Tomatin 12 year 43%

Tomatin is one distillery we’ve inadequately explored… hence why it was an obvious choice for my June 2016 Canadian sample score!

Some may not be aware that Tomatin was one of the top 10 distilleries in Scotland… with much of its production going into blends like Antiquity. At one point in the 1970s Tomatin’s 23 stills producing 12 million litres of alcohol. By any standard, that is a prodigious amount of whisky!

However, it fell on hard times, went into liquidation and in 1986 became the first Scottish distillery to be owned by a Japanese company – Takara Shuzo Co. and Okara & Co.

The Tomatin 12 year was first launched in 2004, followed by further age statements – 15, 18, 21, 25 and more. It has since been joined in 2010 by a peated line now branded as ‘Cu Bocan.’ More recently a no age statement ‘Legacy‘ has joined the core range.

Tomatin 12

Here’s what I found with my sample…

Tomatin 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Definitely some sherry in there… stewed prunes, quite malty, perhaps a bit of subdued dried ginger, slightly nutty… as it continued to open found raw apple with a dash of cinnamon
  • Palate – Takes some getting used to… very dry, bit of charcoal, woody, yet with a sweetish element underneath, not fudge but close like a fruit and nut chocolate bar with a slightly burnt quality, then a musty mildew, fungus or mushrooms, again nutty and something else that couldn’t be quite pinpointed
  • Finish – No rough edges, sweet carrying forward the malt and wood, surprisingly longer than anticipated

This was one of those whiskies that I wanted to like, but struggled… Not terribly complex, nothing specifically wrong but was as though the sherry finish was ‘pushy’ or ‘forced’, being used to soak up or disguise the base whisky.

It sounds terribly uncharitable and so I decided to go back to it again and give it another chance – this time with company after we sampled the Tomatin Legacy.

In comparison, it was a treat to have a more mature avatar of the Tomatin. Everything in the Legacy more accentuated and richer.

And that key element I just couldn’t quite place? Ginseng!

Here’s what the folks at Tomatin have to say:

The Tomatin 12 Year Old is smooth and silky, having been matured in traditional Scotch Whisky, ex-Bourbon and ex-Spanish Sherry casks. A rich, fruity aroma is the prelude to sweet flavours of ripe apples, pears and a subtle hint of nut before the long, pleasantly oily finish. 

Thanks to a recent gift, I had Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 on hand… curious looked at the rating… 91.5/100?!

However… when you read further, pay attention to his wood comment:

For a great many years, Tomatin operated under severe financial restrictions. This meant that some of the wood brought to the distillery during this period was hardly of top-notch quality. This has made life difficult for those charged with moulding the stocks into workable expressions. 

That rang exceedingly true. And yes, good effort with this whisky but still not quite to my picky preferences…

Next up from the “I don’t collect stamps!” whisky collection:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

2 thoughts on “Tomatin 12 year 43%

  1. Hey Carissa, interesting review. I work for Tomatin (disclaimer right there!) and I can tell from the label that that bottle you sampled is from at least 6 years ago, if not more. The recipe has changed since then. Why not see if you can get a hold of a newer bottle? Jim Murray re-reviewed it last year and that’s where the new increased score came from (previously rated at 83). Also the range has been updated from the one mentioned in your review – check out We can’t expect everyone to be a fan, of course, but we do try 🙂 Happy new year! Cheers, Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to hear from you Jennifer! And appreciate the clarification and update that the recipe has changed – it is quite fascinating how a whisky character ‘evolves’ over the years. The Tomatin I tried was indeed purchased years ago by friends and it was particularly interesting trying it side by side with the newer Tomatin Legacy. Will keep your comments in mind if I have opportunity to try the newer Tomatin 12 year. Sláinte and happy new years to you too! Carissa


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