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Monday, October 3, 2016

Single Malt Report: Tomatin 25 year old 1989 Cadenhead

Before we went to Springbank and The Cadenhead Whisky Shop in Campbeltown this year (wherein I lost my brains), I stopped off at Cadenhead's in Edinburgh.  A much smaller branch than the one in Campbeltown, the Edinburgh shop does have the benefit of having the Cask Ends Cage, in which one may pick amongst countless of 200mL bottles of dozens of recent Cadenhead releases.  It's a great way to enjoy more than just a single pour of a whisky, but not have to splash out for a full bottle.  I had to keep myself disciplined.  At that point the trip had only just begun and I had (correctly) predicted that Campbeltown would prove to be my credit card's ruin.  So I chose two 200mL bottles; both were distilled in the '80s, both of which were from distilleries whose single malt really hits the mark once it reaches its mid-20s.

First off is Tomatin 25yo from 1989.  It's from a single (probably refill) hogshead.  The now sold-out 700mL bottle went for £120-130.  The Cask Ends bottle I nabbed was supposedly their last one and it cost all of £35.  My hopes were high since I really enjoy the fruitiness of older Tomatin.

Distillery: Tomatin
Ownership: Tomatin Distillery Co
Region: Highlands (near Inverness)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 25 year old (1989-2015)
Maturation: ex-bourbon hogshead
Bottles: 204
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

In this instance, I compared the whisky at full strength and a lightly watered-down 46%abv side by side for perspective.

The nose proves difficult.  The ethyl and solvent notes rumble through on top.  It's also a bit yeasty and has a white vinegar underside, and honestly gets a little farty sometimes.  A bit papery later on.  There's a big barley note throughout.  Plenty of lemon.  Hints of orange creamsicle, melon, and vanilla.  The palate is very hot for the ABV, as if it were 10 points higher.  At first there's an aggressive hoppy herbal note that later turns very grassy.  Successive sips get sweeter, with Country Time lemonade powder and off-season dull peaches.  The ethyl heat dominates the finish.  Plenty grassy, with the lemons and off-season peaches, as well as dried oregano.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Much more fruit in the nose; white peaches, papaya, lemons, and a little bit of honeydew.  Turkish delight?  The harsh notes are gone.  A good clean barley note remains.  The palate arrives significantly clearer as well.  Though it's still plenty grainy, there are apricots, whipped cream, and a note that starts off like lemon juice and then morphs into fizzy bitter lemon.  It's lightly sweet with a hint of hay and a mild vanilla undercurrent.  The finish keeps the palate's mild sweetness (a bit of brown sugar, maybe); carries along the barley, lemons, and hay; and somehow lasts longer than when neat.

I really didn't enjoy my little bottle much -- likely because I had only consumed its contents neatly -- and was thankful not to have picked up a 700mL bottle.  Having set aside 60mL worth for this tasting, I am now surprised to discover I should have been adding water to it all along.  Even if it never hits any great heights when diluted, it's considerably better.  The nose improves dramatically, while the palate opens up well.  If I were to finger the culprit here, it would be the wonky hogshead.  Many of Cadenhead's current releases are small batches, but this Tomatin is from the Authentic Collection is which are single casks.  I wonder if this could have been pulled up with the addition of a rich cask or two.

The members of whiskybase are, on average, mildly enthused, at least more so than I.  On the other hand, Serge loves this whisky......but finds that water does nothing for its palate......which, sitting here sipping both the neat and diluted versions, I find difficult to comprehend.  That's fine.  I'm sure he'll enjoy his bottle.  I'm glad I only bought a little one.

Availability - Was told it had sold out
Pricing - £35 for 200mL, £120-130 for 700mL
Rating - 82 with water only, at least 5 points lower when neat.