What do whisky geeks look for in a whisky? There are a few possible answers to this question but I think there’s one answer that will resonate true with most: Deeper understanding and new Information on what impacts and builds whisky taste.
Think about it for a moment: What impacts taste and flavor in whisky? We know that barley variant, yeast type, fermentation time (and vessels), still shape, heart cut and casks – all those impact flavor so it’s no wonder that we geeks love masterclasses, special whisky releases and aids that help us deconstruct whisky – to gain a better understanding of how it works and that reveal the innards of good and/or popular whiskies.
Only this week, there was a big uproar when Compass Box revealed the ingredients composing their latest two releases (namely the ages of the different casks that went into the blend). Whisky geeks applauded them despite that fact that a law was broken, because there was transparency and full information was disclosed. It means we know the recipe and we can chug onward toward finding our ultimate whisky and understand even further what makes whisky ‘clicks’.
Tomatin distillery is playing along with us geeks on this front, with special Cu Bocan releases, focusing on the major flavor corners (peat, sherry and bourbon) and now Tomatin Contrast.
Tomatin Contrast gives us whisky aficionados a unique opportunity to compare the effect of Bourbon and Sherry casks on whisky distilled at Tomatin Distillery at the same years. Of all the factors mentioned above, it’s a known fact (or is it an axiom?) that casks impact is the most important factor (between 50% to 80% of the final whisky flavor). The whisky in both Contrast halves was distilled in specific years (1973, 1977, 1988, 1991, 2002 & 2006) and so we are probably looking at a very similar spirit (same barley, yeast and stills), leaving the classroom stage to the casks and their impact.
Tomatin Contrast (Bourbon Matured)
Nose: First impression is sweetness and fruitiness with lots of tropical fruit notes. Fresh juicy pineapples, papaya and a touch of guava, Vanilla, subtle nuts, oak wood. All nicely balanced. After a few minutes in the glass: perfumed tropical juice, lemon zest and the nose becomes very sweet and like it a lot.
Palate: Peaches, huge sweet lemonade, very zesty, honey and vanilla, tropical juice, light oak spices.
Finish: Medium length, lingering sweet fruit and oak wood spices.
Tomatin Contrast (Sherry Matured)
Nose: Sweet toffee and raisins, treacle and chocolate. It’s constantly changing and flipping between moments of darker profile to mostly light and fresh sweetness that reminds me the cask strength profile. With additional time in glass: lighter fruitiness, hints of tropical fruit, baked fruits cake, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Palate: Lighter with cloves, chocolate, cooked nutmeg, feels very chewy, sugared dried sour fruits.
Finish: Medium length with lingering sherry spices, like in the palate it feels thick and sweet, lots of nutmeg, chewy, slick and oily.
Thoughts: Kudos to Tomatin for producing this set. It was fascinating tasting them head to head, showcasing the casks impacts on similar spirit that was distilled at the same years. The combination of different casks from different years, lent depth and complexity to the bottles, elevating it from pure geeky experience to a tasty and enjoyable set of whiskies. Now you probably wonder which one is better. My opinion: both are excellent but the bourbon one excels and is the winner for me. Bottom line: I think Tomatin Contrast is a good and viable option for Xmas gift for any whisky lover.
(Official samples by Tomatin Distillery)