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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Single Malt Report: Tomatin Cask Strength, batch 1 (2016)

For laziness's sake, I'll quote yesterday's post: "I purchased these two well-filled minis when I was at the distillery.  My visit was on July 10th, they were bottled on June 8th.  That's some fresh stuff. "  Yesterday, I reviewed the 14yo Port Cask Finish.  Today, I'm reporting on the first batch of Tomatin's NAS Cask Strength series(?).  It's a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, like their regular 12yo and 18yo releases but without their age statements.  This release follows other recent unpeated (partially or fully) sherried NAS cask strength batches from Glendronach, Glengoyne, and Tamdhu.

Distillery: Tomatin
Ownership: Tomatin Distillery Co.
Region: Highlands (near Inverness)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks
Batch #: 1
Limited bottling: 15,000
Bottling code: L08 06 16
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colored? Probably not

Its color is light gold, lighter than the 14yo Port Cask Finish whisky.  The nose carries with it a yeast/bread note that lasts for less than a minute, then vanishes as the whisky opens up (or rather explodes forth).  First there are dried berries, grape Bubble Yum, caramel, and canned peaches.  Then confectioner's sugar and almond extract.  After 20 minutes some vanilla and maple syrup notes show up.  The palate, though very hot, is big on thick Glendronach-like sherry.  There are dried cherries, blueberry muffins, dark chocolate, chocolate (roasted) malt, and subtle cranberry note.  Not much sign of the ex-bourbon casks.  It finishes sharp and salty with a rising herbal bitter note.  The sherry retreats to the background.  Maybe some toffee.  Definitely a lot of heat.

WITH WATER (~50%abv)
Ah, here are the ex-bourbon casks in the nose.  Maple syrup, caramel, cinnamon, and roses.  Then toffee, almond extract, orange peel, simple syrup, and maybe a hint of sulphur.  Less heat in the palate, more bourbon cask, less sherry cask.  Small notes of malt and vanilla, larger notes of nuts in caramel.  Nectarines, milk chocolate, and spicy toasty oak.  The finish becomes bigger, thicker, and richer.  Lots of toffee and milk chocolate.  Nuts and malt.  A subtle bitter, almost smoky, note as well.

WITH WATER (~43%abv, the 12yo's strength)
The nose is going even further into ex-bourbon territory.  Barrel char, honey, roses, and pears.  Hints of cherries and cocoa.  The palate gets tannic, spicier, and sweeter.  A bit too sweet for me, actually.  A hint of dried cherries in milk chocolate.  It finishes very sweet as well.  Fruit punch with lemon-lime soda.

While I respect Serge V's breadth of experience, I have no idea what whisky he was drinking when he reviewed this same whisky.  Perhaps his sample went bad?  Or my sample went good?  He writes of a weird, raw, oak-free mess.  The Tomatin Cask Strength batch 1 I just drank was a near sherry bomb, roaring with active (in mostly good ways) casks.  Yes, our samples are a year apart and have different labels, but this is the same batch.

With the Tomatin CS, one gets a few whiskies for one's money.  As mentioned above, at full strength, it's a big hawt whisky, heavy on the sherry casks, though it loses a little of its charm in the finish.  At 50%abv, though it's slightly simpler, it's better focused and roars right through the finish.  At 43%abv, the youth and active oak start showing through.  So it's best to use caution when adding water.

Quality-wise, it's better than batch 1 of Glengoyne CS, and cheaper too.  While it can't match up to 'Dronach CS's first batch, it's still quite good, and cheaper too.  Whenever I do my next international order, I'll add a Tomatin CS batch 1 -- putting my money where my blog is -- if I can keep the price near $60.

Availability - Europe only, as of the date of this post
Pricing - $60-$80 minus VAT, plus shipping
Rating - 87 (careful with that water, Eugene)

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