Tasting Tomatin

The Highland distillery known as Tomatin has been around since 1897, but it's only going to start gracing the K&L shelfs at the end of this month.  Having gone sometime now without U.S. distribution, we've only ever sold the malt via independent bottlings like Duncan Taylor or the Jim McEwan Heartland Collection.  However, Tomatin is now being represented in California by Gallo Wines, of all people, and will be releasing some serious Highland-style whisky at some very affordable prices. 

I got the chance today to taste all four expressions with the sales reps and, while I wasn't blown away, I wasn't unimpressed either.  I know that every isn't necessarily searching for the world's most unique whisky everytime they come in and shop.  Most people, for that matter, are looking for something nice to sip on at a reasonable price, and that's where Tomatin is really going be an interesting alternative to Macallan or Glenlivet.  The 12 year is finished in sherry butts so there is a nice amount of richness to the whisky.  It's soft, gentle and likeable and it only costs $27.99 on special order.  The packaging is also nice so I think it's more appealing than other "bargain" malts like Tamdhu.  The 15 year I decided to order right then, although it won't be available for a few weeks.  It was the only whisky of the four that was bottled at 46% instead of 43% and had some serious balls.  There's no sherry cask finishing, so it's got plenty of stonefruit on the palate, but also that oily and spicy component that really draws me towards the Highland malts.  For $46.99 it's a serious competitor to bottles like the Clynelish 14 or Dalwhinnie.  The 18 year I also passed on and put it up for special order only, but I think there's a lot to like about it.  Like the 12, it's finished in Oloroso casks and has this smoked almond flavor that makes me think more of Bowmore than Macallan.  There's a lot of good spice to be enjoyed and for $59.99 there really aren't many other malts out there that can give you 18 years of quality maturation for that price.  I decided to also purchase the 25 year because it will pick up where the Benriach 20 year that I loved so much left off.  This is a softer and more complex version of the 15 year, also without sherry influence, so the oily flavors are back but this time with more chewy fruits and hints of nutty, savory flavors.  I'm going to price it at $119.99 which makes it far less than Macallan 18, but with 7 more years of maturity. 

I think Gallo made a smart move in picking up Tomatin and pricing it where they have.  There is always more room for affordable whisky at K&L and I think many of our customers are going to agree.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll