When I visited Tomatin in a snowy November last year, with some mates, we had a great tour and did an extensive tasting of all Handfills available at the moment. This is a good thing because the things aren’t cheap and I would otherwise have left without any of the good stuff. The definition of ‘a good thing’ varies wildly between me and my wife.
This nine year old Virgin Oak hoggie was the penultimate whisky in the tasting, only to be followed by a 25 year old bourbon cask. It was also the strongest in the tasting, and contrary to my expectations, I loved it. I loved it so much that me and TT split a bottle of a one-hundred-and-ten pound, nine year old whisky. F-ing expensive, but we wanted it. Hell, we needed it.
At the distillery they told us that virgin oak casks are not always as virgin as you’d normally expect. I always wondered how the Scottish whisky industry knew how to get so many virgin casks nowadays without having a major logging industry like America has. Apparently, a recharred cask is considered a virgin cask, since it hasn’t been used since it was charred, and the layer of oak that actually was in contact with the previous contents is gone. Sort of.
It does explain to me how some virgin oak casks are almost like sherry casks, and others are far more like really intense bourbon oak. Interesting stuff, but also a tad confusing.
Lots of fresh oak obviously. A bit sherry-like with a rather sweet, dry nose. Some fruits, apple and grapes. Fresh herbs, some cherries and baking spices later.
The palate is (very) sharp, sweet and dry. There’s lots of oak with a fresh, slightly ‘green’ taste to it. Very dry, slightly fatty. Fruits and spices. Quite like some stronger rye whiskeys.
The finish is very, very oaky with lots of wood and spices. Very sharp, and very dry.
This is a weird whisky. Very weird. It does grant some insight on the mellowness that corn brings to bourbon, compared to rye whiskeys where the grain leaves more room for the intensity of the oak.
Even though it’s only nine years old it’s insanely oaky and very, very strong. This whisky does NOT work when it’s your first whisky of the night. Or at least it doesn’t shine like it can further on in a line up. When I first tried it out of Scotland it was after the Tomatin Club bottling selection and it was awesome. I tried it later without first having some other drams and I was surprised by the dry fierceness it showed, and the vast amount of oak.
In the end, this one will take you by surprise if you don’t pay attention, but I think it’s an absolutely lovely dram and it shows an entirely different side of Tomatin. Kudos!
Not a clue if it’s still available. It also didn’t make it through the weekend, as you can see in the picture.
Tomatin 9yo, 18/1/2006-11/2015, Virgin Oak #69, 60% – Handbottled at the Distillery