What’s that saying- that good things go hand in hand? Well, fortunately, to coincide with the Glencadam whiskies (and subsequent Glencadam review that Mike did a couple of weeks ago), we were also given three Tomintoul whiskies (the apparent ‘sister’ distillery of Glencadam) to try during another tasting. I think Dundee Angus Distillers are starting to like having the Water of Life team present during the tastings; what with our precise tasting notes, cheeky comments, and good craic, we make for a good evening! Worth noting that Cody Reynolds did a good job hosting being thrown into the deep end last-minute by Iain Forteath!
Tomintoul Distillery is relatively modern, built in 1964 in the Speyside region. According to their history, their methods predate the distillery, going back hundreds of years as opposed to being a modern producer. The distillery sits on the Glenlivet estate in Ballantruan on the east side of the River Avon and in the valley between the Glenlivet Forest and the hills of Cromdale. Not only is it picturesque, but it gives Tomintoul all the access to every resource they require: high altitude, pure air and the exclusive use of water from the Ballantruan Spring, which they spent more than a year trying to find.
The distillery is owned by Angus Dundee Distillers, who bought it from the Whyte & Mackay group in 2000. The business boasts quite the range; a quick look on Master of Malt, and you’ll find 23 bottles from Tomintoul available to purchase, core and special release. There are some ‘big-hitters’ in there, of note, a 45-Year-Old Double Wood Matured Tomintoul 1973. Furthermore, they’ve done pretty well in terms of credibility too; most recently, they were awarded four Gold Medals from the Scotch Whisky Awards 2021 for their Cigar Malt, Seridh, 16-Year-Old (of which we will taste) and T’lath. The ten-year-old even scooped a gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Bizarrely, Tomintoul holds the record for the world’s largest bottle of single malt scotch whisky. In an attempt to bring more tourism to the area, a gargantuan bottle of Tomintoul 14-Year-Old was filled by the distillery team back in 2009, and at 1.5m tall, it holds an impressive 105.3 litres of spirit, which is equivalent to 150 standard bottles of whisky.
There’s no place like home, which rings true for Robert Fleming, the master distiller at Tomintoul. He’s a fourth-generation distiller, born and bred on the Glenlivet estate itself. He’s also worked for many different distilleries before coming to Tomintoul, where he has been for over 20 years now. Clearly, he knows his stuff.
Anyway, on to the whiskies themselves then. Firstly, all of them are 40% ABV, have been chill-filtered and have had colouring added. Cody Reynolds (Tomintoul Brand Ambassador) admits that this is to cater for the Far Eastern market, where the majority of their business comes from and thus where their whiskies are targeted. All three whiskies we tried are aged in oak casks with no mention of finishing; I presumed there was none.
Tomintoul 10- Dave’s notes
Nose: A very bright, fresh and vibrant nose. An immediate hint of mown grass and orchard fruits, including red apples dipped in toffee. Some light spices too including cinnamon and malt loaf.
Palate: More sweetness again, this time from peaches. Lots of fresh honey and vanilla fudge come through too, to balance it nicely.
Finish: Frustratingly short with a slight warmth.
Tomintoul 10- Mike’s notes
Nose: Fresh and sweet. Banana bread, cinnamon, apple juice, walnuts.
Palate: Sweet, gentle, and pleasant. Vanilla fudge, cloudy apple juice, and strawberry. Honeycomb, pecan nuts, hard toffee, oat biscuits.
Finish: Light and short. Red fruit and some spiced honey linger.
Opinion: A whisky with flavours that cry out for a damp Autumn day. I rather enjoyed this: at the £32-34 RRP, it represents a good value entry-level whisky. It’s light and well balanced, with enough depth of flavour to make me want to keep coming back to it. Given it can be found at around £27 if you shop around, it’s worth keeping an eye out for.
Tomintoul 16- Dave’s notes
Nose: Quite a difference from the ten-year-old. There’s still some sweetness there, more so from the honey, but the main note here for me is the earthiness from wet soil. I also picked out some spearmint.
Palate: Certainly a more pronounced palate. Sweet notes of tiramisu, vanilla with cream, fudge and cola bottles come through nicely. Some coffee beans too.
Finish: Quite short for a 16-year-old, more spice than sweetness.
Tomintoul 16- Mike’s notes
Nose: Honey and mint, with an earthiness: musty leather, cheese rind, and dry autumn leaves.
Palate: Banana split, dried cranberry, and caramel popcorn. Pretzels and honey granola bars provide a biscuity note, joined by light coffee and toffee apple. There’s a little cayenne pepper heat.
Finish: Coffee caramel and cayenne pepper.
Opinion: More mellow than the 10, but not necessarily in a good way. I was optimistic about the 16, having been quite impressed by the 10, but ended up feeling a bit disappointed. The flavours are delicate and pleasant, but the whisky doesn’t seem to have much to it: if anything, it’s a bit too delicate.
Tomintoul 21- Dave’s notes
Nose: I found it challenging to pick out some notes for this one. Other than lime and some light cinnamon, I couldn’t get the toffee popcorn out of my nose.
Palate: More sweetness than anything, relatively mild. There’s definitely a peppery spiciness to it, with some sweetness from the butterscotch pudding lingering around.
Finish: Very little to it, warmth a little spice.
Tomintoul 21- Mike’s notes
Nose: Marshmallows, toffee, butter popcorn, caramel digestives, heather blossom, cloves and pepper.
Palate: Butterscotch pudding, green fruit, poached pear, cinnamon sticks and cloves
Finish: A medium finish of honey, clove, and woody cinnamon stick.
Opinion: I was disappointed by the lack of depth. Apart from the price tag, very little made this stand out from the 16-year-old. I would probably have struggled to identify this as the oldest whisky if tasted blind. The additional time in the cask does not seem to have added much to the 21-year-old. It’s quite nice as a whisky, but a 21-year-old with a 21-year-old’s price tag should be more than just “quite nice”.
So first off, Tomintoul has self-naming their whisky, “the gentle dram’”, and I can see why. It’s a very mild whisky that does not excite me any great deal. I think it has been watered down too much and just lacks overall depth and flavour. With the ten-year-old, this was the first bottling of Tomintoul to be released after it changed hands in 2000 and to be honest, it was the best in the range, everything considered, including price point and flavouring etc.
When we went on to the 16-year-old, apparently Tomintoul’s signature whisky, we were disappointed, hence the score. Don’t get us wrong, it was enjoyable, but I think we were expecting more from something which has been aged in oak casks, which subsequently makes me believe that it’s just been watered down too much.
The 21-year-old was frustratingly lacklustre. When you think about a 21-year-old in the core range of a brand, you immediately feel that it should show their quality and an opportunity to show the consumer how they can manage their casks and produce a quality whisky. But, if this is marketed for the Far Eastern market, I can see why it truly is ‘gentle’ and a bit uninspiring.
Overall, I think if we had had the Tomintoul tasting before the Glencadam tasting, we might have scored higher. I think we were wowed by the Glencadam so much that Tomintoul was already given a handicap. That being said, both Mike and I would like to try more and see what their single casks have to offer.
Tomintoul markets itself as “the Gentle Dram”. With the exception of the 10-year-old, it was rather too gentle for me. I know that some people do enjoy this sort of whisky, but I am not among them. That said, the 10-year-old is a whisky I will keep an eye out for: its youth meant it still had some character and flavour. I know Tomintoul do produce some less than gentle drams, bottled at slightly higher ABV. If these follow on from the promise shown by