Tomatin 18 Year: 46% abv
Background: So the last two reviews have been a series of disappointments, with trends of improving quality as the age statement increases. The 18 Year could be a different story altogether though (perhaps wishful thinking…). Here is the theory though: 18 Year Old Tomatin is uniquely different because, besides being bottled older, it is also 46% as opposed to 43%. It is also aged in specifically Oloroso sherry casks. Finally, the 18 Year is explicated stated as being a non-chill filtered whisky. It is KCM’s sincerest hope that this whisky ends up being a better contender than the other two as a reasonably priced alternative to the mainstays.
Nose: The nose starts off forward in a perfume-like, sherried aroma. It is delicate, citrusy, and floral. The nose, as in every other case, is actually fairly enjoyable. Aromas of marmalade, plums, and cranberry are present in the nose, with a small tartness associated with green apples and other fruits. This is probably the most balanced nose any of these whiskies has displayed. It is more complex, more interesting and more balanced. There is a bit of maltiness, as well as portraying a small amount of raw grain flavor. Ultimately, the unique fruit notes are what set this malt apart. It doesn’t even remind me of an Oloroso sherry, uniquely enough. There is a certain berry-esque blend, and I’m crossing my fingers that this Single Malt actually carries that into the taste.
Arrival: The arrival starts off encouraging. It demonstrates some of the anticipated fruitiness in the nose. It also has a floral, lean, almost coastal flavor to it. There is an intense wood smokiness that is beginning to develop as well. It doesn’t taste peaty though. It tastes ashy and wood-like. There are some interesting older whisky flavors, like leather and hot spices. There is some vanilla, and evident sawdust in the arrival as it enters the body, but it quickly fades off. There is a slight hint of raisons and sherry, but it is hardly noticeable.
Body: The body still demonstrates a strong presence of smoke and malt. There are some big spices in the body of this whisky. Cinnamon and ginger are coming through. The body is hugely woody and intense, uncharacteristic of the last two bottlings. There is a combat of sweetness from the sherry and an interesting bitterness that gives the body great balance and intensity. It is relentless.
Finish: The finish is hugely coastal, and hugely malty. It has some very similar characteristics to Jura. There is a big, beefy saltiness in the finish. There is some definite dry pepper and citrus that also adds to the intensity of this whisky. Hints of apple, pear, and melon are present in the finish as well. There is an interesting mint and nut taste coming through in the finish as the whisky opens up. The finish is complex, and like every part of this whisky thus far, brutally strong.
Nose: This bottling definitely warrants a second look after adding a little water. At 46%, and with its demonstrated intensity and complexity, there is plenty to talk about. The nose is much more intense in fruitiness and floralness. It has a rounded, rich smell to it, with an almost chocolate raspberry smell off the nose. There is vanilla and spice smell emanating from the whisky as well. Overall, the nose is still tantalizing, and very fruity and rounded.
Arrival: The arrival is spicy, and still very coastal in its presence. It has an intense brininess. There is a lot of wood spice, gingerbread, and hot cinnamon on the arrival. It has lost some of the initial fruitiness, and some of the wood smoke. This is so much better than every other expression that I’ve tasted, and it is also substantially better after adding water.
Body: The body is a good connection from the arrival to the finish, having a soft medley containing most of the flavors, but at a much better balance. There is still a hint of raw grain present in the taste, but it isn’t so distastefully obvious and unbalanced so it actually adds from the whisky instead of muting the complexity.
Finish: This is exactly what this whisky was meant to be. The intensity balances out, the flavors meld together beautifully, and this becomes a tamed beast. After a few drinks, it still has the hot, spicy Clynelish-like highland spiciness and briny coastal flavors. It still has a bit of harshness and intensity to it, but it is definitely tolerable. Finally, a bit of the sherry starts to become somewhat obvious at the very end.
Final Comments: So Tomatin has made a last minute redemption. With three reviews in this series, it was becoming painfully obvious that KCM seems not to favor the new make Tomatin, which is strongly dominant over the oak. The 18 Year, with a number of differences from the previous versions, overcomes this with a compelling complexity, brutish intensity, and craft presentation. This shows that Tomatin isn’t an awful spirit, but I would argue that this indicates older bottlings are probably more favorable in flavor. That being said, it would be interesting to try an independent bottling of young Tomatin and see how it compared. In any case, this is not on the top of the list, but it is a challenging whisky to try to enjoy. I just wouldn’t personally want a whole bottle of it to enjoy.
Why you’d buy it: You like intense, spicy, well rounded whiskies from Scotland.
Why you wouldn’t: There are other Highland malts that do a better job at a better price.
Score: 8.5 /10