Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water – elements central to civilisation’s most ancient philosophies which enjoy incredible synergies. Combined, they produce outcomes far greater than their sum. This symbiosis – the ‘Five Virtues’ – is a concept synonymous with the age-old processes and materials employed by the Tomatin distillery team (and most other distilleries).
Water feeds wood; wood sustains fire; fire gives life to earth; earth yields metal; metal gathers water; and the cycle continues… To celebrate the Five Virtues, leading artist, Eva Ullrich, has explored these interactions and their role in whisky production. The result is five striking artworks…and five unique expressions of Tomatin single malt.
Here I look at each product in the range to see how they taste, and, spoiler alert, I was really impressed!
6000 bottles available, available now
The first, and most significant, virtue in the production cycle is embodied in this edition by the use of carefully selected French, American and Hungarian oak casks during maturation, representative of the many varieties of the 177,000 casks we hold in our 14 warehouses.
The nose heralds soft and stone fruit, quite raw oak notes, lots of wood shavings, elements of tropical fruit shine through intermittently with a vanilla wrap.
When I got to the palate, it all shot a lot sweeter; lots of vanilla – definitely more than expected, those raw, harsh, fresh oak notes come through big time and reiterates the name and the blend of oak types that have gone into this.
A lovely medium finish full of pencil shavings and dark fruit notes. Lovely.
6000 bottles available, available now. Fire is matured in heavily charred oak, simulating fresh vanilla flavours.
The second phase of the cycle is exhibited through maturation of this edition in heavily charred oak casks which, having been fired before previous use, were stripped then re-fired stimulating new, fresh vanilla flavours.
Earth – Peated – 46% ABV
Available later in the year. Earth exhibits rich and intense peaty flavours as a consequence of maturing in peat-dried malted barley casks.
On the nose it was a lot sweeter than I was expecting from a peated whisky, fruity, not much peat that I can find… grainy, grassy, notes of citrus there too. The palate, however, gave me a nice peat waft, but still a delicate peat, not one that is in your face or obnoxious. Still quite sweet and still with vanilla notes and interesting oak influences shining through.
Metal – Bourbon Cask Matured – 46% ABV
Available later in the year. Metal is expressed by the distillery’s 12 beautiful copper stills.
On the nose I got a pack of fizzy astro belts from my childhood, the sour apple flavour, oh how I now want some of them! Along with that there were foam banana notes, this is like spending time within a bag pick ’n’ mix. Warm vanilla topped it off with a bit of toffee lobbed in for good measure.
The palate was really soft in comparison to the nose, very sweet, hints of those fizzy apple notes, a bit watery – not not in a detrimental way, in a reassuring, lovely way with oodles of vanilla and a very light char notes.
A long, warming, sweet finish. Very nice all round.
Water – Winter Distillation – 46% ABV
Available later in the year. Water is distinguished by its naturally pure soft water from the Alt-na-Frith burn, which is drawn year round but employs a winter-distilled spirit to enrich the final flavour.
The nose here took me to another place; burnt toffee, honeycomb, butterscotch notes, really consuming nose, lovely stuff that makes you want to hold tight and just enjoy it for ages, almost without sipping! With time, a musty, oaky note develops like the bark of a felled tree. The final layer on the nose that I picked up was of unsmoked bacon; delightful.
The palate again is a little lighter, floral hints permeate the whisky’s flavour, along with the toffee from the nose and the underlying oakiness grows in prominence and sharpness, but now the flavour expands to include stewed red fruits akin to Christmas deserts.
A nice gently spicy finish lingers for a while as you drift away, thinking back to the nose and what you’ve just enjoyed.
All in all a fantastic range! Kudos to Tomatin, the art link is a little curious, but the whiskies themselves are fantastic, and the packaging is a really nice way of expressing these Five Virtues visually and evocatively.