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Cadenhead’s Tomatin 2009 Chilean Red Wine

Isn’t there something refreshing about a defaced or damaged label? In this era of pristine bottles that mostly seem to be Macallan on Instagram and still have the seal intact, there is a possibility that we are losing sight of what whisky is all about.

This particular bottle was opened and enjoyed, but the then-owner wanted to share it with fellow attendees at a Glasgow “bring your own” event. He desired to add a little bit of mystery to proceedings and withheld the identity, removing all clues and even suggesting that the bottle itself could be from an unrelated release. In essence, what truly mattered were the contents, and his enthusiasm for the whisky was tangible.

The bottle was thoroughly enjoyed, and as one of the honorary barmen that evening, I poured it again and again, with much debate about its origins. Then came the end of the evening, with a bottle swap and the ability to review it for MALT. Truth be told, I had already encountered this Cadenhead’s release (yes, the bottle was a double bluff) previously, and wasn’t impressed. Attending one of their Edinburgh tastings, most of the bottles that night didn’t live up to expectations, and I phoned the shop the following Monday to cancel my pre-orders.

Included within that disappointment was this Tomatin wine cask finish. True story, and one I hope that underlines that Cadenhead’s are not infallible by any stretch of the imagination. We only have so much disposable cash each month, and as I said to a friend recently, we need to be more proactive in shopping around and voting with our wallets if we become disappointed in a retailer or bottler.

Being polite, I never mentioned such a thing until now, as the bottle swap was a kind gesture. I’m always up for revisiting a whisky, especially one that has proved to be lacking. In the midst of a larger tasting, it’s feasible that it was lost amongst the crowd, or not fully appreciated due to an overloaded palate. I’m a fan of what Tomatin has done in the past with some excellent historical bottlings as well as what they are doing today. A visit to the distillery and taking in the range of “bottle your owns” is recommended. The site has a fascinating history, and the whisky itself is typically Highland in character, with robust and endearing qualities.

Bottles such as these always brings in the chat of when a finish is just a finish, or double maturation? My rule has always been two years or more. That’s just a personal preference built upon too many years thinking about it, as well as many exploring whisky.

There are countless permutations to such a line being drawn in the sand. You have to draw the line somewhere, and age isn’t everything, but it is what we tend to do in whisky. Such a thing doesn’t take into account the initial age of the pre-finish whisky, nor the fill status of the new cask and how aggressive it is. Not everything can be prescribed and planned. That’s the beauty of whisky: some things are left to Mother Nature, and her close friend, Chance.

Generally, for Cadenhead’s, I don’t fancy their finished releases. They have the resources and inventory to offer full maturation, so when finishes appear, I’m always slightly wary. Some of the wine casks deployed can be heavy-handed and not for everyone; yet, even saying all of this, there will be whiskies that surprise from unlikely sources. Here’s hoping this is the first of 2020.

This 10-year-old was released in July 2019, bottled at 59.1% strength. With an outturn of 294 bottles, it has been in a Chilean wine cask since August 2017.

Cadenhead’s Tomatin 2009 Chilean Red Wine – review

Colour: Rose wine.

On the nose: Strawberries, Play-dough, honey and floral. Red liquorice, apricot, copper and a noticeable sweetness. Red grapes, tobacco and ginger. We’ll add some water and leave it to sit for a while. Now we have more of an earthy ginger, brown sugar, white pepper and raspberry jelly. Still, not hugely expansive or enchanting after the wine cask aspect.

In the mouth: I’m finding it quite drying in parts, Brasso, clammy and rubbery. Water breaks this down somewhat, becoming more fruity and releasing the alcohol. I’d love to write more detailed notes, but it just isn’t developing beyond these core flavours.

Conclusions

This isn’t my sort of whisky, but I ask myself, putting that aside, is it a good one or substandard? The answer in my mind is that it is merely average. Water is beneficial, yet is unable to elevate the experience to new heights.

The wine cask has changed path of this whisky, and in doing so, has brought new baggage to the proceedings. It’s a good example of the impact of a second cask on the original whisky. If you like wine, then this is a good middle ground to stomp upon. If you’re wanting to discover what Tomatin is all about, then you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Score: 5/10

My thanks to the Whisky Alchemist for the swap.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    James says:

    You can generally be fairly confident with Cadenheads if the whisky was of a decent standard initially they wouldn’t go to the effort of recasking it. That’s not to say all their cask finishes are bad as they can make a huge difference to flavour, but will then generally diminish distillery character.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi James

      Yes, normally they do bottle as is, so when a finish does land you question why, as normally they have the casks and ability to fill at a young age. This one wasn’t for me, like the Girvan they did last year, but maybe the next one…

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