Thursday, October 30, 2014

week 3 - 1988 was a good year for growing up, friendships and whisky...

Weird stuff has been happening in Canada that has left the majority of us simply shaking our heads. Fords back in office, radicalist attacks on home soil and non-consensual BDSM allegations for a well loved Canadian Icon. 2014 certainly won't be forgotten in many of our books. But I have to say the freakiest thing about this year for me is my daughter turns 30 next week! 

Moments like that make me think and be thankful for some of the memorable things in my life. I ended up calling a really good friend of mine as we hadn't talked in awhile, in a long while actually. We were extremely close when we were much younger however life pulled us in very separate directions but we always end up touching base and catching up. So there we were again catching up after not speaking to each other for almost a year. At one point he said all this shit in the news makes me realize how quickly it all goes by. I joked we were not that old and he kindly reminded me we had known each other since 1988. I did the math... OMG, I said as I put my hand on my forehead we have known each other for 26 years!? Nothing like a quick math lesson to realize that more than half of my life.

After work I went into my whisky room and picked up my Tomatin 1988. Coincidence?! I think not... Rarely seems to be in my life. So I grabbed a glass and my notebook. As I sat nosing, sipping and making notes I thought about the earlier conversation and it made me go back in time...    

1988... Good lord, I was 22 years old. Living on my own with my daughter (yes I was a really young mom). At that point I had a high school education with no family living close by but I was determined I would not be a "teen mom statistic". I worked hard to make our lives as good as it could be. Things that were important to me then: My child, my family, my friends. I was making $26,000 a year working as a telephone operator. I owned and paid $4500 for my Dodge Colt, a dozen eggs cost me 65 cents and if I went to a movie I could get in for $3.50. Life certainly seemed complicated at the time but in hindsight I realize it truly wasn't. 

I loved Elizabeth Manley
I don't really remember much about that year other than I broke up with my daughter's dad, Canada hosted the winter Olympics and Prince Charles escaped an avalanche (don't ask me why I remember that?!) but I do know that my friendship with Darren started that year, simply stated the way most of my adventures always begin.

I was living on the 4th floor of an apartment high rise, it was summer and I recall it was my day off. I was sitting on the balcony reading while Michelle napped. The next thing I knew there was a canoe going by my floor. It got stuck on the banister of my balcony and I could hear a couple of guys arguing. I got up and walked over to the edge. I looked up as well as down and sure enough there was a young man two floor above me with a rope and a young man on the ground with a rope trying to hoist a canoe.

They sheepishly stared at me for a moment and asked that I set the canoe free. Me, being the silly child I can be sometimes asked what exactly they planned on doing with the canoe once they got it up to the 6th floor. Long story short one of their friends had lost a bet and they were going to replace his bed with the canoe. I was amused by this and decided I would help. "Where will you be storing the bed?" I asked as I released the canoe tip from the rung. Peter (I later got both their names) said they were simply going to put it in his spare bedroom so I said, you can store it here if you like. Darren started laughing like crazy and said "Deal!". They came by about an hour later with the bed and I stored it in my dining room. Darren and I exchanged telephone numbers so they could get it in a few days after they drove their friend Dan a little crazy. 

The whole thing went over like a lead balloon with Dan and after 2 days they put him out of his misery. Darren called me about a week later and offered to drop off a bottle of wine to thank me for being an accomplice. I accepted. We both agree often that he and I clicked from the moment we sat down that night. We talked and drank wine until 3:00 in the morning. We dated... and both agreed that was the stupidest thing we could have ever done because the reality was it felt like I was kissing my little brother. 

However, Darren is proof that friendships can span a lifetime. Oddly enough I met a very special man not long after that, we married, had Erica and the rest is Lassie history...
Erica now 24
Michelle now 30
I'm almost 48 now and have two beautiful daughters who are educated, independent and not only do I love them, I like them too. I "did" good. I'm really proud of that. Things that are very important to me now: My kids, my family and my friends. Everything has changed but oddly enough the things that mean the most to me haven't. My life has been interesting and even though the hardships may have been plentiful during those first few years I wouldn't change them for the world. Yup, 1988 was a really great year. 

The segway to whisky you say?! Well of course in 1988 someone at Tomatin was making whisky and even though it was the worst of times (critical economic downturn) Tomatin thankfully survived. So, in 2014 Graham Eunson and his team decided it was time to bottle the whisky from 1988 as vintage batch release. Vatted from a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Port casks to create what is essentially one of my favorite Tomatin's to date. 

Tomatin 1988, 46% ABV & non-chill filtered

Nose: My first sniff hit me like the fantastic memory it holds. Have you ever had jam cookies!? These were a staple at my grandmother's house. This was followed by orange creamsicles.

Palate: The sweet & creamy flavor is there like lemon squares. After it sits in the glass a little while it developed into chocolate covered cherries. It was quite a change in direction that surprised me. 

Finish: Long, lingering with a refreshing quality (sort of like eating parsley after a meal). Stayed with me for quite some time.
I've tried 11 different Tomatin's over the course of the last 2 years and I have to say this is by far my favorite so far. It's inviting on the nose, delicious on the palate and quite satisfying from start to finish. 

As stated, 1988 was a great year for many things including this whisky. I do hope Tomatin considers keeping this one as part of their core range as I believe it's a keeper that many people will enjoy. 

Available in the UK, USA and of course Alberta Canada markets. If you live in Calgary or Edmonton they are having Tomatin tastings the first and second week of November.  It's a fantastic chance to try quite a few of their whiskies including this one.

Next week I will be reviewing a North American Exclusive Tomatin Release - French Oak 12 Year Old.

Until then, get out there and try some Tomatin!!!

I certainly will be.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

week 2 Tomatin 14 Portwood - Do you dare follow me down the rabbit hole?

DRINK ME!!!!! 

I CAN'T! I replied as I threw it back in my luggage. "But you want to don't you?", it beckoned slyly. 

"I can't. I have to wait until I get back to Canada!" I said with much more authority in my voice. I put the small bottle in a sock, tucked it away under a pair of pants and zipped the bag closed. I tried to read, I talked to people on twitter until finally I was exhausted and simply went to sleep. What followed was a strange dream of miniature Tomatin whisky bottles chasing me down the streets of London. Dave Worthington was the Cheshire cat and his daughter Kat was the Queen of Hearts. I was being put on trial for breaking the rules and drinking the king's favorite whiskies. Needless to say when I woke up my first thought was: "I'm never eating plantain fritters with honey yogurt before bed ever again!?" 

As I've stated several times, Tomatin whiskies were my favorite discovery of 2013 and so I specifically seek them out now either at home or my travels abroad. I have yet to find one that I don't enjoy immensely. My collection of Tomatins bottles has caught up to my Forty Creek as well as Compass Box collection. That... says something about the quality of the whiskies I enjoy.

Last week I posted about my encounters of the third kind with the Cù Bòcan 1989, this week I'm going to review the Tomatin 14 year old Port Wood finish. This whisky was added to the core range of the distillery bottlings in April 2014. It's bottled at 46% (always a bonus in my books) and it spent the first 13 years in an ex-bourbon barrel but finished in a port pipe for that last year of maturation.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of Forty Creek whisky. It's Canadian and their entire line is quite lovely. John Hall released a Port Wood Reserve limited release twice, once in 2009 and the last one in 2012. For me, it's been the benchmark of what a Port Wood Finished whisky should taste like. The really difficult part is knowing Forty Creek will never release another Port Wood finish so what I have in my collection right now (2 bottles left) is it. I've tried several other whiskies that were port finished and frankly, I always came away very disappointed until now... 

What qualities are you looking for in a Port Wood Finish Lassie I hear you asking?  Simple:

1. I should still be able to taste the house style of the whisky - The port should be in the background and not mask or overpower the whisky.

2. The port should provide sweet and soft undertones - Not candy, syrupy sweet but rather rounded, soft fruit like flavors.

3. Price tag - It must be affordable and have value for money since it's something I'll dip into often.
Whenever I've tried other port matured or finished whiskies these 3 criteria were somehow not being met. Case in point, I loved the Balvenie Portwood 21, but I don't think $350.00 is something I part with on a regular basis to enjoy this whisky. Forty Creek met those three criteria for me and I certainly didn't mind paying $70 for the bottle on a regular basis. 

So back to the Tomatin 14 Port Wood Finish. It may not completely match how I feel about the Forty Creek nor would I expect it to as no two whiskies are ever alike, but I do believe that I have found a replacement that is fairly close.

Nose: Bumbleberry pie (for those of you who don't know what that is: A combination of strawberry, blueberry, blackberries and/or raspberries -> Basically summer fruits) It's Tomatin, but so much more fruity on the nose (I compared it to my 12, 15 and 18). As it sits in the glass, I got a bit of sweet pipe tobacco or more like new leather perhaps. It was a lovely smell. I nosed the whisky for about 30 minutes before I would even consider tasting it. It's truly a lovely and well balanced nose. But would the palate hold true?

Palate: Nice full bodied mouthfeel, almost a bit oily and nutty in nature. I love the feeling of the fruit exploding on my tongue. It was a bit of a surprise I must admit. The taste of a honeycomb came to mind followed by a mango cheesecake I once made. Again, balanced, sweetness at the back and quite satisfying.

Finish: I could really taste blackberries which confused me at first. It's a rich, long finish that stays with you for quite some time. About half way through my dram I started to notice a bit more of an almond and oaky flavor being left behind. 

From start to finish, this whisky was simply delicious. Is it my Forty Creek port finished whisky - No...  Is it close enough that I'm extremely happy I found one that I can start buying as a replacement, YES... ! Now the next small problem...  I need to find more room for all these whiskies?! Oh wait... I'm in the process of working on that....

Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Wood Finish is available world wide and ranges from £50 in the UK. Only available in the province of Alberta in Canada, at this time, retails for about $85. If you love Tomatin or port wood finishes I would certainly recommend you trying some.

More to come next week as I'll be reviewing the Tomatin 1988.  Care to come over for my tea party? I have some realllly nice cups I'd love to use... 

Cheeky Lassie....