Monday, June 16, 2014

Whisky Review: Tomatin Decades

Click to see an expanded
 version of the cask list
This whisky was released in 2011 to honor their master distiller, Douglas Campbell. He had been working at Tomatin in various capacities for over fifty years, so the concept was to meld together casks from each decade he had been part of the distillery.

•Refill sherry hogshead - distilled 17/05/1967
•Oloroso sherry butts - distilled 07/12/1976
•Refill sherry hogsheads - distilled 21/06/1984
•First fill bourbon barrels - distilled 24/09/1990
•First fill bourbon barrels - distilled 07/12/2005

All of the whisky going into this expression is unpeated, except for the 2005, which is lightly peated. After being married together, the whisky was reduced to a quite respectable 46%, without coloring or chill filtration.

Tomatin Decades

Nose: old, dank sherry, slightly tired bourbon casks, caramel, tropical fruits (grilled pineapple, mango), berry jam, grapes, bubblegum, vegetal notes, floral perfume (slightly earthy), sweet vanilla, underlying malt, a whiff of peat. After adding a few drops of water, a lot of honey comes out and the bourbon barrel notes are emphasized, the sherry and floral perfume integrate, the berries take over from the tropical fruits, some graham cracker notes come out, and overall it becomes much creamier.

Taste: sweet malt overlaid with polished wood throughout, dank sherry underneath everything, bourbon cask vanilla and caramel, orange, pineapple, and mango mid-palate, segueing into young and old malt, mint overtones. After dilution, the bourbon barrel notes dominate the early palate alongside some honey and graham crackers, with the sherry coming in mid-palate, and the floral notes arriving much earlier.

Finish: irises and violets, vegetal (minty), new make spirit, malt, a touch of sherry, orange juice/peel, slightly cardboard-y oak,

This is a very interesting malt at a shockingly good price considering the age of the casks going into it. It's mostly rather old whisky (even the 1990 casks were 21 years old when this was bottled) and it shows - there are a lot of similarities between this and the Duncan Taylor Benriach 34 Year I reviewed recently. Similarly, while I found this one very floral, other people are more likely to find Decades very fruity. Everyone responds to esters differently.

As with many old whiskies, this one needs a lot of time and air to really hit its stride. When I first opened the bottle, the young peated whisky was dominating, with its less than pleasant new make character overwhelming the more delicate old whiskies. After a month or so, it really opened up and the peat and new make notes mostly faded into the background. More time in the glass after pouring it also helps to bring out the more nuanced elements as well.

If you can still find a bottle, I would say this is a good whisky to pick up. Old whisky is getting rarer and rarer and this is an opportunity to try some old and lovely stuff at a reasonable price.


  1. I liked this stuff a lot, and that was just from one sample. We both found flowers and fruits, though you found more flowers, and I fruits. I didn't find any peat, but because my sample was purchased, it could have come from a lower spot in the bottle.

    It would be fun if Campbell and Co made another batch or two of this, turning it into the more affordable version of Tun 1401.

  2. I've always been a big theoretical fan of these sorts of vertical vattings. I haven't had a chance to find any in my own whisky searches, control states and all, but they seem like some of the most interesting whiskies out there. Somewhat older, but involving the blender's skill in weaving that in with the young whiskies. Very low or no age statement, yet without age obfuscation.

    And I've liked the Tomatin 10 I had, for a cheap, blend-priced malt, that is.