One thing we have not been short of here in Scotland the past month is snow! We’ve had so much snow we are sick of the sight of it! So what did Stewart and I do with ourselves when we finally had a day without snow, that’s right we went sledging.
Why? Not because we are crazy, well not only because we are crazy, but to go and join Distiller Manager, Graham Eunson, Marketing Manager Jennifer Masson, the events team and some very special invited guests. Were we surprised to find Tomatin suggesting snowing, skiing or ice climbing when the country was already under siege from the white stuff, well, no, not we weren’t. This is exactly the kind of crazy, fun, cool, different approach the guys at Tomatin apply to everything they do.
Although Stewart had fancied the skiing I sensibly suggested in order to not break any bones lets stick to sledging, children do that, how hard can it be, right? Well, wrong actually. After many happy minutes shooting down the “fake” snow hill of Braehead’s Snow Factor, Stewart managed to catch his hand on some ice and break a finger. Cue Stewart in a sling, holding ice, oh the irony, on this sore hand, whilst I drank whisky and posed for photos (somebody had to).
We enjoyed a very large dram, in even larger ice glasses in the plunging temperatures of the ice bar, which was made entirely of, yes you guessed it, ice. Once safely back in the warmth of the traditionally built bar, we were treated to snacks and an impassioned tasting of Metal and Water with Graham.
Stewart’s injured hand aside, we had an excellent time and cannot thank Graham, Jennifer and the rest of the Tomatin team enough for their hospitality.
Now before you turn too green with envy and think we were purely on a jolly, well we were not. We were there for a purpose and that purpose was to celebrate the launch of the two remaining bottles from the Five Virtues series. Metal and Water.
Don’t know what the Five Virtues Series is? Don’t panic, let me catch you up. Tomatin wanted to release a series of whisky which really illustrated the importance and beauty of the relationship between Tomatin, whisky and nature’s elements.
In Tomatin’s own words “This symbiosis – the ‘Five Virtues’ – is a concept synonymous with the age-old processes and materials employed by our distillery men. Water feeds wood; wood sustains fire; fire gives life to earth; earth yields metal; metal gathers water; and the cycle continues…”I really couldn’t put it better myself.
Tomatin have worked with leading artist, Eva Ullrich, who has her own take on these unique, age old roles in whisky production and has produced five stunning artworks, each to partner and become part of the packaging of each expression, with that final piece of the puzzle in place, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water were created. All round about the £50 mark and limited to 6000 bottles, this is an affordable, yet limited collection of whiskies.
The Metal Edition is a limited run of 6,000 bottles, aged entirely in first fill bourbon barrels and bottled at 46%. It is non age statement however Tomatin state on their website, that should you wish to get in touch with them they will be fully transparent. Furthermore we have it on good authority that Metal was laid down cicra 2003, making this approximately 14 years old.
How is it? Stunning, this is whisky at it’s very best, the best first fill bourbon barrels take the fruity, vibrant, uplifting Tomatin new make and fills it full of vanilla, coconut and citrus notes.
Expect the distinctive Tomatin sweetness to come through with creamy fudge, cocoa butter, toasted marshmallows and lemon sherbet pips.
Light but pleasant mouth feel, with those sweet fudge notes upfront followed with toffee sauce, milk chocolate, vanilla ice cream and all topped off with desiccated coconut. Before you can be overcome by sweetness, the zesty lemon peel, and crisp green apple makes an appearance, before a chilli tingle of pink peppercorns and mace come through on the finish. This is very moreish and is easily a “throw the cork on the fire, kind of dram”.
The Water Edition is also limited to 6000 bottles and bottled at 46% and matured in a 50/50 mix of both first and second fill sherry butts and ex bourbon barrels. Laid down in 2006 making this circa 11 years old. This is particular interesting as Graham has deliberately chosen spirit distilled in winter, and in one of the coldest months of the year. This has the purpose of reducing spirit to copper contact in the stills.
Graham explained on the night that this will be one of the last chances Tomatin will have to play about with the temperature of the water as standard, as they will soon be bringing in new technology to regulate things like the water temperature, for better consistency and energy efficiency among other things.
Personally I think it will be a shame, but as Graham said on the night, it will not be the end of his experimenting, and even if they have equipment to regulate the temperature, it can always be overridden.
So what effect does this have on the whisky? It gives a much heavier spirit which is very noticeable in terms of mouthfeel and texture.
Rich fruit, think autumn, with black and red brambles, cherries, blackcurrants and crunchy dried leaves and earth. There’s marzipan to be found once you step away from the fruity intensity, with cinnamon and nutmeg.
As expected the berry fruits come through in a jumble all battling for supremacy, with the bramble just edging ahead.
The marzipan on the nose comes through on the palate, bringing a rich wood spice though, reminiscent of old church pews, just as it starts to become drying in comes intense blood orange marmalade, darkly sweet and spicy, with a host of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ground spice and just a hint of Chinese five spice on the finish.
Sound good? You’re damn right they do, and they are selling out fast. Tomatin is one of those distilleries that are often overlooked, almost a hidden gem in some respects, in fact maybe we shouldn’t be sharing this with you and we can keep it to ourselves, however, that would be doing Tomatin a huge disservice. This is great whisky at a great price, one of the few affordable collections left in this time of whisky boom and price hikes.
This is a seriously great series of whisky, and if you haven’t tried one (if not all) of them then you should, but you will have to be fast. This isn’t a gimmick, it’s excellent whisky, with an interesting story and all complied with a uniqueness that is inherent to Tomatin.