What a day we had! It is safe to say that the Midlands Whisky Festival rocks – it has a great location in the historic Stourbridge Town Hall, is organised by the historic Nickolls and Perks, and brought in malt fans and whisky from all over the world. It also provided us with an oppportunity to once again meet the fabulous Colin Dunn and try some spectacular Diageo Special Releases including the legendary Port Ellen! That tasting was so good that it deserves its own post (which will be up soon); this one will focus on the general festival itself and the whiskies we sampled.
Once again we met some great new whisky people and caught up with some old friends. We met Dave and his daughter Kat from Whisky Discovery and enjoyed chewing the fat about our recent whisky exploits and Dave’s tequila discovery in Mexico earlier this summer. We bumped into Joe, who we’ve met at a few events in Birmingham, and he was still delighted (understatement) with his recent Twitter win from Neil and Joel at Cask Strength, and we also caught up with Craig (from Birmingham’s Whisky Shop) and Amy from the Birmingham Whisky Club. Time sadly prevented in-depth conversations with all so we hope to catch up soon with all of you guys! We also had a nice conversation with David (from Nickolls and Perks) about the Whisky Festival and the regular tastings he does in the cellars of the shop and had a nice introduction to Andrew of Ardbaggie fame – in fact it is a wonder how we managed to fit any whisky tasting in!
Following a few email conversations with Alastair from Tomatin we made a bee line for his stall. He is a lovely guy and welcomed us with open arms despite our confession to being unfamiliar with the range! There was only one solution; an impromptu vertical tasting of the entire range! It really opened our eyes to some of the cracking whiskies that they have:
Tomatin 12 [40%]
Matured in bourbon casks this whisky was full of vanilla and bananas and was a great smooth introduction to the range
Tomatin 15 [43%]
Again from bourbon casks. The nose was full of citrus, vanilla and spices. The palate offered up liquorice, pepper heat before delving into plum and apricot. We also found some TeaPig Popcorn Tea in there as well. This whisky is fabulous and for us is the affordable everyday whisky in the range to go for. We think we have found a new staple whisky for the shelf!
Tomatin 15 Temperanillo [52%]
A step up in alcohol and a limited edition release from Tomatin, this whisky has spent its final 3 years maturing in Temperanillo wine casks after spending its first 12 years in second fill bourbon casks. The nose was immediately awash with burnt matches (the moment after you spark it) and continue to throw up images and delights from fireworks and bonfire nights before developing into the now familiar fruity tones of plums and apricots combined with a little chilli heat. Personally we preferred the ‘standard’ 15 year old but this special release provides an interesting comparison.
Tomatin 18 [46%]
We then moved onto what in Alastair’s words is the ‘iconic’ 18 year old. It has spent 16 years in bourbon before maturing for 24 months in oloroso casks and like the rest of the range is released unchillfiltered. It was a very clean whisky with citrus and spicy notes before providing us with hay and dry grass. We found the same citrus notes on the palate combined with a little dark chocolate which softened into sherry notes as the whisky finished.
Tomatin 21 [52%]
This cask strength whisky is limited to 2400 bottles worldwide and is well worth seeking out. We were becoming accustomed to Tomatin now and loved the notes of pepper heat mixed in with melons and apples before finding tobacco and aniseed.
Tomatin 30 [46%]
Time to get serious; this whisky won the Spirit of the Whisky Fringe 2012, is limited to 1500 bottles and was first made available in June this year. Tropical fruits leapt out of the glass before we discovered Opal Fruits, some kiwi and papaya which dissipated into coconut and melons. The oak was prominent in the taste, but certainly not overpowering. We enjoyed the combination of hazelnut and honey before the incredibly long finish. It really was in ‘another league’.
Tomatin 40 [42.9%]
Alastair had one more treat up his sleeve – a whisky distilled the year after England tasted glory in the World Cup! This Tomatin is bottled at cask strength and is a combination of several bourbon hogsheads. Granted the oak comes through again but not before delightful notes of vanilla and apricot have warmed your senses. This whisky is smooth, creamy, and tropical. It was a real pleasure to try and completed our vertical tasting of 7 Tomatin whiskies in stunning fashion.
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Alastair for the time he spent with us, for his enthusiasim in answering our questions and for the opportunity to taste through the range! We thoroughly enjoyed it!
Our day out didn’t end there though. We flirted around a few stands trying some beautiful whiskies including Ardbeg Corryvrecken, Macallan Gold (which we will review soon!) and a new release from Gordon and MacPhail – a Cask Strength Caol Ila bottled in June 2012. We then found ourselves at Glenfarlas and sampled some of their wares:
Glenfarclas 105 20 [60%]
The nose brought hints of lime amongst the more obvious sherry notes before we found some delightful stewed fruits. The palate was rich, syrupy and sticky. It coated the palate well and was reasonably hot as well. Once again this whisky shows great cask selection from Glenfarclas – it has spent 20 years in Oloroso casks and is an outstanding example of what a good sherry cask can do! The whisky was only released last week in a limited run of 4000 bottles. If you have £200 burning a hole in your pocket it is well worth a look!
Glenfarclas Festival Bottle [59.4%]
Our mistake may have been the order in which we tried the two Glenfarclas examples. This 2003 vintage (9 years old) was decidedly light compared to the 20 year old we had just sampled. However it is still a lovely whisky and is a little less challenging despite being bottled at a high 59.4%. Again from Oloroso casks this whisky is Christmas in a bottle – full of figs, christmas cake and fresh pepper and spices and is good value selling at around £100. It is also exclusively available from Nickolls and Perks so if you want something affordable and unique this may be the ‘farclas for you!
We has a fabulous afternoon in Stourbridge; the festival is one of the best we have attended this year! The whiskies were great, the company was high class and we have already put it in our diaries for next year!