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....

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