Tomatin – A tasting with Stan Reid

Having only ever tried one Tomatin dram (a Distillery Exclusive – Single Cask Oloroso 58.5% ABV) prior to this tasting, I was particularly looking forward to exploring their core range. Stan Reid, the Regional Sales Manager brought a cracking line up including a bottle of 30 and 36 year-old-malt!

A bit about the distillery

Tomatin is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery located in the village of Tomatin, just south of Inverness. Its whisky is classified as being from the Highland region.

Despite allegedly distilling on site since the 16th century, when cattle drivers would buy their spirit, the distillery was not officially established until 1897, when it was registered under the name of Tomatin Spey Distillery Co. As historically is the case for a lot of distillery’s, they went bankrupt, this was in 1906 and it wasn’t until 3 years later when they reopened under new ownership.

After the liquidation of its owners in 1986, it was taken over by Japanese conglomerate Takara Shuzo and was renamed Tomatin Distillery Co. Takara Shuzo also owns the renowned Blanton’s single-barrel bourbon.

Around 80% of Tomatin’s whisky goes into blended whisky, including its own brands of Antiquary and Talisman. During the last month of every year, the distillery produces a lightly peated single malt called Cu Bocan which is produced for only one week a year.

The drams of which Stan brought to share with us were all Tomatin distilled, non-peated drams.

Stan Reid - Tomatin
Tomatin Whisky and a Water Jug

The line-up

As with most nights at The Southport Whisky Club, Stan had brought with him a cracking line up.

36 Year Old

There was no messing about on this evening as Stan kicked things off with the 36-year-old double gold winner in the 2019 San Francisco WSC awards. Served at the start of the tasting where everyone’s palates are fresh, to allow people to fully appreciate the taste of this £600 a bottle dram.

This whisky is matured in a combination of Bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry Butts before being bottled at 46% ABV. It had a very fruity nose and was creamy and smooth on the palate.

Legacy

Next in line was their non-sherry, no age statement “entry level” bottling which goes by the name of Legacy (unless you’re in the US, then it’s called Dualhas).

Stan told us that it’s their entry level bottling and at the lower end of the range. Whilst most brands are trying to get their entry level whiskies into the supermarket sector, Legacy can only be found on the shelves of Tesco branches in Scotland, helping to maintain the brand’s image. It usually sells for around £27 a bottle on Master of Malt et al.

I found this dram really interesting, particularly it’s nose. It has lots of banana and pineapple and is very vibrant. The palate didn’t disappoint either with lots of apples and a gentle light finish.

12 Year Old

Shortly followed by the 12-year-old which is soft and smooth on the palate. This is down to its maturation in traditional Scotch Whisky, ex-bourbon and ex-Spanish sherry casks. It is rich and fruity on the nose with a tell-tale bourbon fragrance and is bottled at 43% ABV.

Like all of the core range, this is another award-winning bottle and scored highly (91.5/100) in Jim Murrays Whisky Bible 2019. It’s really well priced too at around £40 a bottle or an amazing steal at £32 on the night for Southport Whisky Club members.

30 Year Old

Ramping things back up, Stan moved on to introducing us to the 30 Year Old Tomatin. This dram retails for around £300 and is a limited bottling of only 3000 bottles.

It’s been finished in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and has lovely sweet notes of honey and tropical fruits. There’s no sherry in this one and it’s bottled at a very enticing 46% ABV.

14 Year Old

After a short break, it was time to get back down to business. The second half was kicked off with the 14-year-old. This time, matured in a combination of Bourbon barrels and Port casks. Stan told us that the spirit is finished in the Tawny Port casks for around 2 years.

Tomatin’s port casks are over 40 years old, in which time the port gives the wood a great seasoning. Quality doesn’t come cheap though, costing the distillery a whopping £1000 per cask!

This whisky is soft, sweet and smooth but despite this, there are rich characteristics of red berries and a subtle nuttiness. I picked up a little wave of heat off this dram too which was entirely from the flavours as it’s not a high hitter at 46% ABV. It’s easy to see why this is one of their most popular bottlings in the core range.

Tomatin Core Range

12 Year Old 2006 – French Oak

Following on from the 14-year-old, we sampled this unique 12-year-old which is Tomatin’s second-ever distillery exclusive bottling. It’s a 2006 vatting of a pair of refill casks which were finished in French oak. This limited edition single malt was bottled earlier this year (February 2019) at 46% ABV.

The nose was fruity with a gentle spice which really comes alive on the palate. It delivered caramel and a sugared sweetness in the mouth, the spice really came to life and hung around.

I enjoyed sampling this one as a French Oak finish isn’t something I’ve tried before. It won’t be around for long as there are only 721 bottles, so act fast if you want one!

18 Year Old

Last but absolutely not least, we tried the 18-year-old. It’s matured in traditional oak casks and first fill Oloroso Sherry butts.

It has a lovely rich and sherried nose with the presence of oranges and sultanas, which carries through to the palate delivering gentle oak and a citrusy undertone. Bottled at 46% ABV it’s well balanced and approachable.

Tomatin in the glass

Wrap up

Before you know it, you’ve coasted through 7 drams and have to face the difficult question of “Which is your favourite?”… as though you can just pick one! 

When put on the spot, the 18-year-old had my final vote; that decision was made irrespective of price. Trust me, if the £600 bottle had sung for me I would’ve declared that my favourite.

There’s a number of factors that come into play when buying a bottle of whisky. Visualise this: You’re in a Whisky Shop, there’s a variety of drams ranging from blends to single malts and grains, all at different price points. You take all of this into consideration, how old is the whisky?, is it a limited release?, have you tasted it before? etc. etc. but for most, the biggest factor is, how much is it? 

I think there’s something particularly satisfying about finding a great dram that doesn’t cost the earth and it’s for this reason that my take-home bottle on the night was the Tomatin Legacy.

For me, this dram had some really interesting characteristics. It’s light and delicate which is the typical traditional Tomatin style, yet it’s introduction to Virgin Oak casks has added another dimension to it; giving vibrancy and sweetness.

All of this for just £24 on the night. The fact that this is their entry level dram, just adds more shine to it for me. I feel that a whisky novice or even a seasoned whisky drinker who hasn’t had Tomatin before could delve into this dram and establish an appetite to try more of their whiskies.

As I enjoyed it so much I’ve bought some minis as prizes for a competition I will be running on Instagram to raise more awareness of this blog, so keep your eyes peeled!

Competition now live

The Tomatin Legacy Miniature Giveaway is now live. Click here for details of the competition and how to enter!

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