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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Tobermory Trio

Is older whisky better? It's one of the first questions we think of when discovering whisky, usually because it tends to cost more. The simplest answer I usually give to people that ask nowadays is "it depends," but for some reason, I'm always asked to expand on that. That's usually my que to walk away. Better to end the convo there than get into the weaves about single casks vs. large vattings, IB's vs. OB's, first fill/second fill maturation, char levels...peated vs. unpeated, chill filtered/non-chill filtered...hell...bourbon vs. Scotch. You get the picture. But for my fellow whisky nerds, that are still here, you understand the complexities so I'll rephrase the question. Are certain distilleries better once they reach a certain age? Or can they hit their prime earlier on?

I chose to bring this up for Tobermory, in particular because it seems to have been undervalued to a point, by the whisky market in previous years. Like most distilleries, Tobermory experienced so many periods of closure and reopening's that they never seemed to get a strong footing in the single malt market. The 90's/early 2000's famous, green dumpy bottles were the only representation for some time until Distell finally came in and decided to develop a single malt brand. But the main focus of the re-branding was (and still is, it seems) to finish the older (wonky) stock in sweet, fortified wine casks in order to round out a bit of those edges, most likely. In fact, the only 20+ year old options available, outside a couple of 21/22 year old bottlings, has come from initially intended blending stock that's been sold through IB's in recent years. Speaking of...

Tobermory (Thompson Bros.) 1995/27 Year Refill Hogshead - 49.7%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Tobermory (Thompson Bros.)

1995/27 Year Refill Hogshead - 49.7%

Appearance: Deep Gold/Pale Brown

First Whiff: Sulfite covered, dried fruit basket.

Nose: Very approachable strength here. I can basically get my whole nose in the glass with little to no burn. Immediately, I find that mineral molding clay note that sticks out with Tobermory/Ledaig. Tropical at first, with the sour/dry side showing off some (dried) pineapples and bananas. Over time it settles into a light touch of sour green apples and lemon-lime…citron sweetness. This chalky mineral style, like Ben Nevis, and similar to Laphroaig (at times) …just pairs so wonderfully with these fruits.

Palate: Juicy but lacking any real depth. It’s got a nice Summer-y, salty-sweet, lemonade style vibe going on. More lemons, green apples here but the tropical notes certainly stick out…passion fruit, ripe bananas, and guava in the back. With water: Surprisingly works well. The nose was so approachable, I almost skipped the water, but it helps the palate tremendously. Adds a velvety roundness which brings out some key lime, custard notes and heightens that (crisp) green apple note from earlier.

Finish: : Punchy and short. Water is definitely recommended; it helped soften the blow and extend the palate a bit further on this one.

Summary: Amazingly, it almost begs to be used in a highball with that lemonade style. Am I recommending a 27 year old whisky be used in a cocktail? No, definitely not. I personally prefer to use at least 30 year old in whisky in my highballs.


Tobermory (Sansibar) 1995/25 Year |Finest Whisky Berlin| Bourbon Hogshead - 52.3%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Tobermory (Sansibar)

1995/25 Year |Finest Whisky Berlin| Bourbon Hogshead - 52.3%

Appearance: Old Gold

First Whiff: Pre-baked apple pie.

Nose: Similar to the TB, but less mineral to start. Loads of citrus-honey, Ripe orchard fruits, white pepper, and some sweet barley, which I often get at a much younger age. With water: Sweeter tropical side now…grilled mangos, banana crème pie.

Palate: Buttery in the front, like a Chardonnay…then waxy and autumnal with more apples (red this time), some citron (lemon-lime). Tart but not bitter. Ripe mangos, lychees, pineapples. There’s an earthy element, like a farmy note similar to what I get with Daftmill at times, also a briney, seaweed side. No peat though.

Finish: Metallic and slightly sour, not in a bad way. Peppery, but fades quickly.

Summary: Water helped the nose and smoothed out the peppery finish a bit. Loses a bit on its singularity.


Tobermory (Sansibar) 1995/25 Year |Finest Whisky Berlin| Bourbon Hogshead - 52.3%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Tobermory (A.D. Rattray)

1994/25 Year |Cask Collection| Bourbon Hogshead 88112

(Alba Import) - 57.3%

Appearance: Burnished, Medium Brown

First Whiff: Seaweed wrapped citrus fruits.

Nose: Less organized here. Like a smattering of citrus cleaning products and pencil shavings. More salinity…salty and briny.

Palate: Aggressively thin, Sharp citrus, lemon juice. More stabbing than crisp. Lacks any sweetness. With water: Still very little balance. Pomelo style melons. Sour lemon candy (Lemon Heads), prickly pears but still rather sharp.

Finish: Metallic and sharp/firm.

Summary: Feels like an underperforming cask here. In theory this was likely meant to get blended away at a certain point and not necessarily meant to be experienced as a single malt. So while the earlier pours above were a definite shining example of well-aged stock, we perhaps see the other side of things here with some naughty stock that perhaps would've been better suited in a blend.



Tobermory Trio


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