Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tomatin Cuatro Sherry Finish Series

Tomatin’s Cuatro range is a series of whiskies taken from the same batch of 9year old Tomatin single malt matured in American oak, from the same distillation run (January 15th 2002), transferred on June 29th 2011 and finished for a further three years in a set of four different first fill sherry casks  – Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX (Cuatro is Spanish for four).  All of the casks were shipped whole from the bodegas in Spain, rather than being split and flat packed over, so a really high quality, no expense spared sherry finishing and a great experiment in how the sherry affects the character of the resulting whisky. 

Each bottling is limited to 1500 bottles and is priced at £50.  We wonder if (and hope that) some of those sherry casks have been held back for older, longer sherry finishes?  Either way there are no more Cuatro casks waiting to bottle more 12 year old Cuatro, so when this is released 1500 bottles of each will be all there is. 

What was really interesting for me was how the Fino and Manzanilla finishes tasted of that sherry, whereas the Oloroso and PX finishes really didn’t – they were much more an integral part of a whisky that had changed considerably.  I guess this might be why Oloroso and PX are so popular, and why distilleries like Glendronach are so committed to Oloroso and PX maturation. 

I was lucky enough to be on the tweet tasting where these were launched and so got to try them all!  Note that they were tasted blind, but with little samples of the relevant sherry for reference. 

#1 Tomatin Cuatro - Fino finished, 12yo, 46% A+

cuatrofinoNose - Balanced, rich and dark.  Rich tea biscuit, dark fruit - juicy black cherry.  Boiled sweets - blackcurrant travel sweets.  Lovely integration between the dark fruit and a really sweet wax.  With water, softer, sweeter citrus, like grapefruit or melon.

Body - A little harsher than the nose suggests; crushed malted barley, apple cores, chewed end of a pencil.  With water, sourer grapefruit, especially retronasally.

Finish - Quite long and structured, a little heat, lingering salty edge.  Feels like Fino sherry.  With water, lingering, extremely spicy.

#2 Tomatin Cuatro - Manzanilla finished, 12yo, 46% A⊕

cuatromanzanillaNose - Waxier, warmer, freshly planed white oak.  Orange scented hot candle wax.  Baked apple with raisins and double cream.  Pine needles - fresh and wet.  A tropical note - honeydew melon?  Not in your face but there and slightly citrus.  And a nutty element, hazelnut and cashew, pencil shavings.  With water, more warm, rich wax and fruit, just beautiful.

Body - Ripe, balanced, woody and sweet, but loads of structure.  Big juicy Florida orange juice, spicy white pepper.  With water, more herbal, toasty notes come through with more apple peel and foam sweets.

Finish - Clean and bold, good spicy, fruity, balanced Tomatin with a long sherry backing.  Classically Tomatin, moreish and heavily drammable.

#3 Tomatin Cuatro - Oloroso finished, 12yo, 46% A⊕

cuatroolorosoNose - A little more closed, darkly sweeter though underneath it.  Black grapes, fig rolls, blackberries and hot crayons.  Dark, sweet, sultry and rather sexy.  With water, a little more fecund, sweet like lip gloss.

Body - Spicy, juicy fruits and very balanced.  Pine nuts and pine furniture.  Liquorice root.  With water, the astringent edge comes through more forcefully but its balanced by the increased boiled sweet tone.

Finish - Long, spicy, sweet and washing down to wood bitterness.  Lingering spice and very moreish again.

#4 Tomatin Cuatro - PX finished, 12yo, 46% A+

cuatroPXNose- Darker, muskier, but ripe and fruity, with pastry, orchard fruit, vanilla - apple pie and cream, with raisins baked in with the apple.  

Body - Somehow lighter, more astringent, sourer than expected, plum crumble?

Finish - Long, toasty, mellow.

My order of preference for the four was Oloroso (such a traditionalist), Manzanilla, Fino (because it was interesting) then PX (I do find PX finishes a little one dimensional though).  Great fun to be able to compare them, all very high quality finishes, in a controlled manner though.  Thanks again Tomatin and the Whisky Wire!

Worth noting as well that a special sherry finished version of Cu Bocan was also launched on the night – really interested to try that too.

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