– 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.
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…
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.