Tomatin Tasting at The Royal Mile Whisky Shop

I have always been a big advocate of Tomatin, everything of theirs that I have tried has been of great quality and very characterful, though I have tried much less of their range than I would like. So when my good friends Richard and Hugh of the Edradynate Whisky Club informed me that they had a ticket going spare for a Tomatin tasting at the Royal Mile Whisky shop how could I possibly refuse?

The tasting was held at the Royal Mile Whisky shop in Edinburgh, funnily enough on the royal mile – who would have guessed – and was hosted by Tomatins current Master Distiller, Graham Eunson. I always enjoy going to tastings when you get someone who knows the ins and outs of the distillery and production and know their product inside out instead of just repeating some marketing bumf, and the chance to enjoy some fine drams of Tomatin with the man who makes it was a real treat!

As soon as we arrived at the shop we were handed a dram of the Tomatin 12yo, an excellent ‘entry level’ bottling with loads of character for its age, to get our palates going while we waited on everyone else arriving. We arrived about 10 minutes before the tasting was set to begin so we savoured our sample and wandered around the shop looking at the countless bottles of whisky and chatting away.

Once everyone arrived and Graham introduced himself and gave us a bit of his story we got down to the tasting. The first whisky of the night was the Tomatin 12yo, which we had been enjoying while waiting on everyone else arriving. Graham generously topped up our glasses so that we had something to nose while he took us through our first of the drams on offer that night, which I was very grateful for, I’m not in the habit of turning down extra whisky and I certainly don’t plan on starting! The 12yo is a lovely introduction to the style of whisky you get from Tomatin. There is lots of fruitiness, mainly green fruits with apples and pear, and also a good amount of nuttiness, followed by a lovely buttery, cereal character. It feels like a very traditional and old fashioned style of whisky which I personally really enjoy.

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Dram number two for the evening was a real highlight for me, it was the Tomatin 14yo. This whisky has been finished for between 1.5 to 2 years in Tawny Port casks, which had previous held Port for around 30 years! This is an incredibly rich and spicy whisky, with a lot going on. On the nose there are prunes, liquorice, red berries and earthy Manuka honey followed by heaps of spice, toffee and winey goodness on the palate.

After having tried these two core range expressions we then moved on to something a little more unique. The third and fourth whiskies of the night were two single cask bottlings of Tomatin, both of which are actually exclusive to the Royal Mile Whisky shop. The first single cask bottling was an 11yo Tomatin aged in a 1st fill Barrel. This one was right up my street with a heady mix of banana, coconut and vanilla, it was like a very boozy banana sundae, very boozy at a respectable 56.2%ABV.

The second of the Royal Mile Whisky exclusives was a 19yo 1997 vintage Tomatin which had been matured in a Refill Sherry Hogshead, a very unusual cask type in the industry today. Limited to just 178 bottles and presented at 58.2%ABV this whisky is amazing! There is a huge tannic grapyness upfront on the nose accompanied by cloves, black pepper, dark chocolate and just the slightest whiff of smoke. With a few drops of water much of the fruit pushes past the spice and the alcohol, bringing more of those dried fruit notes that you would associate with sherry cask maturation.

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After having sampled two very good single cask whiskies we went back to the core range for what would be our fifth dram of the night. Dram number five took us to the peated side of Tomatin with their Cù Bòcan, and this was actually my first time trying this expression. I can’t for the life of me understand why it has taken me this long to find this bottling, I’ve heard really good thing about the Cù Bòcan and I can see why. The smoke is very light on the nose joined by aromas of citrus peel, vanilla and good drizzle of honey. On the palate the peat smoke is far more intense and is accompanied by pepper, caramel and again citrus.

With that the ‘official’ part of the tasting was over but Graham, being the fine gent that he is, had an ace up his sleeve. He produced an unbranded bottle with just a sticker on it and began going round pouring measures of it. This was a very different style of whisky indeed; it wasn’t like anything I had ever nosed before. It was like a very intense and fresh fruit salad with strawberries, kiwis, gooseberries and nectarines, carried by a dousing of runny honey and white chocolate. Graham said that this whisky was at around 45-46%ABV which I found hard to believe. He then let us know that what we were in fact tasting was a 1976 vintage Tomatin matured in a refill Hogshead, drawn straight from the cask the day previous! A 40yo single cask Tomatin! Just wow, and unfortunately this one was not for sale, though that is probably a good thing after having tried it I would be far too tempted.

I was very torn on my favourite dram of the night, the last one obviously a highlight, I really loved the 14yo with that strong Port cask influence but the 11yo single barrel was very good indeed. In the end I decided to get myself a bottle of the single cask as they were the same price, with my tasting discount it came to only £40, an absolute steal for an 11yo single cask whisky! I plan on cracking it open very soon and I will be sure to do a review of it when I do.

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I’d like to thank Richard and Hugh for the ticket, Richard especially for being the designated driver – I hope he enjoys his samples when he gets round to it – and Royal Mile Whiskies for hosting yet another great tasting. A massive thank you also to Graham from Tomatin for his excellent presentation and for providing such good whisky for the night, especially that 76’ vintage, wow!

Sláinte

Gary

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