Here’s another quirky one, posted for no other reason than that it’s my site and I can. A cask sample that hasn’t been locally bottled. What good is a review like this, you may ask? Well…it’s not, really, if you look at these little jottings as a potential shopping guide. If, however, you’re looking for some entertaining education and a bit of whisky nerdery…read on.
Several months back, a good mate of mine, Jonathan Bray of Purple Valley Imports, brought this Tomatin cask sample by. It was sort of a ‘tack on’ to a private A.D. Rattray range tasting we were doing that night at my place. A few of the usual suspects crowded around conspiratorially and gloated over many a glass of rare and exceptional whisky. Y’know…just the average evening with friends ’round here. 😉
On to the whisky…
ADR does things the right way; bottling strong, clean and exceptional malts pulled from distilleries all over the rolling green of Scotland’s distilleries, as well as from owner Tim Morrison’s personal stores of whisky. For a little more on this, check out a previous ATW piece here.
But…sometimes a certain cask isn’t quite right for a certain market. Samples are pulled from barrels, and ultimately a decision is made as to whether or not it is ready to be bottled, and where it should be allocated. In the case of this particular Tomatin cask, I have little to no information. I do believe Jonathan mentioned it having been bottled for another market, but I haven’t seen it personally. What I wouldn’t give to try the official ADR release against this advance sample. The development of whisky through all of it’s stages is one of the things I take huge interest in.
As you can tell by the photo above…there is an awful lot of particulate in this whisky. Those are bits of cask sediment. Quite literally, pieces of the charred inner staves of the barrel it was aged in. We’re not talking miniscule floaties here, as you can see. These are large chunks of wood. How delightfully archaic and authentic. Love it. Now that’s a high fiber manly malt. I have one other similar bottle (complete with particulate) from a recent tour at Laphroaig. I wax sealed the top of that one, and plan to leave it for years to come. Should be an interesting malt to revisit at some point in the decades ahead.
Let’s talk about Tomatin. This is a Highland distillery that is on a bit of an upswing of late. The market has seen an influx of those snazzy red, black and white boxes (12, 15, 18, 30, 40, Legacy, Decades). Nice to see some variety. Keeps the game interesting. I’ve tried the first three mentioned, as well as the Decades, and truly have trouble reconciling those OBs with this single cask. This is exactly why the single cask market exists. It is bloody fascinating to see just how much all the factors of the process (including vatting good and bad casks together) affect the end product.
This \tomatin sample has got a warehouse date stamp of 12/Jan/2009, but when this was actually bottled and where it ultimately ended up are a mystery to me. Fun stuff.
Nose: Can’t recall ever nosing caramels and florals so intertwined. Fudge and soft chocolate. Orange. Maybe blueberry. Nutmeg on eggnog. Heavy cream. Hint of smoke. Touch of almond. Fairly mature, I’d guess, by the rising bread dough and vanilla notes. Very, very integrated.
Palate: Enormous loud arrival. Prickly and peppery. Coffee. Mixed chocolates. Some very tight greens at play for a brief bit. Develops a little doughy again. Not quite up to the nose, but still brilliant.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt