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Taste the history of Tomatin Distillery

By Matt MacPherson

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Whisky tastings are something I regularly attend and we often invite distilleries to host events in The Malt Room.

Now I’m not saying core range whiskies are not enjoyable, but knowing the product I’m not going to give up my evening to taste them again.

I guess this leads me on to the question, how do you get whisky fans’ pulses racing about a whisky tasting?

Well, Tomatin answered that question in monumental fashion last Friday with a tasting to showcase its newest release. “Decades II” is truly a unique and exquisite expression, a marriage of 21 casks, selected from key years throughout the last five decades.

Tomatin's Decades II release contains whisky from casks of five decades.
Tomatin's Decades II release contains whisky from casks of five decades.

As with the original Decades expression – released in 2011 to mark previous distillery manager Douglas Campbell’s lifetime commitment to the distillery – Decades II is a tribute to all members of Tomatin past and present.

It combines the best whisky from Tomatin’s history, with each decade contributing a new flavour sensation.

There is no doubt that it is an interesting release but what global brand ambassador Scott Adamson had in store for us would have impressed even the most adept whisky drinker.

Scott had taken samples from the actual casks used in Decades II from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s and lined them up. Each dram was linked to the history of the distillery and personal stories of the workers at that time – now I know that sounds like marketing spraff but believe me it’s not.

Tomatin has had its ups and downs, from once being the largest malt whisky distillery in Scotland to then going into liquidation in 1986. Thankfully the distillery was saved by two Japanese companies, Takara Shuzo and Okura & Co for a sum of around £2 million, which today looks like an incredible acquisition.

After running through the five drams from each decade, Scott concluded the tasting with a dram of Decades II.

One thing that really stood out for me was Graham Eunson’s approach to blending for this release. If you were to take a sceptical view, you would suggest that the majority of the whisky would come from the most recent decades with a teaspoon’s worth of whisky from the 1970s to tick the box.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Graham has used eight casks from the 1970s which makes up 24 per cent of the final product.

With such a vast array of ages and cask types, I couldn’t help but be astonished by the end result. It’s a remarkable dram, completely balanced with rich notes of Christmas cake and toffee from the sherry casks that give way to the tropical fruits that really stood out in the older whiskies.

As far as whisky tastings go, they don’t get much better than that!

Matt MacPherson is the owner and founder of The Malt Room in Inverness.

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