Tomatin 18 Years Review

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“Not Perfect But Dangerously Drinkable”

Whisky Review # 627

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Tomatin
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Bourbon casks with Sherry cask Finish.   
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 70-90(July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😀 Positive. Good Price/Quality Ratio. A few flaws! 

Colour: Golden Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose: The Sherry Cask influence is obvious. Lots of Dried Fruits like Sultanas, Raisins and Apricots. A long time ago I had some fortified wine in the South of France near Perpignan and the border with Spain. I believe it was called Muscat de Rivesaltes and this Tomatin brings back those (literally) sweet memories. I also find Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, both Sweet and Tart Apples, Blackberries, Cinnamon, Clove, light Pepper, Dusty Sand Road and faint hints of Leather, Toasted Oak and Tobacco. The Alcohol is not fully integrated and it actually stings a little.

Palate: Good delivery thanks to the adequate ABV. A combination of Sweet Sherry, Spices and Wood. I find Sweet Barley, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Dried Fruit, Sweet Apples, Heather-Honey, Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pepper, Nutmeg, Clove, Ginger, Dusty Road and hints of Leather and Tobacco. The Alcohol remains present.

Tasting Visit May 2017

Finish: Long and Spicy. It's Oily as well and it coats your mouth nicely. Quite Dry and Oaky towards the end with a light Alcohol burn that I could do without. I also find Sweet Barley, Toffee, Vanilla, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Heather-Honey, Clove, Nutmeg, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Citrus, Dark Chocolate, Sweet Red Apples and Toasted Oak.

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and in all three departments the Alcohol is less noticeable now. That's a good thing! I do get a little extra Menthol in the Finish. I would advise to add a few drops of Water in this case.

Rating: 85       

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Image result for tomatin 18 years
New Packaging and Bottle

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

Tomatin was founded in 1897 by the Tomatin Spey Distillery Company. In 1985 the distillery went into liquidation and was bought in 1987 by Takara Shuzo Co. and Okara & Co, both from Japan which was quite remarkable at that time. In fact, Tomatin was the first Scottish distillery that became fully owned by Japanese companies. Currently the shares are being hold by Takara Shuzo (81%)  Marubeni (14%) and Kokubu (5%). Tomatin has always been a distillery that produced large quantities of Spirit for Blends but in the last 10 years they started to concentrate on producing and marketing Single Malts. As a result, the production decreased from well over 10 million litres in the 1970's/1980's to around 1,6 million litres this year. They still produce Blends as well though. (Antiquary, Big T and the Talisman). Today's Single Malt core range includes the NAS Legacy, the 12, 18 and 36 years. In 2016, new packaging and bottles were introduced for the entire core range.

The 18 years I'm reviewing today was introduced in 2006. We visited Tomatin in May this year and we really enjoyed the Tour and the Tasting session despite the fact that it was Friday afternoon when the production is stopped to be able to clean the equipment.

Visit May 2017
🍷  The Spirit 

At one point in time in the 1970's Tomatin was operating a staggering 23 stills. Today there are still six pairs of stills but only 4 of the spirit stills are being used. The Lyne arms of the round, tall and slim copper stills point either straight or slightly  upwards creating a Sweet and Malty medium bodied Spirit. The water is sourced from the Allt-na-Frith (the Free Burn).

Visit May 2017
🌲  The Wood:

The Tomatin 18 Years matures for over 16 years in Refill Bourbon casks bought from Maker's Mark. The spirit is then finished for at least 18 months in First Fill Spanish Oak Oloroso Sherry butts. These butts must have been of reasonable quality as I get no Sulphur notes. 

Drinking Experience: Good

Conclusion:

The Tomatin 18 Years shows that this Distillery deserves its place on the Single Malt map. It also shows how important good casks are. In this case the Sherry butts certainly left their clean marks. This is  especially noticeable on the Nose where you can discover a variety of (mostly) Dried Fruits. It's not a perfect Malt though as Spices, Alcohol and Wood are slightly dominant on the Palate and certainly in the Finish. In this case I think the Spirit would probably have benefited from a few years less cask time and perhaps a slightly lower ABV. That way, you might preserve some of the Fruit for Palate and Finish. These are all minor flaws though and the Tomatin 18 years is actually extremely drinkable. You better take care if you have a bottle at your side on a cold winter's night. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                       July 26, 2017

Visit May 2017

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