Tomatin Oloroso 18y, the last of the Tomatin Stillmen’s Choice sampler. Next week, we close Tomatin month with the obligatory BattleScotch!
At 18y, this is in the old end of things we’ve tried at iScotch – this is only the 5th 18y in almost 300 posts, and none older than that. Maybe it’s because of this limited exposure we keep running into the same issue with whiskies/whiskeys over about 15y, namely that we don’t really like them.
The why of this is pretty straight forward. Longer aging is more of an investment by the distiller, and there’s more risk – if an entire batch goes south, that’s years of wasted effort and cost. So older means more expensive, because it literally has to. The fact that an older whisky will always be more expensive acts as a bit of a limiter on us here. However, we’ve shown over the years that a low age doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad whisky; similarly a high age doesn’t mean it’ll be good. And just as a cheap whisky doesn’t have to be bad, paying a lot doesn’t guarantee a good drink, either.
More time in wood does mean one thing for sure – more wood in your whisky. The volatile whisky breaks down the cellulose of the wood, freeing up all kinds of organic compounds, tannins, etc, that dissolve into and react further with the whisky. We know what unaged whisky/moonshine tastes like – very much like the mash it was made from. A young whisky will retain that mash flavour for somewhere between 2-5y, by my experience, depending on the type (scotch, canadian, bourbon, etc). Again, from experience here at iScotch, whiskies tend to peak between 5-15y, as the mash & wood elements balance and blend and merge with each other. But in the same way a young whiskey can be unbalanced towards mash, an older whisky can be unbalanced towards the wood or whatever specific principal molecules are in play. Laphroaig Quarter Cask suffered similarly – using casks 1/4 the size… um.. either 4 or 16 fold increases the interaction between the wood and the whisky. To my palate, in an unpleasant way. Too much is too much, right?
So, maybe it’s our palates being under exposed to older whiskies. Maybe our tastes have acclimatized to middle aged whiskies. For the record, we liked the Glenfiddich, Talisker & Bowmore 18y, but not the Highland Park. Nor this one, but here’s what else we thought:
Dan – jurassic sap
Simon – brassy yellow, slick
Dan – maple with slight spice
Simon – maple wine
Dan – sickly sweet with aftertaste of eating very burnt toast
Simon – goes very wrong, savoury tang? burnt gravy
Dan – tart bitterness
Simon – unnecessary
Dan – heartburn, acidic
Simon – acid, back of tongue bad
Dan – 2.75/10
Simon – 3/10
Tomatin Oloroso 18y – 46% 50ml – ?? – Highlands
Try it? No. Buy it? No!