Hosted by Tomintoul brand ambassador Claire Tesh, this online blind tasting brought together three generously provided mystery drams. I normally don’t go out of my way to buy Tomintoul (unlike its sister distillery Glencadam), so this tasting was a great opportunity to sample a couple of drams I wouldn’t otherwise have tried.
First up, unsurprisingly, was sample A. The most delicate and quintessentially ‘Speyside’ of the three, it was primarily fresh and fruity, with apples, vanilla, a hint of honey, as well as a bit of oak spice on the palate. The mouthfeel was a drawback, however, with a thin texture and the impression of falling apart a bit after the pleasant nose. This, to me, indicated an entry-level bottling at 40% ABV – my guess was the 16 year-old, and most other participants had similar thoughts.
You can imagine my surprise when we were told first that it was bottled at 43% (it certainly felt thin), and then that it was the venerable 25 year-old. Light and pleasant with no fireworks would have been fine for an entry-level malt but not for something that costs hundreds of pounds. Tomintoul is a subtle and ‘quiet’ malt, but a whisky of this age needs more texture to deliver its flavours, and this is where the low ABV and chill-filtration hurt it.
Sample C was not that difficult to guess – I had an inkling it was the 14 year-old when I saw the light colour, and the impression was quickly confirmed by the grassy, floral and citrussy nose and the much more full-bodied palate. This has always been my go-to malt from the Tomintoul core range due to the natural presentation (it’s at 46% and un-chill filtered) and it was easily my pick of the bunch in this blind tasting. It’s important to note it takes water well, unlike the 25 year-old.
Sample B closed the tasting and was the most popular overall. It was also reasonably easy to pin down, showing tell-tale signs of sherry maturation – stewed fruit, sultanas and a milk chocolate note. It felt youthful and had a good body, and was revealed to be the latest bottling of the Tomintoul Seiridh, a (relatively) limited edition of Oloroso sherry and Bourbon matured whisky married together in sherry casks. I was surprised by the low strength of 40% because it felt richer than the 25, but then again older whiskies are often more fragile and delicate at lower ABVs than their younger counterparts. I mentioned it was the most popular overall – sherried whisky often is a winner in group tastings – but personally I found a persistent melted butter note in both nose and palate that threw the balance a bit.
My overall winner then was definitely the 14 year-old. For a different impression from the blind tasting (and much better photos), head over to Brian’s Malt Musings. I’ve saved a bit from each sample so I can try them again with different sparring partners and write proper reviews individually. Until then, my thanks to Claire, Tomintoul and Angus Dundee for organising this fun event.