Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

New member for the Tomatin family: sherry cask

My heart delighted in the news that one of my favourite distilleries out there, Tomatin, announced the release of a new core range addition. It is the 12 Years Old Sherry Cask. That leaves no guess work for us. A Tomatin aged for 12 years, exclusively in sherry casks, and bottled at … wait, what? Only 40 % abv? Well, that raised my eyebrows. Let us see what that is all about!

As some people know, Tomatin is the single malt that got me hooked on whisky. My then father-in-law brought back a mysterious looking black tube, containing a black labelled single malt whisky with an exotic sounding name. I had to look up information in a book to understand what I was holding in my hand. ‘The first Scottish distillery owned by a Japanese company.’ And that was about all it said. But then the taste. Today, to me, Tomatin is still the epitome of a classic Highland Single Malt Whisky. The heather, a light peaty note, good spices, a bit fierce but not without a gentle side. ‘Distilled with Pride’, the label used to say. Rightly so. And let’s not talk (yet) about higher aged Tomatin … those are just fabulous!

I thought it would be interesting to compare this new 12 years old Tomatin with the regular 12 years old, that consists of bourbon and sherry casks. The Tomatin 12 is a regular since the early 2000s, when it followed a standard 10 years old that can be traced back to the late 1960s and 1970s as the one standard outing of Tomatin, a company that had the main focus on the blending industry. In 2022 the 12 years old bottle was packaged in a beautiful artistic box to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the distillery.

Tomatin 12 years old, bottled at 43 % abv

Makeup: A core range release consisting of a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. This one was bottled in 2018. On this bottle the tagline reads ‘The Softer Side of the Highlands’.

General impressions: We have these two glasses next to each other, but there is almost no difference in colour noticeable. It opens on a rather earthy note and damp wooden floor. After a little breathing time pronounced heather and a slight mainland peat comes through. Very mountain fresh. I once camped in nearby(ish) Boat of Garten, close to Aviemore, where at night the horizon still shed some light in high Summer, and the grass was damp from the morning dew rolling in. That is how it smells, with an alcohol infusion of course.

Then a sip. Tomatin is know for some excellent fruity whisky, but this is not it yet. The taste is that of chocolate, wood notes, clove and some spicy ginger. The finish gives that earthy kick again. The balance on this expression is excellent. Soft indeed, but Tomatin gives off lots of natural flavours, honey, flowers, cinnamon, that to me makes it still the undisputed classic Highland single malt.

Conclusion: A good Scotch for the flask while hiking to see River Findhorn. Or just as a very decent every day dram. Straightforward and unpretentious.

82 points.


Tomatin 12 years old Sherry Cask, bottled at 40 % abv

Makeup: A core range release made up out of sherry casks. Bottled in 2024.

General impressions: A relative for sure, but definitely a rougher edge from the pure sherry influence. I pick up spicy notes, leaning to the slightest hint of sulphur, but maintained. Now returning to nose the ‘standard’ 12 years old, you notice there is a vanilla note that I had not even picked up before. The sherry: less grassy, more woody and smoky now. Yet again, this is not the fruitiest expression of Tomatin, and I think that is a bold choice by the distillery in a market that seems to favour fruity and sweet whisky, with a plethora of PX-maturing and wine finishes. This is a more classic and dare I say dirty style of sherried whisky. We conclude with smoky red apples.

Now, on the taste however we do pick up a more juicy fruitiness that was well hidden on the nose. But you have to be quick to describe them, because soon a strong and decidedly woody note envelops the berries and smoked marmalade. Those tastes make a return on the finish, that is just the right amount of drying in character. The darker, spicy notes of this Tomatin adds a lot of complexity and is rougher compared to the standard 12 years old.

Conclusion: Worth shelling out the extra 10 to 15 euro/pounds for. Was the previous Tomatin a nice Saturday afternoon whisky, this one comes out the cupboard when the sun has set, the wood in the fireside is crackling and you light a hearty cigar with friends. Every distillery probably has their standard sherried offering, this is Tomatin’s, and it is a good one. (And the 40 % abv does not raise any conversation, interestingly enough.)

Score: 84 points

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