Tomatin Times Two: Cask Strength Edition & Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988

Tomatin Distillery

The folks at Tomatin have been rather busy recently, releasing two brand new whiskies in quick succession; a Cask Strength Edition and Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988. Matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, the Cask Strength Edition is limited to 15,000 bottles and will become a permanent addition to the brand’s portfolio. Sales Director Stephen Bremner said, “In recent years we have really started to make our mark in the single malt market with recognition for the high quality whisky on offer from the Tomatin Distillery. I am confident this new expression will sit nicely within our ranges and, most importantly, will be enjoyed by our customers.”

The Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988 is the latest addition to Tomatin’s lightly peated Cù Bòcan range which launched in 2013. Following on from the 1989 Vintage which was released in 2014, this vintage has spent 28 years maturing in heavily peated ex-sherry ex-Islay casks and is limited to 2,200 bottles. With regards to the Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988, Stephen Bremner said, “In such a crowded market, innovation is key. We have invested a lot of time in carefully crafting a range of different expressions to appeal to new markets and push boundaries so we are delighted with our latest offering which experiments with heavily peated Islay casks to infuse our naturally light spirit with an earthy, distinctive flavour.”

Whilst awaiting this wee package in the post, I was expecting the Cask Strength Edition to be a pretty big sherry bomb, but by the looks of things I’m in for something quite a bit lighter. However, I’m under no illusions with the Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988. From previous editions I’m aware of how deceivingly smoky these can be, particularly with this one having spent 28 years maturing in ex-sherry ex-Islay casks.

Tomatin Cask Strength Edition
Batch 1
15,000 bottles
57.5% ABV
£49.84 here

Nose: Grapes, unripe pears and bananas, vanilla icing, runny caramel and white chocolate cookies give way to barley water, sawdust, dusty cereal and green wood. Quite a lot of ‘young’ notes, unsurprisingly.

Palate: Pretty hot at cask strength, with a peppery spice, fruit tart notes, and quite a bit of citrus; lemon zest, kiwi fruit and grapefruit juice. Some creamy vanilla then appears along with dry oak.

Finish: Creamy with a real tingly spice, and lots of dry oak.

Tomatin Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988
2,200 bottles
51.5% ABV
RRP £199 coming soon

Nose: Soft peat smoke, applewood smoke, charred wood and polished oak hit me first, followed by a lovely sweetness of stewed rhubarb, cooked apple, orange blossom and a floral, perfumed note reminiscent of heather moors. Black forest fruits lurk too. Wonderful nose.

Palate: A coastal salty/briney-ness to begin, then comes the bonfire smoke. Someone’s set fire to the heather now too. The fruits are back as well; juicy limes, lemon cheesecake and lots of tropical delights – toasted coconut, grilled pineapple, cooked apple and poached pear.

Finish: Long, lingering wood smoke, polished oak and delicate wood spice; namely cinnamon and nutmeg.

Overall: It’s the old football analogy; a tale of two halves. The Cask Strength Edition kicks us off. Hmmm… there’s nothing *wrong* with it, but it’s clearly quite young and a bit too hot for me at cask strength. It lacks depth and subtlety, but I can see this being mixed with ginger beer or soda and working well in a long drink. Not too rewarding on its own, sadly. Half time, change ends and into the second 45. Off the bench comes Cù Bòcan Vintage 1988. The super sub has arrived. This is wonderfully complex, very well balanced and beautifully focussed. Thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, the price tag raises an eyebrow, but compare it to other 28 year old whiskies and it’s very competitive. Oh, and isn’t it a poster boy too? Match winner.



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