap, and something mossy (though this is their unpeated whisky).  It likes air, getting slightly fruitier (ripe lemons) and developing cream of wheat and mild cheddar notes.  After 45 minutes, it smells like the inside of a barn.  The palate is sweeter than the old version, but without being very sweet.  The old one's chemical bitter/burnt thing is replaced by a baking-chocolate-type of palatable bitterness.  The mystery moss note oddly but pleasantly continues along here.  Barley and yeast (worty?) meet cracked white peppercorns.  Subtle notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and sour apple.  It's mostly very grassy and spirit forward, which continues on into the finish.  Some pepper in the throat.  Vanilla pudding and oatmeal.

And here are my notes from the November 2013 tasting:
Nose - Spirity, cereal grains, anise, red delicious apple skins, nutmeg, baking apples, cut grass
Palate - Nice, grassy and grainy, those hot cereal notes, pepper.

Three things to note:

1.)  I included that second set of notes because this Tobermory can change quite a bit in the bottle (see Chemistry of the Cocktail's notes here, his bottle eventually came together nicely) and can also differ quite a bit from batch to batch.  My buddy Florin (I think it was him!) noted, quite accurately, a "sour garbage" character at the top of his bottle but then things got much better as the liquid made its way to the bottom of the bottle.  Speaking of variation...

2.)  Peat.  I was a little weirded out by the distinct peat moss notes I got in the Master of Malt sample.  It wasn't Ledaig-level peaty but it was unmistakable, and unique to all my previous Tobe 10 tastings.  As soon as my Taste Off was over, I went online to gauge my nuttiness.  Thankfully, Senior Sergio Valentino had found peat notes in both of his Tobermory reviews.  So it's good to know, as crazy loves company.  Could it be that Tobermory's stills sometimes carry some peat residue from previous Ledaig distillations?  Many of Caol Ila's "Unpeated" releases are noticeably peated, but they have quotation marks on their labels.  I don't think Tobermory has any quotes around its unpeated designation.

3.)  Peat or no peat, this is more than just a step up from the old version.  The two are barely related.  Could this change be as simple as removing the colorant, avoiding filtration, and adding less water?  Or did the company institute better barrel management?  Or did I just get a crappy mini of the old edition?  I don't think Tobermory whisky is as much of an acquired taste as the reputation that precedes it.  It is undoubtedly quirky, but accessible if you like herbal, grassy, barley-forward malts.

Don't fear the Tobe.

Availability - Most liquor specialty retailers
Pricing - probably in the $40-$60 range
Rating - 85 (current edition only!)