Paris Whisky Live – Gordon + Macphail Discovery Tomatin, Miltonduff+ Caol Ila

In early 2021, I decided to start acquiring some bottles for future tasting sessions and thought it was past time to pick up a few of Gordon & Macphail’s Discovery range of affordable “entry” drams. I picked a Glenrothes & Miltonduff. They have waited patiently in Germany for the right opportunity – either to taste with others there or bring home to India.

However, naturally, I’ve been rather curious and so was happy to have a chance to try one of them at Paris Whisky Live! On my 2nd day, we whetted our tasting appetite with a few French drams then made our way to the Gordon & Macphail stand and kicked off our explorations with this trio…

As shared with the London Whisky Show, the Discovery line was created for a place to begin your discovery of whisky at a reasonable price point, with colour-coded expressions to help guide the approach… In Paris we tried:

  • Green for ex-bourbon casks – Tomatin (2009/2021) 43% (approx Eur 44)
  • Purple for ex-sherry casks – Miltonduff 10 year 43% (approx Eur 55)
  • Grey/off-white for smokey/peaty – Caol Ila 13 year 43% (approx Eur 55)

We followed the suggested order: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and then peaty….

Tomatin (2009/2021) 43%

  • Nose – Light and classic ex-bourbon style, fresh green apple, pears, vanilla cream
  • Palate – Keeps on the same light, fruity and happy vein, oaky, more vanilla
  • Finish – Gentle – fruity, floral, honey

A rather nice example of ex-bourbon…. call it a perfect aperitif.

What about the sherry expression? We sampled the Miltonduff 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Fruity, orange, woodsy, citrus
  • Palate – Medium-bodied, tasty buttery caramel, marmalade, cinnamon
  • Finish – More of that yummy marmalade

A nice Speyside and I will very much enjoy revisiting it and discovering more when eventually the Gordon & Macphail Discovery range is opened up at home!

Curious to know more? Check out what Gordon & Macphail have to say here.

As for the peaty, they chose a classic Caol Ila 13 year 43%:

  • Nose – Fab peat, banana, sweet grass, maple bacon, cured sweetmeats
  • Palate – Soft, completely peaty, fruity
  • Finish – Long sweet and smoky

Now, this is a “proper” Caol Ila – what fun! You can also find out more about this expression from Gordon & Macphail’s whisky archive here.

What a nice way to whet our appetite for Gordon & Macphail’s Connoisseurs Choice range – which was our next stop!

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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Whisky Archives – Auchentoshan, AnCnoc, Deanston, Tomatin

Here’s another post from our archives, this time courtesy of another member from April 2012…

The evening was delightful with a very special malt selection comprising of Auchentoshan 12 year 40%, AnCnoc 40%, a not so common Deanston 46.3% and a Tomatin 21% received as a gift from the distiller.

Deanston sampling in KLWe liked the bitter chocolate in Deanston and the strong, spicy mint (like pudina chutney not altoids) in Tomatin (quite complex and a great Cigar paring we think).

One found the AnCnoc was almost like Compass Box’s Spice Tree with it’s spice burst. Another loves lowland whiskies so anything from there makes a good after dinner drink for him, whereas yet another chose the Tomatin as his repeat drink.

We also discovered the dramatic difference in the overall experience of tasting the same whisky in two different glasses – a regular tumbler styled glass and the recommended nosing glass by Glencairn.

Fast forward…

While I missed sampling with our merry group, I managed to taste them at a later point… most recently the Deanston in Kuala Lumpur.

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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:

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Tomatin Legacy 43%

First up in our August miniatures exploration was a no age statement whisky from Tomatin.

The Tomatin Legacy expression is dedicated to the legacy of the distillery’s relationship with its community, as the village became a town when accommodating the workers required to build the distillery… and remains today.

Tomatin Legacy

Tomatin Legacy 43%

  • Nose – Quite a kick with bit of varnish, bananas, sweetness creeping into dry wood, light peat? some resin, sweet sour overripe fruit, a vegetal element
  • Palate – While bold it also is curiously ‘thin’, bitter sour khata then caramel sweet
  • Finish – Initial burn then just sits there with subtle dry ash, bitter

Overall left impression of sticky toffee pudding.

We then compared the Legacy with a sample of Tomatin 12 year.

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

Time in Bourbon barrels and Virgin Oak casks brings a light sweetness to The Tomatin Legacy, which boasts aromas of vanilla, marshmallow, pineapple and lemon. On the palate gentle flavours of candy, pine, lemon sherbet, apples and sponge cake emerge ahead of a light, clean finish. 

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015 – 94.5/100

BTW… if you are in the US, just substitute “Dualchas” for “Tomatin”

Here’s what others have to say:

Other miniatures sampled recently include:

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