Troubled Tomatin re-tried.

Tomatin 18 y.o Oloroso – Taste Review 3a.

For those of you who read my review on the Tomatin 18 y.o Oloroso Cask, you may remember that I had some problems with the sample after adding water. A strong burnt rubber taste occurred.

Well, with a slight remainder in the bottle, I resolved to taste it again, but remembering not to add the water! But despite not diluting my spirit, a burnt rubber note was still there. Perhaps now my palate had been exposed to it, I was able to pick it out.

The troublesome Tomatin Teenager

This convinced me something was definitely not right with this dram, and was putting it down to variations in the batches, although how this slipped through I had no idea.

It wasn’t until I was rinsing the empty bottle out that I found my probable cause – some sort of corrosion or contamination in the cap.

The evidence, Pt.1
The evidence, Pt.2

Why did I not taste this before? Well, it is probable that my first taste, the alcohol masked it, and this is why I thought it was poor only after adding water. By diluting the spirit, you can start to pick out individual flavours. This was 46% so not too strong, but a little water will help it release what’s below the surface. With cask strength, you get too much spirit burn to taste many flavours, so it’s sometimes best to add a teaspoon of spring water straight away.

By the second taste a few days later, I knew the taste was there, and I could pick it out. I don’t have a super sense of taste – my affection for 80’s music and Pineapple on a pizza should confirm that! It’s when we build up a databank of tastes in our heads that we have the experience to recognise things if we experience them again.

That particular bottle was purchased from a specialist whisky shop in Speyside although I will not name it. I believe the gunk in the cap was the cause of the bad taste. While it may not have been a manufacturing defect in the seal or cap, it could have just as easily have been because the bottle had been stored horizontally and the spirit had affected the seal. This is most likely to have occurred in transit as a dedicated whisky retailer would have known NEVER to store whisky on its side. However, one such retailer I visited last week had two bottles on display on their side.

Or still there is the chance the cap had nothing to do with it, and it was a bad cask used in this batch.

Whatever the case, I can try the second miniature and see if it’s the same. I trust it won’t be.

Slainte Mhath!

Taste Review #3 – Tomatin 18 y.o Oloroso cask

This week has seen me attempt to tidy out my study, and clear the last remaining whiskies out of there so I can put them in storage. And during this clear out, I found my tasting notes from the Tomatin I had before I left to go abroad to work. The thing is, I could have cheated and written a review without doing a tasting, but for a Saturday night that would be pretty sad. So I cracked another one open.

Those who have been paying attention will know that when I experiment with new whiskies, I attempt to see if I can get a miniature first, so I don’t spunk a lot of money on a whisky I may not like. Initially, the one plan I had was to do a spread of age and casks within the Tomatin range, so the differences could be compared, but I’ve not done that tonight, I stuck to the one.

My Tomatin Line Up. Note the darker 14 y.o liquid – due to Port Cask

Tomatin Distillery is a local distillery to me, being around 15 miles south of Inverness. The village of Tomatin sits by the River Findhorn in Strathdearn, and is over looked by a impressive Victorian viaduct. Indeed, the main Inverness to Perth railway goes through the distillery complex.

Findhorn Viaduct at Tomatin – Copyright the loose cannon (via Flickr)

The distillery does have a visitors centre which is open all year round. This is just a coupe of minutes from the A9 trunk road between Inverness and Perth, but despite passing it so often, I’ve never visited yet. Given the results based on my taste test, I think I need to make a bit more of an effort.

Bottle and Dram


This malt has a stated age of 18 years old.


This malt is bottled at 46% a.b.v


This dram is from a Sherry cask, and thus has a pleasant honey colour to it. Natural colour and non-chill filtered.


It’s a sherry cask, so dried fruits are there. Sweet, pleasant notes, with a hint of oak, fudge, a slight spice. Chocolate was detected on my second sniff.


A nice, slow run down.


No real kick, but a nice steady flow. Smooth as a baby’s bum. Excellent mouth feel. Slight hints of fruit cake, apple, clove and chocolate. Still nice with a teaspoon of water added. Read the whole review before you add water though. I got a surprise


It’s 46% so I was expecting a bit of a kick. But no, nothing. This whisky was a proper gentleman; it made its exit quietly, leaving nothing but good memories. Nice, strong peppery finish with more chocolate and fruit notes. Oak a bit more pronounced now. Very nice tingle in the mouth. You’ll want more, there is no doubt.

However, this changed a bit when I added water. I added some room temperature spring water and wished I hadn’t. In fact, I’m being diplomatic. It changed massively and not for the better in my opinion. The alcohol burn became more pronounced, the finish was of burnt rubber or a burning match, and this only means one thing: Sulphur.

Sulphur compounds can be present due to the use of sulphur candles to sterilise the Sherry casks and to prevent bacteria growth. If the cask isn’t rinsed properly before it is filled with the spirit, this taste can carry over. Be aware that some sherried casks do have this risk.


For an 18 year old whisky, this one does not disappoint if you take it neat. It isn’t going to blow your head off with the spirit strength, and yet leaves you wanting more.

Was disappointed after I added the water and got the sulphur note. But that’s what happens from time to time. A bad cask somewhere in the mix can wreak havoc with a batch. This is why brands like Macallan can charge what they do, and it’s down to expert cask management.

Do yourself a favour. Don’t add water.

This bottle can be purchased at around £84 online from Master of Malt or The Whisky Exchange. Hunt about though, as I did see one for £74. Excellent value for a malt of this age.

Slainte Mhath!