Tobermory Fino Sherry Finish, 12yo, 2005/2018

OriginScotland, Highlands, Islands, Isle of Mull
OwnerDistell Group vis Burn Stewart Distillers
StyleSingle Malt
CaskFino Sherry Finish
Strength55.1% (110.2 Proof)

One of my all-time faves. The little sherry-finished Tobermory engine that could. And it seems to have flown below the radar of a lot of folks. Perhaps because it’s list price wasn’t exactly cheap for a distillery with a relatively low profile compared to the big players.

Nose: (9.1/10) A fresh squirt of fussy cola jumps over the rim of the glass first, revealing a deeper layer of dark shoe polish hiding behind it. This slowly peels off of some heavy furniture that’s been polished with teak oil. I watch all this happening while munching on delicate blackberry gummy bears. And the whole thing comes with free nose tickles. Lovely.

Palate: (9.5/10) A huge, thick, heavy sheet of concentrated, dry sherry slices and rumbles through my mouth like those flexing steel plates classical orchestras use for making thunder. This is sherry thunder and lightning in a bottle. On subsequent sips things calm down a bit and I can hear myself think again. But that sense of a vast expanse of dry sherry demanding room to fill doesn’t go away. If anything some of the furniture and shoe polish related notes are managing to make themselves heard and add further depth and complexity to the experience. That initial bit of cola, however, does not seem to have survived the storm. This is a gorgeous palate. Damn.

Finish: (9.2/10) Right after the impact of that palate perceiving the finish requires a conscious effort. Though it will rise to awareness on its own over time. A great dry, peaceful silence settles on everything. There is a residual glow lingering at the top of the palate. There is a mild warmth in the chest (and I wish there was just a little more heat there). And, whodathunk, that little bit of cola did survive after all and alights on each breath like a bunch of sun motes wafting about on the fading esophageal thermals. I am happy.

Balance: (9.3/10) What can I say. This is some really, seriously, very good whisky. Wish I could find more of it. Wish I had bought more at the time but, not knowing, it seemed pricey. The only complaint I have, and it barely qualifies as such, is that perhaps the finish could have been just a little stronger so the drop in intensity from the palate wasn’t quite so steep. What an astonishing dram. This kind of experience is why I love this stuff. Amazing.

Tamnavulin Tempranillo Cask Edition Batch #576, 2018

OriginScotland, Speyside, Livet
OwnerAlliance Global Group via Emperador via Whyte & Mackay
EditionTempranillo Cask Edition
StyleSingle Malt
CaskAmerican Oak Maturation, Tempranillo Cask Finish
Strength40% (80 Proof)
RetailerDuty Free Exclusive

A duty-free exclusive from one of the lesser-known Speyside distilleries that was finished in Tempranillo whine casks.

Nose: Aged cola gummies served on top of old berry stained shoe leather, which somehow distracted me long enough for someone to lock me into a tight, freshly polished, darkly stained cherry wood cabinet. Later a school of sparkly lemons arrives and amuses itself by flitting hither and to right above the surface of the whisky. This is all rather more entertaining than I had expected. (7.5/10)

Palate: A soft and, honestly, rather dull hit on the palate. It’s like the whisky is struggling to break through its own viscosity. Most of the bits from the nose are there but subdued and muffled, as if you had dived into a vat of mineral oil. Holding on to the whisky it just never manages to do anything at the top of the palate. It does, however, ooze out from underneath itself after a short while and shows some signs of making an effort. However, all it manages to pull off is a dark and listless buzzing across the tongue. Let’s make that a… B minus for effort. (4.5/10)

Finish: More interesting stuff here, thank god. Not that hard to pull off after that flat tire of a palate. The buzz from the palate amps up a bit in the throat and manages to puff itself up on each breath. Not much of a glow but that’s not surprising at this low strength. The finish hangs into the chest a listlessly like an old slack hammock that’s lost all tension, but, still, there’s some joy here. (6.5/10)

Balance: This is like that one track on an album that you don’t mind but never choose to play. I don’t exactly like it. But I also don’t dislike it. If it was a little more even it’d make for a fine pay-no-attention social drinker. But the sad droopy dip in the middle is just… disappointing. It makes me forget the fun stuff on the nose and prevents me from enjoying the palate or the finish. Oh well, can’t all be champions. An extra dose of disappointment is due to me being a fan of Spanish Tempranillo wines and the influence of those casks has, sadly, completely failed to save this one. (4.8/10)

Tomintoul Old Ballantruan – The Peated Malt

OriginScotland, Speyside, Livet
OwnerAngus Dundee Distillers
EditionOld Ballantruan
StyleSingle Malt
Strength50% (100 Proof)
Wine SearcherWine Searcher

The “Old Ballantruan” is a peated expression of the single malt distilled at Tomintoul in Speyside. Tomintoul bottles only about 2% of their total output as single malts while the rest is mostly destined for the eight or so brands of blended Scotch produced by owner Angus Dundee.

Nose: Peated sour milk chocolate registers first followed by a mix of some good bits and some strange notes. It remains oddly confusing until it eventually settles into a brighter, grassy peat smoke. But it doesn’t stay there for too long and shifts to fruit… peated bananas and vanilla infused pears perhaps? What IS going on here? The fruits turn mildly perfume-y, eventually. (6.5/10)

Palate: A bright fruity hit descends quickly into scented candles made from shoe polish. The polished shoes must have been stored in my chest cavity because I smell them every time I exhale. Light machine oil and old wood eventually comes through as if I’ve walked into an old office full of old but well maintained typewriters sitting on vintage oak desks. This is actually rather nice! Later it opens up big in the back with a cloud of smoke and crushed blackberries and residual blackberry candy in the front. (8.5/10)

Finish: Warm and smokey on the breath but it does ride rather high before disappearing down the hatch only to reappear near my solar plexus. Oddly quiet in the middle of the chest where it doesn’t really register at all. (8/10)

Balance: This one’s kinda (unexpectedly) wild and kinda (unexpectedly) good. A bumpy ride for sure but not unpleasant at all. It certainly exceeded my expectations for a Tomintoul. That said, the nose does knock some points off of the top here unfortunately. (8/10)

Tomatin, 12yo, 2018

OriginScotland, Northern Highlands
OwnerTaKaRa Holdings via Takara Shuzo
StyleSingle Malt Whisky
CasksBourbon, Sherry
Strength43% (86 proof)

Nose: Slightly sour and otherwise there is simply not much there. (5/10)

Palate: Nice! After the largely absent nose the rich and butter flavors comes as a pleasant surprise. (8/10)

Finish: This one lingers pleasantly but ultimately fades out into astringent wood notes. (7/10)

Balance: Overall not shabby but I really wish the nose was living up to the rest of the whisky. (6/10)

Talisker Distillers Edition, 11yo, 2002/2013

Talisker Distillers Edition, 2002/2013, 11yo., close-up
OriginScotland, Islands, Skye
SeriesDistillers Edition
StyleSingle Malt Whisky
CaskAmoroso Sherry Double Maturation
Strength45.8% (91.6 proof)

Nose: A bunch of grapes are having a smoke. (8/10)

Palate: A dusty bar of chocolate on which someone wrote “Peat!” with white chalk. (8/10)

Finish: Hangs around up top at first but eventually relaxes and lowers itself into the chest cavity layer by layer (8/10)

Balance: Well done! (8/10)