...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Single Malt Report: Tobermory 18 year old 1995 Anam na h-Alba

The first of this week's Tobermory Trio...

It's an 18 year old independent release of Tobermory distillery's unpeated malt.  It spent most of its life in an ex-bourbon hogshead, then got a fresh finish in an Oloroso sherry cask.  It's the first sherried independent Tobermory I've tried.

Tobermory's whisky can be a bit difficult.  Some might say gross.  But I like it.  It has a very distinct grassy, hot cereal character.  People who are not fans often find it to be a bit butyric, using descriptors like "baby vomit".  If a little person barfs up milk and/or oatmeal, I guess I can see where that thought comes from; but maybe we should all take a deep sniff of some hot cereal pre-barf and file that away in our sense memory.  Hopefully I'll have some examples in my notes this week.

Anam na h-Alba is an independent German bottler whom I had never heard of until this month.  Serge Valentin has reviewed a total of one of their bottlings.  Perhaps by the end of the year, I will have reviewed twice as many as he.  So there!  Their name means "Soul of Scotland" (I think) and their online website has some very good prices.....and is also entirely in German, so "viel glück"!

Thank you, Saint Cobo, for this sample!
Distillery: Tobermory
Independent Bottler: Anam na h-Alba
Age: 18 years (June 1995 - August 2013)
Maturation: ex-bourbon hogshead, then finished in an ex-oloroso sherry cask
Region: Isle of Mull
Bottles: 85 (possibly a shared cask?)
Alcohol by Volume: 55%
Colored? No
Chill filtered? No

The color is a reddish gold.  The nose leads with cocoa and prunes from the sherry.  But there's also quite a bit of barley in there.  Also hay, a hint of yeast, and hot cereal (farina and oatmeal).  There's a slight salty and savory thing going on like a mild cheese.  The palate is quiet for a half second, then the sherry blows in, expanding and expanding and expanding, carrying with it sweet grapes, sweet cherries, orange peel, and milky coffee.  No heat to speak of, which is notable considering the ABV.  Sweet dried fruits from the sherry bloom open up in the finish.  It's very sugary.  Prune juice, pineapple juice, and maybe some ginger.

This is a curious one, as many Tobermory are.  In this case, it's the casks that of interest.  The non-sherried part of the nose feels MUCH younger than 18 years, but then the sherry part is rich like an older cask.  The label doesn't specify how long the "finish" was, but here's my theory: The first cask, the hoggie, must have been very sleepy, so to spruce things up someone pouring the whisky into a very very wet sherry cask.  Thus the dichotomy between young malt notes and intense sherry ones.

I'm not the biggest fan of sherry finishes, though the sweetness of this one was entertaining.  It gave the spirit some room to express itself in the nose, then silenced it in the ever-expanding sherry burst in the mouth.  As a result, it sometimes feels like two separate whiskies.  (Though I do like it better than the official 15 year old.)

This is a dessert whisky, as it can be PX-sherry-level sweet.  I would have preferred some of the nearly nude whisky in the palate, but sherry fans won't have much to complain about.  Those same fans would have plenty to complain about in the next two whiskies in the trio.

Availability - Possibly sold out
Pricing - was only 59euro?!
Rating - 83 (though sweet sherry fans will probably adore it)