BLOG: Glenfiddich 18 -Vs- Tomatin 18

– Written by Andy

Like all battles, this one begins under dubious and tenuous circumstances. Glenfiddich, a Speyside heavy hitter and Tomatin, a quiet Highlander, perhaps seem to have little in common at first glance. They both, in fact, share almost exactly the same latitude in Scotland, sandwiched between the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth, although Tomatin actually lies just outside the Speyside region. Both were formally established as distilleries a few years apart in the late 19th Century although Glenfiddich’s malt production boomed in the years following American Prohibition while Tomatin saw the majority of its single malt go into blends like Antiquary and Talisman until quite recently.

To resort to a clumsy metaphor, the Glenfiddich brand could be seen as a seasoned movie star to Tomatin’s acclaimed supporting character actor. Glenfiddich whisky has in fact found its way on screen in various scenarios such as Inspector Morse, Family Guy and The Vicar of Dibley and is even a royal favourite of Prince Harry. Tomatin on the other hand, has never been one for the limelight, given the site may have been host to an illegal distillery site as early as the 15th Century.

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Ready to fight – dram to dram
By selecting 18 year old expressions from each distillery for this tasting, I’ve nominated them both in the same category and only one will be awarded victorious and have to cobble together an incoherent speech of thanks at the podium…

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old (40% ABV, c.£70)

Starting with the Glenfiddich, this 18 year old expression has been matured in bourbon and Oloroso casks.  The distillery tells me to expect consistency and character on their website, and even offers an option to personalise the bottle – presumably in case you forget who you bought it for?

Nose: Quite slow at first, then fruit and dark chocolate in abundance

Palate: Building spice gives way to sweeter fruitiness and rich, dry Sherry

Finish: A little more spice – and toffee apples!

OVERALL: A fine dram. Gets better with every sip and delivers more or less all the richness and complexity you’d want from a sherried Speyside.

Dram-a-long Song: Frank Sinatra – One For My Baby (And One More For The Road

– Showy, sophisticated and instantly recognisable…

Tomatin 18 Year Old (46% ABV, c.£75)

Same age statement. Same Oloroso cask finish. They even share roughly the same rich, dark golden colour. That may be where the similarities end…if you want to personalise this bottle you’ll need to buy a gift label.

Nose: A lot more present, the fruity notes are accompanied by a number of sweet spices yanked right out of Christmas and into the glass

Palate: Wow. Buttered toast, boiled sweets, honey mead, cinnamon…there’s plenty to chew on here.

Finish: The spice lingers longest, leaving me missing that initial wave of flavours

OVERALL: So much depth and kick it could score in the top corner from the half-way line. I know this distillery is one of Craig Watson‘s favourites and I can see why.

Dram-a-long Song: Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

– Complex, powerful, lets the quality do the talking…

The Verdict

It’s a well-deserved win for the Tomatin 18 Year Old. In terms of a mid-range, sherried single malt it superbly presented and balanced and actually very good value considering what you get for your money.

Do you have a favourite of these two whiskies or a dram-a-long song suggestion? Get in touch on Twitter.

PODCAST: S2E5 – Paul John Peated Select Cask

One of the factors of whisky production that can’t have escaped the notice of any serious drammer in recent years is the emergence of various new producers of premium-standard malt whisky from countries not traditionally associated with the craft. One such country with a high quality output of single malts right now is India, and no distillery from the sub-continent is making more of a noise than Paul John Whiskies, nestled a few miles inland from the Goan coastline on India’s own answer to Route 66.

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Paul John Peated Select Cask

In fact, the Paul John Peated Select Cask expression we reviewed in this episode has just won the Best Indian Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards to set alongside a host of other selections and commendations.

Andy and Stu were first introduced to this whisky at Newcastle Whisky Festival 2017 in March this year by brand exhibitors, Sorren Krebs and Craig Watson, who were kind enough to join This Is My Dram for a virtual tasting and general whisky chat over FaceTime for this podcast.  To find out what they have to say about Paul John and how the Peated Select Cask tasting went down, have a listen to the podcast:

Also available on iTunes, Stitcher and Acast.
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This Is My Dram (top left) shooting the breeze with Sorren and Craig via FaceTime

We were also delighted to have some input into this episode from Shilton AlmeidaUK Regional Manager for Paul John Whiskies, who gave us some fantastic insight over email into what goes into making peated whisky in Goa.

“We are perhaps the first to use peat from two different regions of Scotland, from Islay and Aberdeen, adding several dimensions to the character of our whiskies. Of course due to the environment in India whisky matures differently. The uniform temperature through the year helps the whisky interact with wood rapidly. Every region has its own pros and cons, and in India, especially in Goa, we lose much alcohol as angel share, yet at the same time the whisky is ready for bottling after just 4 years.”

For the playlist Andy and Stu selected – amongst others – some Indian-inspired jazz, The Beatles (Paul John accounting for half the line-up after all), a Rajasthani brass band, Australian-Indian rock and Goan pop. You can listen to the playlist here (don’t forget to check out Shilton’s YouTube picks as well at the end of this blog):

Also on the podcast, the finale of Jingle Wars and high scores for Paul John Peated Select Cask on The Dramier League Table. We also consigned a new offender to the Relegation Zone with some unflattering comparisons to soggy breakfast cereal…

The conversation with Shilton Almeida, UK Regional Manager for Paul John Whiskies continues…

TIMD: We understand some of your casks are kept above ground, and some below ground. What difference in taste does this provide?
Shilton: In order to provide two different environments within the distillery we have two warehouses at different levels. The underground cellar is cooler and less humid compared to the one at ground level. Whiskies from the underground cellar are elegant and easy drinkable ones, whilst the whisky matured in the upper warehouse is more robust and with a mineral character.

TIMD: The Peated select cask is a NAS whisky – can you give us any idea as to how old the whisky is, and what was behind the decision to go without an age statement?
Shilton: The Peated Select Cask is a 7 YO whisky. In general, whisky consumers tend to compare whiskies, and 7 years is sometimes considered pretty low when it comes to maturation, but what consumers are unaware of is the fact that one year in India is almost equivalent to 4 years in Scotland in terms of maturation.

TIMD: Are there any new or exciting Paul John expressions planned for the near future?
Shilton: After the success of the Oloroso cask release, we plan to have more sherry releases in the future.  Also, there are two new limited edition releases to hit the market later this year. 

TIMD: What is your personal favourite of the Paul John whisky range of expressions?
Shilton: Being a peat freak, my personal favourite is the Bold. For me its a very well balanced peated whisky.

TIMD: As part of our podcast, we like to create playlists to go with the whiskies we review. This episode will feature a playlist of Indian music. Do you have any suggestions of Indian music for us to add to the playlist?
Shilton: Coming from Goa, I would definitely suggest some Goan folk music. Well, I enjoy this with my whiskies.

Thanks very much to Shilton, Sorren and Craig for taking the time to bring us up to speed with Paul John Whiskies and for their generous input to this podcast. Please do like and subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to listen, get in touch with Andy and Stu on Twitter and follow the playlists on Spotify.

PODCAST: S2E4 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blend #1 35 Year

In a market that is crowded with unique characters and eye-catching bottlings, That Boutique-y Whisky Company‘s range still manages to stand out with rare and old sources and illustrated labels by artist, Emily Chappell.  Andy and Stu have obtained quite a few Boutique-y expressions to try in recent months but for this podcast, they zeroed in on Blended Whisky #1 35 Year.

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Andy and Stu both agreed this whisky had perhaps the finest nose they had ever encountered, an intriguing and complex palette and an agreeable finish, like dinner guests who realise on their own when it’s time retrieve their coats and call a cab.  To find out what they thought of the whisky in full – and how pretentiously they put those thoughts into words – have a listen to the podcast:

 

Also available on Stitcher and Acast.

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The podcast also features some exclusive, on location and mostly uninterrupted footage from The Whisky Lounge‘s Newcastle Whisky Festival 2017, where the team were joined by avid whisky fan and all-round good company, Sean and tried a dozen or so whiskies between them, some of which will feature in future episodes.

We were delighted to have some input into this episode from Dave WorthingtonEvents & Marketing Ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company, who told us about his busy time at the festival.

“I hardly had a moment to spare throughout the show, I was on my own for all three sessions, so wasn’t able to have a run around the exhibitors looking for a highlight dram. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of Whisky Discoveries before and during the interval; a rather tasty Irish Whiskey from The Dublin Liberties with their 10 Year Old Copper Alley, the latest Talisker Distillers Edition, The Spey 18 Year Old, and starting the day with Springbank Local Barley 16 Year Old is the breakfast of champions.”

For the playlist, in honour of the Boutique-y bottle labels a challenge of “songs from albums with great artwork” was laid down. Another broad and wide-ranging theme delivered some of the best of punk, jazz, electronica and two guitar classics from guest Sean (Santana – Samba Pa Ti) and Boutique-y Dave (Led Zepellin – Kashmir). See the wonderful artworks above, and listen to the playlist here:

 

Also on the podcast, a brand new Jingle Wars and the scores on the doors for the Boutique-y Blend on The Dramier League Table. Vote for your favourite jingle in JINGLE WARS here:

Our conversation with Dave from That Boutique-y Whisky Company continues…

TIMD: Which is your favourite whisky of the ones TBWC have released?
Dave: Another difficult question! There’s a whisky for every situation and time of the day, so at any one time, my favourite will change! We’ve had some cracking releases from Ben Nevis last year, Batch 3, 4 and 5 were all diamonds in my book with Batch 5 topping this list for me. The single grain releases have been great too, Girvan, Carsebridge, Cambus, North British and of course some gorgeous Invergordons. My current favourites are the Macduff 11 Year Old and the Glentauchers 17, they were hugely popular at Newcastle too.

TIMD: And which is your favourite bottle label?
Dave: The labels are ace aren’t they? Emily Chappell does an incredible job of deciphering the often cryptic design briefs we send her! The Dailuaine label amuses me the most, good sulphur/bad sulphur molecules turned into teddy bears! Oh and just what is going on with the zombie apocalypse on the Auchroisk label?

TIMD: You mentioned at the festival that there may be some new blends on the way from TBWC… can you tell us any more?
Dave: Yes, we’ve got lots of new stuff going on back at HQ, lots of exciting new things. All of our blended whiskies are small batches, so of course there’ll be new batches required to replace the dwindling stocks of the current releases. There’ll be a few new labels to look out for too.

TIMD: Also, we’ve noticed you branching out into other countries recently (Irish, Indian, Bourbon…)  Are there any plans to expand your range to include any others soon? Maybe Japanese *Stu crosses fingers*?
Dave: We’re always looking for opportunities to bottle exciting whisky, wherever it is made, and we’re working hard trying to find it! Keep those fingers well and truly crossed, and perhaps one day, your dreams will come true!