Thursday, 4 September 2014

#TomatinCuatro - The Launch

Tomatin Cuatro - The Series - 46%

Life, it would seem, is full of coincidences. At the end of July, I finally plucked up the courage to slay a heel I had been nursing for a good few months. Very seldom do I feel genuinely sad when I finish a bottle of whisky (usually, by that stage, I'm positively merry) but this one in particular was so nice, I felt quite deflated.

Gandhi: Probably more of a Tomintoul fan

A mere two days later, The Whisky Wire announced that there was to be a Tomatin Tweet Tasting at the beginning of September. Details were frustratingly scarce, save for a hint that there may be the launch of a new bottling on the horizon. I duly applied and, as luck would have it, my grief was to be short-lived.

So what's it all about then, Johnnie? Well, I'm glad you asked. On 15 January 2002, those chaps at Tomatin distilled up a whole load of spirit and put it into ex-bourbon casks. The casks laid dormant for over nine years and on 29 June 2011 were recasked in four different types of sherry butt. Yup, this isn't one new bottling they're putting out there, it's four. From there the whiskies were allowed to mature for a further three years until finally being bottled just a fortnight ago.

Each whisky in the series carries an age statement of 12 years, is bottled at 46% and has not been chill-filtered. Three big ticks in my book. How do they taste?


Tomatin Cuatro - Fino Sherry Finish - 46%

A slight nip of alcohol as we kick things off followed by a light fruitiness. A little honey going on with wisps of heather and a note that puts me in mind of white wine. A little time to open up brings waxy pears and digestive biscuits. None of the grapefruit I'd usually associate with a Tomatin but a very interesting nose indeed. Lots going on.

Hello grapefruit! I was hoping you'd show up. Quite dry to begin with, then there's just an explosion of citrus as it develops. The citric sharpness dies down a little after water is added and the whisky strikes a more balanced tone with dry woodiness and just a hint of smoke creeping in as we approach the finish.

Plenty of wood on the back end with pencil shavings and fine leather coming to mind. Leaves you wanting another.

This exhibits all of the characteristics I've come to know and love from Tomatin. The Fino doesn't overpower the spirit and allows it to shine through. I could happily spend an evening with a bottle of this.

Close, but no cigar. Apart from on the palate, that is

Tomatin Cuatro - Manzanilla Sherry Finish - 46%

Worlds apart from the Fino finish. More assertive with vegetal, herbal aromas and marzipan humming along underneath. Give it a moment and there's a wave of vanilla that washes over you and brings with it fruit, grass and creamy butter.

Bold, salty blast up front. Wasn't expecting that at all. It's almost coastal in nature. A little while to acclimatise and the vine fruits creep in with rich sherry and a wonderful cigar/cedar combo.

Warming with playful spices. Peppercorns, more cedar and, again, a little flash of smoke.

This is a good whisky and the quality is almost up there with the Fino. Bringing personal preference into play, I'd have to leave this one on the shelf. I wouldn't necessarily be happy about it, mind.

I'm sorry I doubted you

Tomatin Cuatro - Oloroso Sherry Finish - 46%

Wonderful. I'm not a sherry drinker and don't know an awful lot about it but this just screams Oloroso casks; there's a nuttiness and that fresh fig note that I always seem to get from them. Further nosing gives a menthol quality which does nothing to change my mind. Raspberries and dates. More figs. Even more figs. If this turned out to be anything other than Oloroso, I'd have never lived it down. Lucky for me then.

Gah! Conflicting emotions when tasted. I love sherried whisky but this is almost overpowering the light, crispness I associate with good Tomatin. A virtual slap from one of the other tasters (Cheers, Dave; I was humming the theme from Titanic for the next hour) brings me to my senses and I give it a few drops of water and half a chance to develop. That's better. Christmas in a glass and yet the cask is taking a back seat, giving the spirit chance to drive. Beautifully balanced with plums, raisins, cinnamon and a touch of eucalyptus.

Great balance; not too dry, not too sweet. Woody, but not overoaked. The best finish of the night, so far.

This has blown the race wide open. Despite a jittery start, this really grew on me and the water just opened it up brilliantly. It's almost a coin toss between this and the Fino.

Warming, but waning

Tomatin Cuatro - Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish - 46%

Sweet, sweet aromas with a muskiness underneath. Treacle, wax and blackberry jam. Given half a chance, there's grape must, muscovado sugar and red peppers. A little while longer and I get the aroma of warm, spiced bread and butter pudding.

Chewy, spicy, fudgy and the four other dwarves nobody ever remembers. A sweet, balsamic note with peppercorns and creme brulee. Not as much wood as I expected and very easy-drinking.

Not particularly long and maybe a tad flat when compared to the others. Still warming with those peppercorns hanging on 'til the last moment, joined by tobacco and beeswax.

Another very capable whisky; I can't pick too many faults with this one either. The quality is there and I do love dark sherry finishes. Maybe a touch unbalanced.

It's not often you get a chance to sample the same whisky finished in four different ways. This has been highly educational and it just so happens that the whisky was bloody tasty too. Fair play to Graham Eunson and the Tomatin team for sticking with sherry casks at a time when a lot of other distillers are looking elsewhere, due to the high cost of sourcing them. Additionally, in an age of new NAS releases, they've been decent enough to tell us how old the whisky is. Bravo.

Each of the four expressions has a limited release of 1500 bottles and will soon be on sale worldwide (apart from the USA) with a RRP of £49.99.

Which one's the best though? It seemed that at the end of the tasting, each taster had a different order of preference. I can understand why; each of the whiskies exhibited a high level of quality and if the only thing you're changing is the cask finish, it's probably all going to be down to personal tastes.

There can be only one. Ok, two, but no more. Three?

For me, the Fino takes first place from the Oloroso in a photo finish. The Pedro Ximinez comes in third with the Manzanilla bringing up the rear.

Huge thanks to the team over at Tomatin, to Steve for orchestrating the whole thing and to my fellow tweet tasters. Always a pleasure.

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