Time for a bottling from Speyside’s greatest distillery enigma otherwise known as Tormore. Earlier this year regular readers will know a group of whisky enthusiasts met up for the Speyside Whisky Festival and thus passed into legend becoming known as #thetormore4 due to our residency at the distillery.
The imposing cathedral that is Tormore distillery today forms part of the Chivas Brothers group. Amongst its portfolio of whiskies and distilleries, Tormore retains this fleeting illustrious presence; rarely seen but discussed in hushed tones. Many enthusiasts have not yet experienced a Tormore – but once you have – a new perspective on whisky and life is unveiled. Speaking to blenders and independent bottlers over the years, their message remains constant around Tormore and its one of awe.
As part of our residency we had put together a definitive selection of Tormore whiskies across the decades. A luxurious and decadent tasting soon ensued over the course of several days. There was a whisky festival to enjoy, but in reality it was all about returning to the cottage for our daily Tormore fix. Choose life. Choose whisky. Choose Tormore. These whiskies formed the Tormore Vertical Tasting article I put together recently that’s worth a read. Funnily enough, Tormore’s despite their scarcity are more commonly available as official bottlings from the 1980’s and 1990’s as owners tried to encapsulate the Pearl of Speyside in bottle form with varying degrees of success. Signatory consistently bottle Tormore and I’d certainly recommend the one featured in the vertical tasting as a superb example and very enjoyable.
As part of this vertical tasting there was one particular bottling that proved elusive and was not snared in time for the main event. This was a 29 year old Tormore bottled by the Whisky Broker in April 2013. This fantastic value bottler is well worth seeking out for cask strength whiskies that haven’t been tampered with and released at great prices. Just 107 bottles were struck from the cask and bottled at an impressive 53.9% strength. Distilled on 24th February 1984, this would have been during the era of Whitbread’s ownership, which was far from a successful period.
Thankfully I was aware that an example of this bottle had been opened and was available at the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar for all to enjoy. Even perched at the back of the bar on the top shelf, it shined brightly like a distress beacon. Overshadowing illusive Macallan’s, rare closed distilleries and fashionable Japanese whiskies. It was radiant in its splendour and poise. Priced at just £9 for a dram, I was fortunate that Phil and Simon had not sold out of this divine whisky and bagged a sample for this review.
Colour: sand dune
Nose: initial arrival is wine gums, icing sugar and coconut flakes. A classic Speyside Tormore debut in my experience. Then it goes all haywire with a strong malt emphasis that can only be a rich and fresh malt loaf. It reminds me of Ovaltine in many ways. Whole cane sugar and towards the end that signature Tormore lemon. With water green apples and juicy pears.
Taste: more lemon and plain crackers on the palate. The unusual subtleties of the nose has been vanquished; instead it retains the Tormore hallmarks. Barley sweets, apricots, vanilla custard, a light toffee and milk chocolate. With water the alcohol edges are snared and the whole experience becomes more palatable.
Overall: needless to say I enjoyed this Tormore but if I was critical it isn’t stacked with the complexity you may have anticipated from a 29 year old whisky. Clearly Tormore tastes darn good whatever the age. Perhaps a different cask may have offered more interaction as we approached a third decade? Whatever the vintage one thing remains clear and that’s the Pearl of Speyside remains definitive and enjoyable. Now isn’t that what a good whisky is all about?