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(Good Spirits Company, Glasgow. Virtual Whisky Tasting Saturday 25th July 2020).
Nose: Nutty, penny caramel, vanilla
Palate: Ginger, malty, Caramac chocolate, sweet fudge. Quite alcohol heavy.
Finish: Quite a short finish. There is some fudge, vanilla and pepper which all dissipate quite quickly leaving the pepperiness.
Water really opens this one out to give more of the fruit (apple and banana), and a load of fudge and vanilla. With or without the water, it has a lovely waxy full bodied mouthfeel which feels almost decadent. Another nice dram.
Out of the 6 drams on the tasting, this achieved 17% of the vote for favourite which made it joint second place, but the common consensus was that all 6 were really too close to call.
Nose (neat): Bright and a little prickly when neat. The character is not unlike a dark, nutty ale or stout with malt, cereal, walnut and hazelnut aromas, but it has a curiously limited profile. There's some cask influence discernable as light floral and fruity notes, and as it rests in the glass it gains fullness but also seems to meld into a walnut-toffee amalgum. Some ginger and green fruit highlights are also detected and there is a nail polish aroma in the background.
Nose (watered): Friendlier once diluted with a good splash of water. The alcohol nip is dispelled and fruity, sherried notes are now obvious, together with a little vanilla, but malt is still its dominant characteristic.
Palate (neat): Cinnamon spice and oak tannin on the arrival, it's momentarily sweet but then develops a considerable bitter/sour tannic note as it progresses. Old sour walnut skins, tobacco (cigarette tobacco, not sweet chewing tobacco), a bitter herbal grassy flavour like gentian. It's unusual and a bit harsh (almost industrial) and there's a flavour of sour milk and very bitter black coffee.
Palete (watered): Easier and softer on the arrival, but if anything the development is worse, as now it is bitter but also thin and "mean".
Finish: Medium/long. Tannic, bitter, slightly metallic and fading to a leathery dark chocolate aftertaste. Adding water does not improve it much at all.
The nose gives the distinct impression that there is insufficient complexity to balance the hefty alcohol content. Alcohol is a great medium to carry aromas, but you need to have aromas available to be carried in the first place, and in this whisky they are a bit shy and unbalanced. With water it becomes more approachable but if anything the lack of content is more obvious.
The palate did not appeal to me at all. It's unusually, even uniquely, bitter and frankly I thought it was utterly repellent at first. This is the closest I've ever come to spitting a whisky out. The second neat sip was better than the first, but it still displayed an intense flavour almost like quinine. Water does not work any miracles here, making it more approachable but to no great effect.
Tasted from a 30ml sample, and wild horses would not drag me to the store to buy a full bottle.
"Adequate" : 70/100 (2 stars)
The strong alcohol content is well perceptible on the nose, without being annoying, on the contrary supporting a beautiful herbaceous and balsamic freshness, with aromas of amaretto, lemon zest, peach, pineapple, candied orange, sugar glaze. Malt is very present, with a certain hint of yeast. I would say, quite young.
The alcoholic blow on the palate is understandably tough, but not very balanced: the aromas of Tomatin usually are not so strong, but here they are really turned off by the gradation. Still a lot of malt, accompanied by cinnamon, raisins, pineapple, mango and a touch of citrus. The aromas struggle to emerge, burn quickly and leaving only alcohol and wood.
Medium finish, alcoholic and astringent, of malt, wood and cinnamon.
Cask strength bottlings attract a certain slice of the market, but it is not like that you have to chase them at all costs, and above all you need to know how to create them. The alcohol here asphalts everything, revealing the inadequacy of Tomatin's more than good whiskies to support this high alcohol content. Perhaps a more decisive aging would benefit, but this is defintely not the case: you appreciated just the smell (from which it can be inferred it could do better), but they can do much more.