I always have an eye out for something new, a name I'm not familiar with. Unknown malts can range from frankly terrible to surprisingly decent, but I doubt much I'm ever going to find that dream of an unknown malt that is amazing in taste and texture, yet only costs $25. Still and all, I've had several nice surprises: Gordon and MacPhail's Tamdhu 8, Speyburn 10, and Singleton 12 were all unknown bottles that I found on the cheap and thought were all on the good side of decent.
Today's review, Tomatin 12, is another. I found the Tomatin for about $30, quite a bargain for a 12 year old malt. I had no expectations. I'd never even heard the name, let alone even know how to pronounce it. The label helpfully informs me that it's pronounced "To-MA-tin," to rhyme with "satin." Some research identifies Tomatin as a Speyside that was once the largest distillery in Scotland, though Glenfiddich may have surpassed Tomatin these days. The overall size and volume is reflective of Tomatin's heavy use in several different blends. The distillery owners only recently began bottling as a single malt.
I can see why the Tomatin features so heavily in blends; it's a quite pleasant Speyside, but not exactly unique or assertive...perfect for the base of a blended Scotch. As with many Speysides, caramel and toffee predominates, but I also get very nice fruit notes of apple and pear. Royal Mile Whiskies reports aging in American bourbon casks and Spanish sherry butts. I'm impressed by the judicious and restrained use of sherry wood; the influence is subtle, and brings crisper, less raisiny flavors than more extreme sherry aging. The texture on the tongue is clean and smooth, and the caramel and fruit notes mingle throughout a decent finish, leaving a lingering reminder of candy apples.
I imagine that the wonderful deal I found on this bottle was probably a marketing move, an introduction to the market of Tomatin as a single malt. That's a shame, since this was quite a bargain, and though I liked this malt quite a bit, were the price tag to go up, I would probably drop my $45 -50 on a more assertive or unique dram. 80 points (B-)
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