Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review - Tobermory 12 years old

This whisky is a new core expression from the remote distillery of Tobermory and signals the re-birth of the brand as a single malt. The Tobermory 12 years old has been released following a two-year hiatus in production at the distillery. This has allowed a major overhaul and refurbishment of the old production equipment, including replacing the stills. Other work has seen other buildings upgraded, the replacement of a roof and a new visitor centre. Production is due to restart shortly in May. This new 12 years old is created using Tobermory's classic non-peated style of malt and has been matured in American oak casks.

Tobermory is located in the town of the same name on the island of Mull, which is the UK's 4th largest island and lies just off the west Highland coast of Scotland. It is the only distillery on Mull and was founded in 1798 by John Sinclair. The original name was Ledaig (pronounced 'lay-chegk' and meaning 'safe harbour' in Gaelic) and was only changed to Tobermory in 1979. It is currently owned by Distell, who took control in 2013. The capacity upon re-opening will be around one million litres per year.

The Tobermory 12 years old is bottled at 46.3% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is available via specialist whisky retailers with a rolling release to world markets throughout 2019. A bottle will cost around £45.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an immediate sweetness to it. There are initial aromas of vanilla fudge and toffee, followed by butterscotch and sultanas. A further pinch of brown sugar compliments an increasing stewed apple aroma, along with a twist of lemon zest.

On the palate this whisky has an initial robust maltiness to it that has an earthy and slightly dusty edge to it. Then comes a distinct salinity that is most reminiscent of weak brine and adds freshness and vibrancy. These two slightly challenging opening characteristics are then brought more in to balance with some of the softer and sweeter notes from the nose - think especially of the fudge and toffee. This is followed by notes of crumbly brown sugar and honeycomb. Then comes the soft stewed apple and a hint of peach or apricot. Further hints of white pepper, clove and fresh lemon zest add interest.

The finish begins sweetly with the toffee particularly prominent, before the more robust maltiness takes control. However this fades quite quickly to leave a dry, earthy and peppery feel. The overall feel is that it disappears at little before it should and feels thin and hot as a result.

What's the verdict?
It is always good to see a distillery or brand reappear after a hiatus, however brief that time may be, and Tobermory now takes its place back on the single malt map. This new 12 years old is a reboot but not that dissimilar to the old 10 years old from memory. 

It is a decent whisky, but one that some may find challenging due to the distinct salty and robust malty characteristics. Water dulls these slightly and brings out the sweeter elements, particularly the crumbly brown sugar. It will be interesting to see what else joins this 12 years old in the range with time.

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