Tomintoul (pronounced tom-in-towel) is one of Scotland's younger distilleries and was opened in 1964. It is located in the famous Livet glen, close to the village of Ballindalloch, on the southern edge of the Speyside region. It is reasonably large and produces around 3 million litres per year. Tomintoul is the second highest distillery in Scotland at 286 metres (808 feet) above sea level and regularly suffers poor weather and cold temperatures as a result. The distillery is frequently cut off by heavy snowfall during winter. Dalwhinnie in the central Highlands is the highest at 326 metres (1075 feet). The current owners are Angus Dundee Distillers, and most of the whisky produced there is allocated to blending contracts.
Tomintoul is little know to the wider audience but is well reknowned for their use of quality sherry casks for maturation. Its popularity is increasing and the single malt core range is expanding to reflect this. The range consists of a 10 years old , a new 12 years old matured in Oloroso sherry casks, this 16 years old and a 27 years old. There are also two peated versions, which are unusual for a Speyside distillery, called 'Old Ballantruan' (very smoky and just discontinued) and 'Peaty Tang' (much lighter, fresher smoke). The main market for Tomintoul single malt is mainland Europe.
The colour is a rich golden amber and the nose is appetising. There is an immediate dried fruit hit (imagine raisins and sultanas) with some woody spices (think of nutmeg and cinnamon). These are classic signs that a whisky has been matured in a sherry cask for at least some of its life. Following on is a reasonably intense citrus note (think of dried orange peel or marmalade), an interesting nuttiness (imagine almonds) and just a whiff of raw spirit that catches your nose hairs. On the palate, this is feels thinner than the richness that the nose was suggesting. It is quite rich and has a slight buttery feel that balances the sweetness of the dried fruit, vanilla and citrus notes from the nose (this reminded me of butterscotch). There is also a maltiness from the barley, some vanilla, some more harsh raw spirit that burns your throat a bit and a woodiness that increases with time. The finish is reasonable, fruity and still quite spirity, with the malty note coming through prominently, as does some spice (nutmeg or cinammon again). The overall feeling is pretty dry and woody (think of damp wood).
Tomintoul 16 years old is slightly disappointing. For something of this age we were expecting more richness, sweetness and a fuller body. The presence of that raw spirity feeling should also not be there at this age and is more common in young whisky. It is still a reasonably decent dram and should cost you around £30-35 for a bottle, which is not too bad for a 16 years old. It is a creative alternative to other similar but more well known whiskies of this sherried style, such as Balvenie, Glenfarclas or Macallan.