The blinkered masses
may be chasing the latest Highland Park release that comes in an embossed bottled
designed by a Viking. Seriously? It sounds far-fetched even if the Leftovers
script writers were on board, but that’s the current era of whisky we’re
enduring. Thank goodness for distilleries that just focus on the whisky itself
without any fancy bling and bottlers such as Gordon & MacPhail that do such
a sterling job of releasing such whiskies at affordable an price.
Tormore if you
didn’t know already is Speyside’s greatest distillery and arguably one of the
best in Scotland. It’s an under the radar whisky mainly producing for the
Chivas range of blended whiskies with the occasional official single malt
release. Thankfully it’s widely supported by the independent bottlers who have
realised its delights through experience. You may have noticed that since last
year a couple of diehard Tormore fans (theTormore4) have sought to raise the
profile of the distillery. It’s been a fun exercise as more of you out there
are now aware of, and seeking out, whiskies from this distillery.
We seem to have
had an impact more than any Chivas marketing campaign and realistically we’ve
just let the Pearl of Speyside speak for itself. When you’re starting out in
whisky it’s easy to become mesmerised by the bright lights of Macallan,
Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Highland Park and all the other attention
seeking malts. Many start with these and remain content without the need to
look elsewhere. That’s the trap and you’ve fallen into it far too easily; there’s
nothing worse than being comfortable. For many others and TheTormore4, whisky
is all about seeking out new delights from all sources regardless of country,
marketing and style.
release forms part of Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection and was distilled
on 3rd July 2002. Every year is a great year for Tormore, but I’ve
found for whatever reasons, the early 90’s and 00’s offer that little bit more.
The initial cask type here was a first fill ex-bourbon cask before it was
finished in Côte Rôtie red wine casks from the Rhône Valley, Guigal. Normally I’d
run a mile from a wine finish but this in reality is more of a double
maturation being a period of 22 months in the addition cask.
Now then, there’s
no set guidelines as to what you can call a finish, acing or double maturation.
It’s a grey area and one that’s exploited by some companies whilst others
provide the consumer with more information to make their purchase decision.
Technically my opinion is that acing is a very short duration, often only weeks
to try and save a whisky by injecting some body and flavour. Finishing arguably,
I’d say is anything less than 18 months or 2 years, and beyond this it could
count as double maturation.
Ah yes, Gordon& MacPhail as masters of cask usage have labelled this Tormore as a finish.
That’s their decision and approach, which partially could be as to not confuse
consumers with new phrases and terminology, when all they’re looking for is a
Tormore. And who could blame them? This Tormore is
bottled at a decent 45% ABV and was released in an edition of 4000 bottles with
an affordable price point of circa £52. What’s not to dislike on paper?
Certainly nothing in my fussy mindset, so it all comes down to the whisky
itself. This sample for record was acquired from one of the several Tormore
bottles we had during our Speyside residency for the 2017 Spirit of Speyside
Nose: it’s a
rich decadent arrival with figs and marzipan. There’s those comforting aromas
of a worn leather chair and rubbed brass reviving distant memories. Red grapes
deliver a splash of fruit, underpinned by rolled tobacco. Redcurrant jam and
strawberry chews follow amidst an atmospheric bouquet. Water is always
beneficial with wine casks so let’s try a splash and give it a little time. Immediately
you notice the dram has opened up and apricots and cranberries to the fore with
mandarin orange and a touch of ginger.
liquorice, candied orange peel and a rich toffee finished with hazelnuts. With
water there’s a rusty nail quality which I adore and have tasted in old
distillate Macallan’s previously. More of the mandarin oranges and a sticky toffee
Overall: it’s a
joyous thing this Tormore, wonderfully balanced and showing a complexity beyond
its years particularly on the nose. The introduction of the red wine cask has created another layer and
confirms the adaptability and general brilliance of this Speyside distillery. I’ll
have another bottle please.
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