Scotch
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Tomatin 18 Year

by on July 11, 2018
Details
 
Class

Highland Single Malt Scotch

Average Price

$65 - 80 US Retail

Positives

Great balance of sherry cask, bourbon cask, and malt notes. Fantastic value for an 18 year old. Bottled at 46% without any unnecessary processing.

Negatives

The finish is a bit short.

Editor Rating
 
Nose
90%

 
Palate
92%

 
Finish
90%

Total Score
91%

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Bottom Line
 

Buy it now! This whisky is approachable yet complex and is very affordable for its age.

 

Tomatin Distillery has an interesting tale to tell.  While legend holds that whisky has been distilled onsite in the village of Tomatin since the 16th century, the licensed distillery originally known as Tomatin Spey Distillery Co Ltd was not established until 1897.  The company quickly went bankrupt in 1906, reopened under new ownership in 1909, and produced huge quantities of whisky to wholesale to blenders throughout the 20th century before being liquidated in 1986.  During the 1970’s, Tomatin produced the most whisky of any single distillery in Scotland, at over 12 million liters per year.  Shortly after it was shuttered, the distillery was purchased by Takara Shuzo and renamed Tomatin Distillery Co Ltd.  While the distillery still produces a relatively high volume and sells about 80% of its production to blenders, the new owners have placed a much greater emphasis on bottling single malt whisky.  Never before known for the quality of its product, Tomatin is currently heavily investing in producing and marketing with maximum quality in mind rather than quantity.

photo from https://www.strathspey-herald.co.uk/News/Tomatin-Distillery-toasts-a-bumper-financial-year-21062018.htm

Tomatin is located on the eastern edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, just south of Inverness in the Highlands, over 1000 feet above sea level.  Tomatin’s tagline “the softer side of the Highlands” references the usage of soft mountain spring water sourced from the Alt-na-Frith Burn and tall, swan-necked copper pot stills which allow for more reflux and create a more delicate spirit.  The distillery compound itself is massive.  Tomatin ages its stock onsite in a plethora of warehouses, and also has its own cooperage and distillery houses where the majority of its employees live.  While many of its stills were dismantled leading up to its liquidation during the 1980s whisky downturn, Tomatin still has the distilling capacity to produce over 5 million liters a year.  At the present day, the distillery produces about 2.5 million liters per year.

Tomatin currently releases a 12 year and 18 year single malt – both of which are affordable and readily available – along with a number of special releases, including the most recent 14 year old Port Cask finish.  They’ve taken a modern, craft/quality oriented approach of bottling most of their single malts at 46% ABV, and all of them without chill filtering or added coloring.

On a more personal note, Tomatin currently has a special place in my household. You see, I’ve successfully converted my wife into a lover of whisky through my persistent nagging to smell and taste the whisky in my glass each night eloquent and unmatched skill as a husband. The first scotch that really caught her fancy was Tomatin 12 Year, and based on recommendation we bought a bottle of the 18 Year to share together.

Notes:

  • Distilled and aged at the Tomatin Distillery
  • Primarily matured in “traditional oak casks” (in other words ex-bourbon casks) and finished for a short duration in Spanish oak 1st fill Oloroso Sherry butts
  • Non-chill filtered and natural color
  • Bottled at 46% ABV

Nose:  Out of the bottle, honey and oak dominate the nose.  As the dram rests, the sherry cask influence emerges in the form of dark chocolate and overripe plums.  The aroma is sweet but far from cloying, and the different notes are in excellent harmony with one another.

Palate:  The first thing I notice is the lovely rich mouthfeel of the whisky.  The entry is full of milk chocolate maltiness and soft plums alongside fresh honey and the slightest hint of oak.

Finish:  The oak re-emerges on the finish with more dark chocolate, plums, and pipe tobacco.  The finish is warming and not too dry.  My only complaint is that it is a bit short.

Buying Recommendation:  Buy it now!  Let me first say that the soft, sherry finished scotch profile is not typically my jam (pardon the pun).  However, this 18 year old single malt is an absolute gem.  In addition, its readily available for under $100, making it one of the cheapest 18 year old distillery-official bottlings around.  One might expect an $80 18 year old single malt to be watered down to 40% and taste like oatmeal and lawn shavings, but here you have a craft-presented malt with a great balance of flavors.

Tomatin 18 is very approachable, making it a great “older” malt for new scotch drinkers looking to upgrade from younger malts, but it has enough complexity to keep seasoned enthusiasts entertained.  Therefore, regardless of where you’re at on your whisky journey, I highly recommend you pull aside at the next liquor store and buy yourself a bottle of this.

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