Whisky Connosr

Tomatin 14 Year Old / Tawny Port Finish

The Highland Cult of the Picturesque?

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@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

5th Jun 2019


Tomatin 14 Year Old / Tawny Port Finish
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

WARNING: this is longer than most of the reviews I tend to post here

When we talk about the Scottish highlands, we tend to think of independence, natural beauty, and bellicose, if often taciturn individualists. Some might picture the Cairngorms mountain range or castles such as Eilean Donan. I can't help but think of Groundskeeper Willie ripping his shirt off to reveal his rippling muscular physique. Some of these images and stereotypes are integral to Scotch whisky sales as they sell ideas and stories as much as a product. Ok, so maybe Groundskeeper Willie doesn't really sell anything, but I'm a Simpsons geek so cut me some slack. But does Highland whisky share the harsh, rugged characteristics that the so-called "Highland cult of the picturesque" often promotes? I tend to think regional designations in scotch whisky are over-valued, but they do play into the story-telling, so I understand why they're still used.

Tomatin brands itself as the "softer side of the Highlands", so they're not Grounskeeper Willie by any means. Most of their whiskies are unpeated and gentle. But don't mistake "gentle" for uninteresting. I'm a big fan of Tomatin's 12 Year Old whisky and the last bottle I bought came with a sample of Tomatin's 14 Year Old Portwood Finish.

So what's the first thing I noticed? Tomatin 14 Portwood is bottled at 46% abv. YES!!! Thank you, Tomatin! Not everything needs to be bottled at Cask Strength (though it would be nice if it were), but 46% abv is respectable for a single malt. According to their website, this is not an all-Port Cask maturation, but rather a “combination of ex-bourbon barrels and Tawny Port Casks which previously held Port for around 50 years.” Now this is rare, since it would appear that these are casks which were used for actual, drinking-quality Port, and not Port-Seasoned Casks.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): red grapes, strawberries, honey, oak, nutty (almonds, barley), vanilla
  • Palate (undiluted): rich texture, gentle arrival, honey, red fruits, and oak spices
  • Finish: medium length, warming, oak, chamomile, vanilla, grapes and strawberries

With water the almonds and vanilla become a bit more pronounced on the nose. There’s also a very faint aroma of oak char with water added. Interesting. Water also brings out more spice on the palate, mainly black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The finish becomes less floral/chamomile with the vanilla and strawberries becoming more pronounced with the addition of water. This whisky certainly doesn’t need water. At 46% abv as it is gentle and enjoyable, but Tomatin 14 gets more interesting with water. A few drops are all that’s needed. The longer this sits in the glass, the more interesting it gets. After almost an hour in the glass, there’s toffee wafting out and a little hint of dark fruits (figs, dates) as well. I was also overjoyed by what I didn't find in the glass: sulphur. Not even a trace of brimstone or rotten egg stench! Huzzah!

I don't want all-peat, all the time. I’m a huge fan of peated whiskies, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up. The thing I really love about Tomatin 14 Portwood is the balance the distillery has found between the wine Cask influence and the “intrinsic quality of the spirit”, to borrow a phrase from the venerable Ralfy. Big wine cask influences can “cover up” mediocre spirit, or even overpower a well-made spirit if the Cask is allowed to dominate. Tomatin has found a way to get that balance just right. Tomatin calls itself “a softer side of the Highlands”, but don’t confuse “softer” with “less interesting”. This is an inviting and moreish whisky. Just don't expect it to make you want to rip your shirt off. Highly recommended.

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Wierdo commented

Nice review.

I haven't had a Tomatin yet. This review has intrigued me. Might have to try one soon!

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Wierdo I stumbled onto Tomatin through fortuitous circumstances. I was alone in Edmonton on a work-related trip. I went a few blocks from my hotel and found a terrific deal on a Springbank 10, but I wanted something to sip for the evening. There was a Tomatin 12, 15, 18 sample set. The 12 impressed me the most, quite honestly. Though to be fair, the 15 is discontinued and I believe they’ve revamped the 18. This 14 Port Finish sample came with the bottle of 12 I bought when I got home to Ontario. I also have a sample of the Cask Strength NAS I’ve yet to try...

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound thanks for your review. Why would you warn about review length? No one on Connosr objects to length or depth of reviews that I have seen.

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

NamBeist commented

@OdysseusUnbound I was intriqued by your review. So I did a investigation on line. Most whisky lovers are not so impressed by this whisky. The average score is 83 points. Maybe there is a lot of variation of the quality. I am glad that you enjoy it. I will not buy it . Thanks for your review.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

RianC commented

@OdysseusUnbound - Nice review, thanks! As @Victor says, no need for the warning - a good ramble can be very entertaining and I'm all for obscure Simpsons (or otherwise) references relaxed

I've never had any Tomatin and they do seem to get good reviews - a bit like Deanston, another distillery that gets good reviews that I haven't tried yet.

How would this compare to the Quinta Ruben? I'd be very interested in a head to head.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@RianC I prefer Tomatin 14 Portwood to Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. And I’m probably in the minority as to why. And this may address what @NamBeist mentioned. Tomatin 14 has less wine influence than QR. And that’s more along the lines of my preferred flavour profile. Most people prefer “wine bombs”, but I like to taste the malt itself along side the wine influence.

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

Pudge72 commented

@OdysseusUnbound fantastic review (and a great Simpsons reference!). I am largely in agreement with your observations, and follow up comments. I too had this from the 50 ml sample that came as part of a Tomatin 12 gift pack.

Like you, I appreciate the subtlety of the port cask finishing, as my port cask whisky experience has been hit/miss. This one is fantastic! The strawberry on the nose that you identify had a Danish filling, sweeter quality to it that I quite enjoyed.

The other particularly noteworthy item for me was a pronounced oily mouthfeel that worked really well in tamping down any potentially harsh aspects of the flavour profile, while still allowing those notes to shine (thinking of the spice notes on the finish, in particular, as not coming across too dry).

...now, grease me up for some more!! :)

3 years ago 2Who liked this?