Tag Archive: Tomintoul

Old Ballantruan The Peated Malt

Old Ballantruan: The Peated Malt (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual:Light yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin puckering from the spirit.

Nose: Peat smoke, steak, soft cherries. Noticeable alcohol but mostly smooth. Vanilla toffee and caramel. Apricot. Touch of charcoal. Light menthol. Water adds light pencil shavings, more soothing and floral.

Body: Smooth, quite light front that grows into peat smoke. Slight golden syrup. Oak. Alcohol grows quickly. Toffee sweetness. Lime syrup. Apricot and peach. Water soothes alcohol. Adds vanilla custard. Light charring. Big smoke and peat. Light cherry pocked biscuits.

Finish: Charring and charcoal dust. Peat smoke. Beef crisps. Sweet lime syrup. Beef broth, Peach. Water adds custard crème biscuits. Slightly dry. Peppered beef slices. Malt toffee chocolate drinks. Peppermint.

Conclusion: Huh, I shouldn’t get my conclusion all lined up in my head too early on it seems, at least for this whisky. The first couple of sips I had of this made me all ready to say that the “Gentle Dram” just couldn’t provide enough body to go the peated route. I was going to say that it came in so thin that the punch of the peat pushed all the lighter notes away leaving it empty but harsh. Yeah, that changed. Massively.

Slowly, and especially with water, the gentle notes started building up against the peat. A good sweetness, soft fruit, all behind the big beafy peat – but as the lighter notes grew, the less harsh the peat seemed. I guess I should have realised this was to come; The aroma at the front, though alcohol touched, was smooth and complex and that is often a good guideline of the whisky to come.

While time does help, I think water is the real game changer. The 50% abv gives a lot of room for water, going through sweet and fruity, to floral and slightly peppermint finished depending on the amount of water added. The more you add, the more the base Tomintoul style notes are evident as it rises to match the peat. A very nice match of peat intensity to fruity whisky without compromising either. So, yeah, first impressions can be very wrong.

Background: Never heard of an Old Ballantruan distillery? That is because this is from Tomintoul – however since they are very well known for their gentle spirit this is their name for their more peated editions. I grabbed this as part of a set of miniatures when grabbing a bottle of whisky from The Whisky Exchange. Since this is no longer “The Gentle Dram” I went to Brute Force by The Algorithm for listening music. It amused me to do so.


Tomintoul 10

Tomintoul 10 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain.

Viscosity: Very fast, medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Grain fields. Alcohol tingle is noticeable. Vanilla. Wet heather. Lime. Light sulphur. Water adds a subdued gherkin prickle instead of the alcohol one.

Body: Smooth. Light lime sorbet. Cake sponge and vanilla. Light custard. Water sweetens, adding sugar dusting and light toffee.

Finish: Light alcohol tingle. Brown bread. Lime. Cake sponge. Chocolate. Soft lemon. Water loses the alcohol tingle.

Conclusion: Been a while, Tomintoul was one of the first single malts I tried. In fact, this exact one, the ten year, is the first single malt I distinctly remember paying attention to while drinking. Well, first Scottish single malt anyway. As mentioned in the background – I didn’t take to it. However there has been a nigh whisky lifetime between then and now, and I have found some Tomintouls I enjoy, so, returning to this one I find it…..?

Eh, still not a favourite. With water it has some play though, unlike taking it neat where it seems to contradict its raison d’etre as “the gentle dram” by having a bit of a cheap spirit alcohol burn top and tail. However thankfully water deals with that.

With water it is gentle, like cake sponge crumbling on the tongue in dram form, with soft toffee notes. The water doesn’t add much, so much as much as make pleasant, but it is pretty much the definition of gentle whisky. Now for me the other expressions from this distillery offer more of what I would like, still the gentle dram, but with a twist. This, like several other gentle whiskys, feels more like a base that can be built on rather than a decent whisky in itself. Admittedly it is a very proficient base, with water this just glides down, but it doesn’t make much of an impression as it does so.

So, eh, not a favourite, but it is still interesting to return to this after all this time, and after finding other whiskys from the same distillery that I like. It is like a guide to where they started from, which was a nice moment in itself.

Background: “The gentle dram” as it is so called. I ran into this ten year expression many years ago when I was first getting into single malt, it was part of a Tomintoul mini three pack. I wasn’t impressed. Anyway, since then I have grown to respect a wider range of whisky so though I would give it another go. This was picked up from “Independent Spirit“, and was drunk while listening to the “Super Meat Boy” soundtrack, because obviously I like to be reminded of times of my own suffering.

Tomintoul 14

Tomintoul: 14 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain.

Viscosity: Mainly fast thick streaks.

Nose: Grain fields. Lime cheesecake and marzipan. Some alcohol. Vanilla toffee. Slightly honeyed. Becomes less notable with water.

Body: Light. Honeycomb and a dash of lime. Some alcohol noticeable. Apples. Toffee. Cake sponge. Water removes the alcohol touch and brings out more custard and honey. Sugared almonds and key lime pie.

Finish: Fudge. Custard. Chocolate. Honey. Water adds treacle, key lime and sugared almonds.

Conclusion: I’m glad I returned to Tomintoul. For years I remembered them as a dull and not that interesting, but still with a displeasing alcohol burn. This, drunk years later after a previous pleasing experience with the spirit, and I find that there are so many facets and details that I just didn’t appreciate as a whisky newbie.

It is a very sweet dram, gentle though it may be – toffee, honey and a dash of lime defines your first few moments with it. Very easygoing, subtly setting up each layer upon the previous one, leaving more and more elements that last into a longer and longer finish with each sip.

While I wouldn’t call it the most complex, it does layer up enough, and fills the mouth with a remarkably robust sweetness for such a mild mannered whisky. It has a reasonable amount of play, they are just all centred around the sweet range.

Late on you get green apples joining in, a much needed extra channel of flavour, and a well timed change of pace that creates a very fruity cheesecake dessert feel. I found returning to this a joy, and while not a favourite it reminded me that I should return to drinks and experience them again, to see if they can be re-evaluated and if gems can be found where they were previously not enjoyed.

So a good, if not a loud whisky, an a good lesson to learn.

Background: After trying the recent Oloroso Sherry version of Tomintoul recently, I found my interest in this gentle dram resurging, so picked up this miniature from Independent Spirit. A while, later, having just finished the strange light based puzzler, “Closure” I found myself wishing for a wee dram to celebrate, so broke this open.

Tomintoul Oloroso Sherry

Tomintoul: Oloroso Sherry Finish (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold.

Viscosity: Mostly middle speed and thickness of streaks.

Nose: Raisins. Prunes. Sulphur and beef broth. Smoke. Quite thick. Bread and butter pudding (with the raisins it may be closer to spotted dick). Treacle touch. Heather. Spiced cherries. With water opens up the spotted dick element.

Body: Very light texture and “gentle” custard touch. Raisins. Floral. Caramel. Christmas spices. Light oak. Water sweetens and brings out spotted dick again. Creamy butter also comes out.

Finish: Mineral heavy water. Raisins. Nutmeg. Light oak that grows. Caramel malt drink. Quite dry. More raisins with water and hangs more in the air.

Conclusion: This really is a gentle dram, so gentle that for years I was put off from ever trying them again, and this expression follows the gentle nature trend. However the promise of Oloroso ageing is what brought me back, and here it does add something to the mix.

It is still very gentle and soft, let’s face it, it is one of the few whiskies where the term “Mineral heavy water” could ever apply. Right out of the gate those first sips were too light and empty for me and I was worrying this was going to be a severely dull whisky.

Those sips seemed odd as the aroma initially seemed much heavier with prunes and smoke notes that were not what I was expecting, even when it smoothed it was stodgy bread and butter pudding with raisins. This bread and butter pudding (or spotted dick) turned out to be the defining note of the whisky, leading in and building up to the body over time in a pleasant fashion. It was still a light whisky but now one with flavours.

There is also a light (and lets face it, everything about this whisky is light) Christmas spice into nutmeg finish going on. With all the elements so light I feared to add water, but I did anyway, an it really opened up the defining bread and butter pudding and creamy texture.

This whisky is still lighter than my preferred style, but with lots of subtle flavour and creaminess that does impress. Maybe I will have to revisit the distilleries other expressions to see if I have underrated them. Here the whisky does have absolutely zero force, but the oloroso sherry is perfectly used to ad flavour to it.

I am, grudgingly, impressed and it has managed to reopen my interest in the distillery.

Background: I ran into Tomintoul many years ago at a World Of Whisky shop at an airport. I was just getting into single malt and I saw a three pack of 5cl samplers of various ages which I grabbed. I didn’t like them much. Then again I was into much heavier and peaty whisky back then, ok, ok I still am, but nowadays I also like the sweeter and smoother drams. So this, the self proclaimed “Gentle Dram”, I’ve been meaning to revisit for a while, see how it holds up these days. Anyway, I saw this oloroso sherry aged mini at “Independent Spirit” and thought it was the perfect time to return to whisky of years past.

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