When you attend a party, manners dictate you should take a bottle along. If you are invited to a whisky event, then it is polite to pick out a tasty treat from your whisky stash. When you receive an invitation to hang out with the Tormore4 and their selection of whisky delights, then you must bring a bottle. These are the unwritten rules commonplace across our land.
When Mark turned up on Campbeltown for the annual get together, he did so in the full knowledge that bottles would be opened and the requirement is to bring your own. I’m still somewhat shocked that the guys let him into the cottage without the appropriate donation. Even a guest who dropped in brought a bottle. Once this faux pas was discovered and clear instructions were served: Mark scooted up to the Cadenhead’s shop to raid the Cage for the appropriate recompense. He’s already reviewed one of his Cage purchases in the form of a Springbank 12 year old and his other choice was similarly robustly enjoyable as well.
The 2 Tormore’s we have here today were part of our Campbeltown residency. Andy and Dave each brought along an example from our collective favourite distillery and I turned up with some Cadenhead’s Tormore 33 year old action as well. As for Mark? Let’s not go there. Yes, it does feel slightly deranged to be residing in Campbeltown drinking Speyside’s finest, but you could stick us on the most lavish Macallan tour and we’d still sneak in a sample of Tormore.
For whatever reason, MALT now has more Tormore than most other sites. What makes this distillery so appealing? It’s been covered previously in greater detail. A recent discussion with my good friend Rose prompted a new direction and a lightning bolt of inspiration. She asked what bottle would be suitable to take to an influencer event? A liquid laced with cyanide might have been the usual response or possibly an Auchentoshan, Glenfiddich or a Dalmore? Such choices would have underlined how bland and uninspired the invitee was and their opinion of the event. Valuing a friendship, a virtual dash around a round of trio of Sonoma whisky retailers ensued. This underlined the limited selection of whisky in some cases and its increasing cost. I’m a staunch believer in Scotland should keep the best stuff for itself, but in this situation, I did share some sympathy albeit briefly.
We settled on a Signatory Laphroaig bottling, around 17 years old from a refill sherry butt. A solid choice and well received on the night I believe. The whole experience accidentally set my gears in motion and an internal debate between the voices in my head around taking a bottle to such an invitation. What does your choice say about you? Which whisky would you select that summed up you as a person? Yes, you’ll be saying Jason will pick a Tormore here, or maybe even Brora if the invite had a Royal seal of approval. Except that these bottles are obvious candidates and I never follow expectations.
I kicked around the possibilities internally and the list soon whittled down to a handful of contenders. A strong contender was Teacher’s Highland Cream because of my grandfather’s connection to the whisky i.e. he loved to drink it. Or maybe Balblair, a brilliant release I shared with my father in law on occasion until the mother in law used the remnants in her marmalade recipe. These all have personal connections as you can see and the winner continues this theme. Emerging victorious from the labyrinth of my consciousness is the Talisker 18 year old.
Talisker is a bipolar whisky. It divides opinion. The recent onslaught of No Age Statement releases from the distillery has done little to bolster its reputation although they did help create my intellectual land grab theory in the Talisker Skye article. Post-review a few have said that there is logic in the madness of my premise. The Talisker 18 is my favourite whisky from the distillery even with older expressions offering similar experiences. The 18 offers value and a lift from the consistently good 10 year old. It’ll either delight or frustrate you with its bipolar dynamics. I’ve had tasting attendees reeling and a memorable moment where one dashed for the sink screaming murder. It’s a whisky that prompts reaction, rewards dedication and for that, it has my admiration. The personal touch comes from the last 11 or 12 years annually where we’ve visited Skye and dropped by the distillery, which is situated in a marvellous spot. The Isle of Skye itself is a stunning piece of work where you can quite happily eat and drink yourself into oblivion. Forget Islay.
Back to the Tormore’s and we have a Hunter Laing release distilled in 1988 and bottled at an impressive 28 years of age. It’s a sister cask perhaps to the Tormore 28yo HL13189 I reviewed recently except this is from cask number HL14481 and comes from a sherry butt that produced just 106 bottles. In recent times Hunter Laing has bottled several Tormore’s of varying quality on a regular basis lately meaning they must have bought a batch of casks. Bottled at a robust 50% strength it would have cost around £150 and seems to have sold out since. The Single Cask bottling is even scarcer with an outturn of just 47 bottles suggesting it was a split cask or had developed a considerable leak. Distilled on 14th September 1995 it was bottled at 46.8% on the 21st June 2017 at 21 years of age. It’ll set you back around £115 and we’ll start with the youngest…
The Single Cask Tormore 21 year old – review
Colour: a decayed caramel
On the nose: astringent but intriguing. Floral lightness followed by meadow fruits such as apples and pears plus a touch of the exotic with mango. Something I struggle to pinpoint. Smoked lime is the best summary. Time changes this Tormore. The vanilla comes forth as the robust exterior fades away leaving barley drops, orange, honey and papaya.
In the mouth: a gentle elegance without being detailed or in your face. Lemon sponge, vanilla icing and ripe apples. There are sugar puffs and a light honey with some black pepper towards the end.
Hunter Laing Tormore 28 year old – review
Colour: a dark caramel
On the nose: an evident sherry influence but not overly so. A spent cigar, walnuts, cinder toffee and a hoppy beer. A brief flourish of raspberry, blackcurrant jam, some coffee notes and dark chocolate.
In the mouth: a touch of bitterness gives way to a resin nature, dark chocolate and then the soap. This vanishes only to revive on the finish. Water doesn’t dampen its enthusiasm. Difficult to break through this taste characteristic once you become aware of it.
The Single Cask bottling really grows upon you. Some layers to discover and if you’re not that way inclined a lovely drop to enjoy without much requirement needed. The Hunter Laing showcases an issue with the cask that makes it hard to recommend, but at least it’s still miles better than a Brenne single malt whisky. Interestingly, when Dave first gave me a dram of this he asked my opinion and the characteristic he picked up. Yes, it was the soap. By all accounts initially it was very dominant and as the fill level lowered, the influence dwindled.
There was no escape from the soap characteristic, which I picked up on the first sip. It makes for an interesting talking piece, especially as the aforementioned sister cask – that I bought a couple of bottles of – is a different beast altogether. Such a shame as we both had high hopes, but that’s the bipolar nature of whisky and of Tormore.