Tomatin “Water” (46%, OB, Five Virtues #5, Sherry Butts & Second Fill Bourbon Barrels, 6.000 bottles, 2018)

Alas, we’ve come to the last of the five virtues. The four previous editions were all good, for me personally, especially “Metal” was very nice, but I love well aged seemingly simple ex-Bourbon casked Whiskies. All four are definitely interesting and different from one another. No duds between them. So now the time has come to put the series to bed with “Water”. Water is made with distillate from the winter of 2005, which doesn’t make things any clearer, since the year starts and ends in winter… Half of the Whisky was matured in second fill Bourbon Barrels and the other half in Sherry Butts. Although in some communications, Tomatin does mention Sherry Hogsheads as well (just not on the packaging). If memory serves me correctly, I really liked this one as well in London, and after the very nice Metal I have high hopes for this Water as well.

Color: Copper gold, like a Bourbon, definitely not the colour of water.

Nose: Spicy wood right upfront, with sweet smelling red fruits, hints of tar, an old warehouse with a stone floor, and toasted oak. Notes of wood and fresh air. Nutty, dusty and somewhat sharp and spicy. A take on modern Sherry casks, somewhat similar to the Sherry notes, (not the peat notes), of Benromach Peat Smoke 2010 I reviewed just recently. Old warehouse with old paper and pepper with hints of a more (smelly) organic note. Wet earth and a wee bit of virgin oak. Again a quiet and balanced expression from Tomatin with lavas and gravy and some more indistinct organics. Leafy with hints of old dried out leather and a garden bonfire. Nice (dried) kitchen herbs. The Sherry makes this smell “chewy”. More whiffs of paper are flying by. A Whisky for a sunny day.

Taste: Sweet and syrupy. Fruity. Jam-like. Red fruits. Thick. The Whisky sticks to my glass. This thick, fruity, (half) sweetness, somewhat masks the big note of wood this has as well, including the also masked bitterness. Paper again. Slightly tarry, as if tarry toffee was used for this one. Well balanced as expected. Raisins and ever so slightly soapy and definitely a bit smoky, must be the toasted oak. Vanilla and pudding are here as well, so these second fill barrels still worked their expected magic too, even though the Sherry bit turned out stronger in the mix. I noticed it in Metal, but Water is also a (designed or constructed) Malt which shows what its got, right from the start, lacking a bit in complexity and evolution. This is a minor gripe however, since the balance is there and it is a delicious (red) fruit-driven Whisky with enough back-bone to it. This is not a Sherry monster, but it still is all about the Sherry in this one. Classy stuff.

This is a great companion to Metal. Both are very good and quite different from one-another, but somehow fit together. Both are fruity, but with the Bourbon casks alone that were used for Metal, that shows us an entirely different yet classic Tomatin tropical fruitiness, whereas this Water edition shows us more the Sherry-linked red fruits, in this case, the thick jam-like red fruits. Amazing contrast. At first I thought, well lets review these last two samples I have, so I can open something else, but both are so nice I’m now wondering if I shouldn’t be opening both full bottles at once, after finishing off Earth. With the Metal-edition I was wondering how it would compare to the 15yo American oak. Here with Water I’m wondering how it would compare to the 18yo Oloroso version. Both the 15yo and the 18yo are from the standard range and widely available. “Wood”, “Fire” and “Earth” are all Whiskies which are good, but you have to work them a bit, all three aren’t really for careless sipping, or you’ll miss out on the best bits they have on offer. Metal and Water are good right from the start, more like instant gratification Malts, and in my opinion the best of the bunch.

Points: 88

Glentauchers 13yo 2002/2015 (55.6%, Five Lions, Private Collection, 2nd Fill Bourbon Barrel)

Within the realm of Whisky one can find a lot of different tastes and smells. But hey, that is also true for Rum and many other aged distillates. This is one of the reasons one can never really stop talking or writing about it, because there is always a lot more to say. Whisky isn’t dead, there is a lot of evolution in Whisky as well. Once only Blended Whiskies were the ” thing” and most distilleries owe their life to being part of a big selling blend. There was also a big move towards ageing Whiskies in Spanish Sherry casks, butts and puncheons. Who doesn’t like those excellent 60’s and 70’s Sherry driven Malts like the Macallan, Glendronach, Longmorn and Strathisla to name but a few.

More recent and more evolved are Whiskies in less traditional casks like Red and White Wine casks. Today everything goes. Casks after Rum, Cognac, Calvados, Sweet Dessert Wines, or Sherry’s put on American Oak casks rather than the traditional European Oak. The Sherry drinking public finds these Sherry’s more friendly and accessible. The art being how to use all those different casks, and for how long. A fine example turned out to be this recently reviewed Deanston finished in Bordeaux casks. When talking to people who… well the world knows them as anoraks, aficionado’s or connoisseurs, when talking about the different styles of Whisky, these people always seem have a soft spot for Whiskies that have been aged for a good while in refill Bourbon barrels and Hogsheads. These casks tend to less dominate the distillate and add more creamy and vanilla flavours (coming from American Oak). Whiskies that have been aged this way always leave some room for the quality of the distillate, which differs from distillery to distillery, making these Whiskies extremely interesting.

Here we have an example of this. A Glentauchers, aged for 13 years in a second fill Bourbon barrel, nothing more. So what we have here is the distillate and a previously used cask, nothing more. I bought this one at auction and it didn’t break the bank, and I felt this would do just fine. Glentauchers makes a nice distillate, the cask is a second refill, so not worn out, not tampered with, recharred or something and always a plus, the Whisky was bottled at cask strength, giving it enough power to bring all those lovely flavours forth. Lets dig in!

Color: White Wine

Nose: Starts nutty and waxy. Dried out yellow fruits with a little bit of honey. Big breaths of fresh air and a citrussy acidic note as well. An ever so slight edge of smokiness. A huge layer of perfumed paper and a slight burnt note as well. Soft wood bordering on cardboard and the skins of almonds. Initially not as fruity as expected. So it seems not fruity nor woody at first. However, having said that, there is definitely some fruit here, but it is all fresh citrus notes. Oils from the skins. Hidden fruits. Thus the cask might have been less active, making this an excellent example of a malt where only time and the quality of the spirit determine the outcome, and the cask did do something as well obviously, but to a lesser extent than in most other cases. Still, this is a giving Malt, it is quite big on the nose, very fragrant and aromatic. Soft blend of licorice and spices in cold dishwater (a wee bit soapy), which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. This is a very laid-back Malt were nothing really stands out. A soft and quiet spoken Malt. The one that sits in the back at a birthday party, aptly dressed for a party and wearing fine floral cologne. It is more than happy to observe in stead of taking part in idle and utter boring conversation, biding his time until it’s time to finally go home again. Slightly (saw)dusty and the fresh air just keeps coming. Hints of cold gravy. After a while the floral note becomes clearer. Jasmine. not so much the fresh flower itself, but more like the scented rice or the tea. I’m actually still struggling a bit to distinguish the other fruits. Some unripe pineapple and unripe waxy mango skin. The malt is friendly and accessible, which often spells: “fruit”, but no, that doesn’t seem to be the dominant aroma this time (apart from the citrussy top note, and maybe some unripe fruits). Good one this though. Balanced, I like it.

Taste: Sweet and wood-spicy on entry. Hints of mocha cream on a cake. A friendly, and citrussy fresh, entry. Wood and wax and definitely more fruit than in the nose, the sweetness helps that along. Yet still not a very fruity Whisky though. The wood adds some restrained bitterness. Licorice all sorts, including the anise. Wow, remarkable. Quite hot going down. Lightly smoked toffee with some cumin and minty toothpaste. Light honey aroma’s make up the rest of the sweetness. Hints of wood, cardboard and a leafy note. Some smoke, pineapple and lemon hard candy. In the end the woody bitterness stays behind in the aftertaste. Sometimes it even tastes a bit soapy. Alcohol definitely there. Sweet, nice, and a very tasty Whisky indeed.

Even though one might consider this less interesting because of the cask used, and therefore one may find it even a bit boring. If you do, you might be missing the point. For me, this is a well made Whisky which does have a lot to offer. All is good and all is in its place. It’s a Malt of integrity and honesty and to be honest, this one pleased me a lot more than the dark coloured and Sherried Glenallachie 15yo I reviewed recently.

Points: 86

Bowmore Small Batch (40%, OB, 30.000 bottles, 2014)

Benefitting from the success of the Tempest (Small Batch) series and especially from the instant hit The Devils Cask (Small Batch) was. Here comes a new Small Batch release from Bowmore. One without an age statement and considering the usage of first fill and second fill casks, this should be very akin to the tempest series. This Small Batch however, is reduced to 40%, has no age statement and costs next to nothing, so what to expect from this new-born release?

I’m still expecting quite a lot since I really like how the newer 12yo’s are turning out to be. The only beef I have with that one is the reduction to 40%, whereas I believe 43% or maybe 46% would have made this already great Whisky into something more stunning. However, the 12yo is very nice and this Small Batch fits nicely besides the 12yo and several other expressions from Bowmore in the group of entry-level Islay malts without overpowering peat. They leave that to Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, although I feel even some of these are churning out more and more, less hefty Whiskies too…

Bowmore Small BatchColor: Light gold

Nose: Fatty, vanilla, citrus fresh. Barley foremost, but also some forest plants like fern and warm earth. Forrest floor again without the wetness or mushroom components, yes a bit dusty. Smoke and hidden (behind the smoke) peat. Vanilla again, with tree sap and soft fresh-cut wood. Also yellow fruits play a big role in this whisky, like dried apricot. Smells nice and all components of the nose fit nicely together. Well crafted again, as I’ve come to expect from Bowmore’s Rachel.

Taste: Sweet, and some prickly smoke. Fresh wood. Did I mention it was sweet? Licorice and again forest plants. Black and white powder (licorice) and sugar-water. Absolutely not complex, but extremely nice to drink, too easy maybe, and well made. Shortish finish, with nothing in particular to mention, just take another sip. Keep in mind when you are buying a bottle of this, you’re probably going to finish it quickly. This one can stay as it is, but like the 12yo, I wouldn’t have minded this being some points higher in alcohol.

Easy, lovely, well made Whisky, not stong in any way and not your typical Islay Whisky too. Dirt cheap, often on sale and lots of quality to boot. Probably sells well so now its time for the new Big Batch series!

Points 84

Thanks go out (yet again) to Laura!