Let’s call the whole thing Scotch!
Tomatin! Sits right on the border of the Highlands and Speyside and produces around 5 million litres of whisky a year, so they keep themselves busy up there.
I’ve visited the distillery on my way up to Inverness and what I found most memorable was the amount of imposing large warehouses that seem to cover the land for miles all around it; a sort of a cold war style military base but surrounded by grass and fields and at its heart a distillery.
I’ve already tried and enjoyed their 12 year old, which is a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks, as well as their Cu Bocan, which is a fantastic lightly peated whisky and in my opinion is a great whisky to introduce people to peat without them pulling a face that’d scare the hellhounds of Satan away after trying say, a Laphroaig 10 for the first time.
But the Tomatin we are concerned with today is their 14 year old Port Cask Finish. Of course before I dive straight into that I do need to waffle a bit, part of my nature after all.
This waffling is about casks and the reasoning behind using different casks by different distilleries. When whisky was beginning to be matured on a much larger scale than in the little Bothys tucked away in the hills of the Highlands, the casks of choice were European oak, and often ones that used to contain sherry; as this was the most popular drink of the time there was plenty of barrels available (mid-late 1880’s) but due to a fall in popularity of this fortified drink at the turn of the 20th century, these casks became much harder to come by. The rarity meant a steep increase in price and so Scotch whisky producers needed to find casks from elsewhere. Over the pond we go!
(It has been mentioned that some distilleries now buy the casks for the sherry producers and loan them to them to produce their sherry in before getting them shipped over to Scotland, such is the lack of supply).
Bourbon casks were very much plentiful and thanks to probably the greatest union agreement ever they always would be. The Coopers union in America wanted to make sure their members always had work, once a cask is made it can last up to 80 years, but what if there was a rule that said if you are producing bourbon then it had to be produced in a cask that has never held any other liquid previously? So demand for casks would always be high. Well amazingly this is what was agreed upon and so many whisky producers switched to bourbon barrels.
Taste wise, bourbon will give you those classic vanilla notes wood and citrus too, whereas sherry gives you those rich spicy fruits and Christmas pudding caramel flavours into your dram.
Experiments in cask maturation are very much a trend at the moment:
Rum: Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
Cider: Glen Moray Cider Cask Project
Red Wine: Longrow Cabernet Franc
Ice Wine: Glenfiddich Winter Storm
These are but a few examples, it’s amazing how a cask finish really changes a whisky completely. Just a quick note too; a cask finish is the last 12 months or so the whisky is transferred to their port or wine or whatever cask to ‘finish’ the whisky and impart its flavour. This tends to be more popular than whole time maturation as you can get more life out of your finishing cask this way.
What was I saying anyway? Ah yes, Review!
Tomatin Port Cask 14 year old
Nose: Fresh fruit juice, strawberry, raspberry undiluted cordial
Palate: Rich coating the whole of your mouth, malty and that fruit fresh fruit comes through again this time more strawberry syrup sitting heavy on the tongue
Finish: Little bit of a musty funk at the end but also, and bear with me on this; Haribo Strawbs, that tart sweetness just lingers right at the end. Really an enjoyable dram.
All views are my own
Dram was purchased by myself at Scotch Whisky Experience bar for £4.20
For Drinkers. For Thinkers. For Fun.