...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Life of a Whisky Bottle: Tobermory 10 year old (2015)

The 46.3%abv version of Tobermory 10 year old succeeds as a unique and spirit-forward single malt. Since this whisky was rebooted as a higher ABV, unchillfiltered expression in 2010, both Burn Stewart Distillers have Distell Group resisted trying to turn it into something cuddlier and more commercial. So it was with plenty of joy that I opened my bottle four months ago. But by the end of the bottle, that pleasure drifted to exhaustion. More on that in a bit.

I pulled samples from the very top of the bottle in early November 2019, then at the midpoint in January 2020, then at its very bottom last week. These three pours were tried side-by-side so I could observe how the whisky progressed with time and oxygen.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Tobermory
Owner: Distell International
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: American oak casks
Bottle code: PO33859 L5 10:22 15097
Bottling year: 2015, I think
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from my bottle)

Top of the bottle sample from November 2019
Nose - A mix of pear and barley eau de vies. Heck, throw in Slivovitz too. Juniper, lavender flowers, mint leaves, sugar and a hint of yeast.

Palate - Lots of barley. Saltines and a bitter herbal liqueur. A gentle sweetness and tartness.

Finish - Saltines, raw almonds and a mild sweetness.

Middle of the bottle sample from January 2020
Nose - Brighter and a little more rounded. Flower blossoms, brown sugar and citronella candles. There's also a curious raisin note and flour dust. Though the barley supposedly has a peat measure of 0-2ppm, a definite peat-like phenolic note appears after 15 minutes.

Palate - Tart lemons, brown sugar, horseradish and chewed grass start things off. With time in the glass, the whisky develops notes of roasted sweet potato, raw almonds and Slivovitz.

Finish -  There's the peat-ish note again. Then horseradish, wort and a growing sweetness.

Bottom of the bottle sample from March 2020
Nose - Drifting back towards new make, it smells floral and grassy. Small notes of chicken broth and citronella linger in the background. The peat note has disappeared.

Palate - Milder now. Moderate tartness and bitterness. Lemons, grass and malt. Toasted grains and nuts.

Finish - Soft, grassy and malty, with a hint of lemon cookies.

Though I was excited to start this whisky in November, I'd gotten desperate to finish it in March. In fact, this review was supposed to happen three weeks ago but I just couldn't bring myself to drink anymore of it for fun. And that's a problem.

There's a bit of confirmation bias here, probably. I tend to like whiskies best at mid-bottle, and sure enough that was the best spot for this one. By then the whisky had gained some interesting angles and the peat-like notes gave it much-needed depth. I doubt those characteristics lasted long.

While I cannot deny that young Tobermory is truly its own animal and I applaud the honest, naked nature of this official bottling, I have no interest in ever buying it again. Perhaps my palate has changed, or maybe this stuff drinks better in late spring, or clearer signs of mortality have made me fussier about my poisons, but there was no thrill to be found in this bottle.

Availability - Worldwide, though possibly being phased out for the 12yo
Pricing - $45 - $65
Rating - 82 (and only at mid-bottle)