Tomatin was founded around 1897 when the first official distillery on the site was registered, although it is believed that Whisky was produced well before this date and possibly as far back as the early 1700’s..
Found just 18 miles south of Inverness the distillery lies on the eastern edge of the Monadhliath Mountains at 1000 feet above sea level.
Boasting its own little village where around 80% of the workers still live, Tomatin distillery is not just a job but a way of life !!
Once regarded as the largest distillery in Scotland with a capacity to produce 12 million litres of alcohol per year from its 23 stills ( 12 wash stills and 11 spirit stills)
Today the distillery has the capacity to produce around 5 million litres of alcohol although it produces nearer the 2.5 million ltrs of alcohol mark, a small percentage of this being peated.
There are 10 malt bins each holding 500 tons of barley which at the moment is 100% Scottish, again a Porteus mill is in operation which was installed in 1974 and can crush 8.2 tons of barley every 90 mins.. There are 12 wash backs all around 42,600 ltrs each and all stainless steel, 12 stills of which only 10 are used ( 6 wash stills and 4 spirit stills) the distillery runs on a 54 hour fermentation.
Tomatin 18 – Oloroso Finished
There is a notion that whisky finished in a cask is of poorer quality or has at least had a poor start, why would anyone bother to remove good liquid from a cask that is doing its job by imparting good flavour and aromas to a liquid, then have the audacity to put this great liquid into a second cask.. What are they thinking ?
Those who still live in the past need to get a reality check and start to smell the roses.. Gone are the days that the unethical process of using poor, knackered casks to mature whisky within, companies are spending a fortune to source ” The finest oak casks ” They then put into action a very detailed cask maturing programme, this in a lot of cases involve what is know today as a ” Finishing ” programme..
This implies finishing whisky is intentional,it is !! It has been done to produce a more complex whisky for those who are looking for a multi layered, diverse whisky, a library of flavours, you know something that might be a little different to the mainstream releases that everyone else is churning out.. To put it simply, the earth is not flat, so doing some things just a little different should not be frowned upon.. Hmmm, now where have I heard that before..
Anyway, finishing whisky has been a part of whisky production for a long time now, sometimes not always for the right reason, but needless to say its been there.
Balvenie and Glenmorangie were amongst the first companies to do this with an intention to add something different to their whisky, I am sure others may have done it before hand but not necessarily out of intention.. Glen Moray are one company that i know of that had an extensive ” finishing ” programme, all the liquid destined to receive a finish was in fact initially matured within first fill American oak Bourbon casks before receiving a secondary maturation within a second cask, usually Sherry including Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez as the obvious choices, of course other casks like Tawny Port, Red Wine and lets not forget some companies like to give a second maturation in another set of First Fill Bourbon cask. Bains grain whisky from South Africa is the perfect example of this one..
So for anyone under the illusion “finishing” is a bad thing in whisky, sit back for a moment, pick up a glass containing a finished whisky and just enjoy it for what it is.. A simple whisky that has been made with passion, pride and with an intention of giving the consumer some pleasure, it isn’t and shouldn’t be too complicated, after all, whisky is simple, it is 3 ingredients made into liquid for the enjoyment of millions around, not a select few..
So the whisky.. Tomatin have released a few expressions over the years that have impressed me, this is no exception to that.. I must admit though, i have had several bottles of this 18 year old single malt and never realised i had not reviewed it, that should tell you just how “normal” it is for me to have this whisky on my shelf..
Initially matured in American oak they had the audacity to go and put this into Oloroso sherry casks to give this an extra layer of complex flavours and just a slightly different outlook had it only been given a maturation within those Bourbon casks..
Casks.. Ex Bourbon – Finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks
DOUBLE GOLD 2019 San Francisco WSC
DOUBLE GOLD 2018 San Francisco WSC
GOLD 2017 San Francisco WSC
GOLD 2017 WWA
DOUBLE GOLD 2016 San Francisco WSC
Best Distillers’ Single Malt Aged 13-19 Years
GOLD 2016 WWA
GOLD 2015 San Francisco WSC
DOUBLE GOLD 2015 Asia WSC
BEST HIGHLAND MALT 2014 WWA
DOUBLE GOLD 2014 San Francisco WSC
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020
Nose.. Dried fruits in the form of dates, raisins and a little hint of sultanas come through with plum freshly picked from the tree and a lovely sticky toffee pudding with vanilla custard aroma that invokes memories fro the past.. Soft spices and a little coconut descends before it does a u-turn back to those sherried notes.
Palate.. Prickly at first with a dominance of spices, pepper, fresh ginger and cinnamon that coat the mouth before allowing dried fruits, some fresh apple, orange rind and a hint of bitter lemon through.. There is an earthy sweetness in the form of Manuka honey that mingles with a soft dirty leather note, tobacco leaf and liquorice lace flavour..
Finish.. Sharp, lingering and clean
Thoughts.. Tomatin in some senses are very undervalued in the world of whisky and I have to scratch my head as to why.. Ask Joe public on the street to name a number of distilleries and id argue Tomatin will not be one of them!!
Tomatin to me will always hold a small piece of my heart in the wonderful world of single malt whisky, they introduced me to a number of stunning expressions early on in my journey and they still manage to educate me in my journey today..
A friendly, approachable team that understand the values of modern production and customer relationships, not only this, they produce some of the finest expressions on the market today..