A few weeks ago, the team at Angus Dundee Distillers kindly hosted us for a vertical tasting of their 10-, 16-, and 12-Year-Old whiskies (covered in this review). Tomintoul bills itself as “the Gentle Dram”, and while we enjoyed the 10-Year-Old, we were a little underwhelmed by some of the older offerings, which were a bit too gentle for our taste. We do understand their reasons for this, though, as these whiskies do have an audience. However, the 10-Year-Old left us wondering how good a whisky Tomintoul could produce if they decided to make something that wasn’t gentle at all.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long to get an answer to this question. Recently, Iain Forteath and the Angus Dundee team were gracious enough to host us for another virtual tasting, which included two Tomintouls that were far from the distillery’s usual offerings. These were their Cigar Malt, a heavily sherried expression designed as the perfect accompaniment for a cigar, and the 15-Year-Old, which has spent three years in a port barrel. Not being matured solely in ex-bourbon casks, these both seemed like promising deviations from Tomintoul’s usual whiskies.
It is worth mentioning that Tomintoul also produces a peated whisky, marketed as Old Ballantruan. This is so far away from the Gentle Dram that they have had to put a different name on it. We’ll look at this in a future article.
And so, to the whiskies:
Tomintoul Cigar Malt
43% ABV. There’s a mixture of maturations: some of the spirit is finished in Oloroso sherry casks, while some has been completely matured in these.
Chill-filtered. Information on colouring was not available.
£68.95 (The Whisky Exchange)
Nose: Maple syrup and meat! Smokey bacon, BBQ ribs, roast chicken crisps, tomato, paprika, and pecan.
Palate: Maple syrup again, joined by golden syrup. This is followed by a bit of smoke, coffee, chocolate, damp rolling tobacco, paprika and pepper. The mouthfeel is rich and buttery, and there’s a subtle peat accent.
Finish: Quite subtle: paprika, pepper and oak.
Opinion: This whisky is sweet, smoky, and slightly peaty: a beautiful balance. This whisky was designed to be rich and sweet to complement tobacco smoke and certainly achieves that. I must note that the score given is from trying the whisky without its suggested pairing; I hope to try the Tomintoul Cigar Malt with a cigar in the future and revisit this review! However, on its own, the Cigar Malt is a great dram. While it’s not punching you in the face, there’s very little trace of Tomintoul’s gentleness here. I would go out of my way to find this whisky.
Tomintoul 15-Year-Old Portwood Finish
46% ABV, matured in ex-bourbon casks for 12 years, then finished in ruby port barrels for three years.
Information on chill-filtration and colouring was not available.
£66.94 (Master of Malt)
Nose: A glassful of tiramisu. Milky coffee, deep alcoholic raisin notes, and dark fruits. The sweetness takes the form of apricots and sponge fingers, accompanied by cream. Then there’s spice from cloves, aniseed, and cedar.
Palate: More tiramisu. Coffee liqueur, ginger snaps, apricot jam, and lemons. Earthier notes then emerge, with caramelised steak, sweet beef jerky, and a hint of cigar ash.
Finish: Dark fruits, coffee, and pepper. Really builds: each sip lingers longer and longer.
Opinion: With a rich palate and increasingly powerful finish, this is the Tomintoul I had hoped for. The aromas on the nose introduce the palate extremely well. After some great flavours on the palate, I was initially a little underwhelmed by the finish, but this grew more and more with each sip. By the time my glass was empty, it was long enough not to disappoint. This bears very little resemblance to the other “Gentle Drams” in the range, delivering on the promise shown by the 10-Year-Old. Very good indeed.
The Cigar Malt and 15-Year-Old really changed my mind about Tomintoul. Having found the 16- and 21-Year-Old a little too gentle, these two whiskies show that the distillery still has a lot to offer. The apparent difference is the wood used: the addition of some sherry, or indeed port, wood to Tomintoul’s spirit produces a much more exciting dram. The resulting rich, flavoursome whiskies are definitely worth investigating.
Disclosure: The samples and virtual tasting experience that informed this article were provided to the Water of Life team by Angus Dundee Distillers free of charge. Angus Dundee Distillers have not had any other input into this article, nor has the Water of Life team relinquished any editorial control.