Monday, April 29, 2013

Tomatin Legacy - BIG shoes to fill for a NAS whisky...

About three years ago when I was knee deep researching as much as I could about the lesser known distilleries of Scotland I stumbled across one that was called Tomatin.  I read up on it and realized that on my last trip to this lovely country I literally drove right by the distillery and didn't know it.  "No worries", I thought, I'll buy some here in Canada and try it out.  So I went online and looked at every liquor establishment website across Canada to discover: "we" didn't have Tomatin here!?  First world problems, I know.  How sad for me, right?! So began the quest to get my hands on the whisky from this distillery.  Graham asked me why I seemed to be so fixated on trying these whiskies and all I could really answer was that I had a gut instinct that I would really enjoy them. After a few failed attempts by friends to find it for me while they were away I was excited to hear that in November of 2011 a local whisky show was bringing it it.  It was going to be the table I would head to first!  About a week before the show our friend and organizer of the show, Frank Scott, sent me an email to tell me he was unable to get it in.  Talk about being convinced the Whisky Gods were out to torture me.  All of a sudden the TOMATINS were turning into my obsession.  I HAD to try them.  So, my quest continued and try as I may, I could not get my hands on any of their whiskies.  

Then like all things, if you simply let it go and stop chasing after it; it will come.  AND COME it did.  On a trip for my birthday to New Hampshire, in a little liquor store at the back of a very small strip mall, I heard Graham say: "Jo, come over here for a minute", so I casually strolled over to where he was standing and beaming.  I looked at the shelf, literally squealed and jumped up and down.  The lady shot us a quick and nervous glance.  I grabbed the bottle of Tomatin 12 and literally hugged it as though it was priceless cargo.  Then Graham said:  "Did you see the price?" I hadn't bothered to look because frankly I was so determined/elated to try this whisky I didn't care.  So I was truly expecting something completely outrageous that might deter me from buying it.  I sighed and looked over at the shelving unit holding the bottle just a little bit closer.  $24.99.   My eyes just about popped out of my head and I let out another loud delightful squeal.  Thought for sure we were going to get thrown out of the store, but apparently squealing must happen often in New Hampshire liquor stores?!?  Bottle bought immediately and I literally made Graham rush back to our condo so that we could open it, PDQ. We poured a fairly generous dram at 3:00pm on a Saturday afternoon and savored it.  It was everything I had hoped for and more. I can't explain why/how I knew this whisky was for me but my gut instinct was right.  There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy about that lovely dram.  Happier than a Catholic at St. Peter's Square I brought "MY" new bottle home to Canada.  I shared it with a few friends and it didn't take long before 1/2 the bottle was gone.  

Omne trium perfectum!
Then another wonderful thing happened. A few weeks later, I was advised by a friend who works in Fort McMurray, Alberta that he had seen Tomatin at a liquor store in Calgary.  Are you sure, I said pounding on the computer keys frantically.  "Yeah, pretty sure I saw the 12, 15, 18 and maybe even a 25".  "When are you coming home next?" I asked in CAPITAL LETTERS with plenty of exclamation marks. I held my breathe.  "Next week", came the reply.  So, of course, I was a very thankful and happy woman who received a bottle of the 15 and 18 year old Tomatin right before Christmas. So thankful for friends who are willing to put whisky bottles in their personal luggage for me.  Whisky fabric rocks, all the time!!!
Stephen B - Tomatin

I kid you not when I say the next day I found out that Stephen Bremner would be hosting the Master Class for Tomatin at the Victoria Whisky Festival which I was slated to attend in the new year!  I was over the moon.  "Mystery whisky, 12, 15, 18 and 30 year old.  Now most people will tell you that you should never wish your life away, but I was more excited about going to the Whisky Festival then I was about Christmas so my countdown was not to December 25th like most normal level headed people, no mine was to Victoria Whisky Festival - January 17th 2013 because my quest was going to be fulfilled.  Laugh at me if you will but when I latch on to something I don't let go until I have satisfied that "itch". I was not disappointed.  Stephen's class was one of the highlights of the whisky festival, as mentioned in my review:  

So here is where things take a bit of a serendipitous turn for me.  As part of the Master Class, we were given a sample of whisky that was not yet on the market.  I don't recall if Stephen told us we were "guinea pigs" or not, but I recall him stating they were interested in what we thought.  I nosed/tasted the sample and made my notes accordingly.  Some discussion took place in the class of about 25 and all in all, those that spoke up really seemed to enjoy the flavor profile.  I, included.  Legacy was my second favorite dram, after the 18.  After the class I told Graham what I had sampled and how much I really enjoyed the NAS (no age statement) very much.  Flash forward coming back east, surviving the rest of winter, writing blogs, doing tastings, etc..  and I'm sitting at my computer at work when I notice some discussion on twitter about the newest Tomatin Release.  It seemed there was quite a bit of excitement around it and many were getting the opportunity in the UK and Europe to try it.  
I stopped and thought about it for a moment and went digging into my bag pack for my trusty "note book".  I was elated, actually BEYOND elated!  I, Whiskylassie,  had a chance to try a whisky BEFORE the people of UK and Europe.  This had never happened, ever!  I could partake in the conversation,share what I thought and for once I felt like I had scooped a new release!  That might not mean much to some, but for me it was another great moment on my whisky adventure.  I thought for sure the lucky streak was over.  I was wrong.  About two weeks after they launched Legacy I was on Facebook checking a few things like I often do and came across a photo on the Tomatin page asking for a clever descriptor to be added and that a small token would be sent out to the most popular one.  Well, mine won and not long after I received a lovely package from Tomatin.  I was excited when I saw the SWAG and even more excited to find tucked away lovingly a small bottle containing a sample of Legacy.   Another happy dance and more squealing ensued.  (Women can get away with that, thank Goodness :)

So, in light of receiving a sample I revisited the lovely whisky.  The following notes are from both times I tasted it.  Jan/13 and Apr/13:

TOMATIN LEGACY, NAS, bottled at 43% ABV.  Matured in Virgin oak then Maker's Mark ex-bourbon casks.  Chill-filtered and colored.

Color:   Wheat, very light.  Not a very viscous whisky, legs are plentiful and run quite freely.

Nose:  Jan/13:  Elegant, light and quite aromatic in nature.  Tinned fruit salad (like Del Monte fruit cups), vanilla is faint in the background and detect a bit of woodiness.  A bit of water opens up and it reminds me of a very refreshing lemon sherbet.  Apr/13:  This is really pleasant on the nose.  So light and has a "green" quality on it this time around.  I'm getting the distinct smell of pine trees after it rains?  Vanilla lingers in background and has a richer quality then I remember.  I'm also getting golden sultanas this time around which I didn't note in January.

Palate:  Jan/13: Does not quite equal the strength of nose.  It's a bit weak in flavor comparably.  Nice custard or sweet lemon cake quality.  After adding a few drops of water:  granny smith apples in the background, tartness.   Apr/13:  Seems more balanced this time around,  still not as flavorful as the nose might hint to but vanilla pudding and more fruit (pears, or maybe pineapple - something crisp). Water added revealed barley type flavors.  Very pleasant. The longer it sat in my glass, the more flavorful it seem to become.

Finish:  Jan/13: White pepper, doesn't linger. Quite surprised at how short it is?  Apr/13:  Different recollection again, seems a bit spicy, but more like ginger.  Getting some of the oak this time, that I didn't notice the first time.  A bit "drying" in nature.  Very light and moderate finish this time around.

After having this for a second time around, I went into my whisky collection and pulled out a few more NAS type whiskies I have recently been drinking.  Dalmore, Jura, Auchentoshan, just to name a few...   and as I went back to look at some of my notes I noticed one thing that seemed to be a common thread:  I found the majority of the NAS's I was trying to be unbalanced.  The nose didn't even come close to equaling the palate and/or finish.  It wasn't a smooth transition and something ended up being "off" to the point where I wouldn't necessarily reach for that dram again anytime soon.  On both occasions that I imbibed the Tomatin that wasn't the case.  The nose is quite enjoyable, the palate albeit slightly weaker stands up nicely.  Possible because they chose to bottle it at 43%.  The finish surprised me the second time around.  I really enjoyed the discovery of a bit of "wood" on the finish.  Overall the whisky did a great job at pleasing my senses.  I did enjoy it better without water. 

Funny sometimes where the brain ends up.  Tomatin decided to call this whisky:  LEGACY.  I thought that was pretty bold, almost "ballsy" in nature.  For something to be called a Legacy, you would think it's been around.  It's got to have history behind it.  Ok, so just about every distillery in Scotland has history but why choose the name Legacy for something that is brand new, has no age statement attached to it and let's face it, Tomatin is not exactly one of the "BIG 5"...   I pondered this for weeks because I couldn't quite wrap my head around it.  Don't get me wrong, I read the release and why they say they chose to call it Legacy and it makes perfect sense.  The distillery built itself by creating a community where nothing existed. These people have been its backbone for over 100 years.  Think about that...   Established farmers and shepherds turned into whisky makers in less then two generations.  Five generations later, the descendants are still there in the community.  The whisky itself may not necessarily be "the legacy", but everything that went into in for the last century is.  People long gone = old photos on walls of the past.  The stories, the friendships and time moving on.  Did they ever think they were creating a Legacy?   Do you?  Or is it something most of us start to consider once we reach the golden times of our lives? 

I firmly believe in all the things that come to me, seem to do so just when they are suppose to.  I may not be patient enough sometimes to realize that.  When I look back to how Tomatin came in the most serendipitous way possible, it was like the opening of the flood gates.  I'm glad I tried the age statements first.  I have a wonderful appreciation for Tomatin's regular line up and I think I see now that I had to "wait" for it to come.  I have a sneaking suspicion had I tried it back in Scotland or in 2011 I may have chosen a different Master Class at Victoria and I would have never had the chance to try Legacy.  Thank you "Whisky Gods" and thank you Tomatin. 

Tomatin 12, 15, 18 and 25 are now readily available in Canada (Edgemont Fine Wines - Vancouver, Kensington Wine Market - Calgary as examples) from about $55 - $350 dollars.  I have heard that the Legacy will be released here in North America soon.  Retailing for about 26 British pounds right now in UK, I'll guess it will be about $40-45 Canadian.   (Fingers crossed)...   I for one, will be buying it.  It is truly one of the better No Age Statement whiskies I have tried in the last 6 months and I highly recommend you try it if you have the chance. 

Lassie continues her journey, I hope you will have fun following along.

I leave you to discover what your "Legacy" will be...



  1. Great post, I recently was on a tasting too and they're my favourite distillery now.

    1. Thanks for the link Ben! Looks like we both have "good" taste in whisky! Slainté