On Sunday 22nd May 2016, the Carden Park hotel in Cheshire played host to Edencroft Wine & Spirit’s whisky tasting event. The ticket price included your entry, all your drams, a buffet lunch and attendance at one of the masterclasses that were being run that day. The ticket was also exchanged for a handy booklet containing promotional materials of the resident distilleries and representatives, along with an order form (at well discounted prices) for Edencroft – I tactically stowed mine away, just in case I became tempted to make some ill-advised, squiffy purchases later on – I mean that is kinda what they’re hoping for, right? Along with the initial, well-thought-out purchases too, of course.
On the day, myself (MH) and JB went along to the Tomatin masterclass because a) we were intrigued by the offerings, but mainly b) it was the last one of the day with seats remaining. Long story short, it became a concerted attempt to stay reasonably lucid (we were merry, at the least) for the tasting, but it was certainly worth the wait.
Up for grabs in the tasting were five offerings from Tomatin’s distillery, including a 36 year old that had been bottled only a couple of days before. Definitely headlining stuff!
First up from Tomatin was their 18 year old – and not too shabby a start either. Despite the legnth of time it had spent in casks, the whisky had a light nose and one of our tasting buddies stated that there was the smell of figs. Of course, the power of suggestion took over and that was all I could smell, but on the taste, a LOT of flavours started to arrive and it delivered an amazing sweetness throughout with the sherry, fruity and spicy tastes then coming through on the finish. A great start.
The second dram of the tasting was their 1988 release, which has a port wine cask finish and that made for strong sweet smells and tastes, with more citrusy and sharp lemon/grapefruit/pineapple flavours. The yellow fruits then continued with the warming whisky alcohol burn and left a lip-smacking finish.
Next up was an interesting take from the Tomatin distillery – two drams packaged together in a “Contrast” tasting bundle. These were two whiskies bottled from the same distillate vattings, with the first being solely aged in bourbon barrels, and the second solely in sherry barrels. Whether or not it is just some clever marketing, these guys have hit on a great idea on as the difference between the two was great and a welcome experiment for our table of whisky nerds. Both drams were non-chill-filtered at 46% ABV and were a blend from (the same) 6 different years of Tomatin distilaltes – the oldest drop dating back to 1973! It may have just been my fairly battered palate, but, other than their light body, you could barely tell that they were from the same product. The first dram delivered a nice clean, vanilla and oaky whisky with a sugary sweetness throughout, whilst the second offered red fruits and more of a tangy tipple. Both were great whiskies, and it was great to be able to compare and contrast the two and see just what effect the barrels have and I would hope to see more of the same in the future. The bottles themselves are half-size bottles that have been packaged together in a twin box, and are available in limited quantities at an RRP that comes in just under £100, which itself is an interesting experiment when you consider the contents!
Finally, the headliner, was the 36 year old. The place setting had a 35 year old listed, but what’s a year’s difference when you get to that sort of age? Probably a lot when it came to the price tag to be honest (though for the age, it is significantly cheaper than other single malt scotch whiskies out there!), but one thing that particularly struck me was that this dram had been in a barrel for longer than some of the people on our table had been alive for. Was it worth the wait? Well, I hope that the original distiller at Tomatin had got to taste it, because it was a brilliant dram. Lots of complexity in the flavour, but still a relatively light bodied whisky. Rich wood and fruits complemented one another and left this writer very pleased. If anything, it proved that I have expensive taste, but luckily, as mentioned above, I had stashed my order form far away so as not to be nearly even tempted to put pen to paper…
The masterclass itself was really well curated and the promotional video and presentation was well received by all involved. The experience certainly opened my eyes toward a brand of single malt that I was not overly familiar with and, personally, the discovery of the two “Contrast” bottlings was a highlight of the day’s event.