The Thompson Bros. releases are appearing on an almost monthly basis nowadays, still determined by quality cask acquisitions rather than needing to fill an outturn, which is a vicious circle some bottlers have trapped themselves in. There’s also a pleasing lack of finishing; the team are happy with the whiskies in their natural form without the further need for tinkering and finishing. Their continued endeavours underline that there are good casks out there and we’re starting to see distinctive approaches from various bottlers.
At one end, you have the fairly young casks and those that rely on finishing to bring some variety to their menu offering. Then, of course, you have the longstanding iconic bottlers such as Cadenhead’s and Gordon & MacPhail who tend to do their thing on their terms. I’m returning to these bottlers more in 2021 so watch out as G&M have put out some intriguing releases including a 25 year old Mortlach single cask for £225; that I felt was a good price and lacked the inflation of the wooden box approach.
Beyond the pack, you have the young upstarts who are relying on their own senses and experiences to select casks of quality and bottle then in eye-catching releases such as North Star, Whisky Sponge and of course the Thompson Bros. Some of these bottlers do, at times, push the price too far for my wallet. A case in point is North Star’s Springbank, Hazelburn and Longrow trio, which divided opinion. And the Sponge bottled a Springbank for £400 recently that sold out faster than a single cask Bimber. So, just goes to show the market is buoyant and supportive of many different approaches and these include distant territories. We might be a little Scottish when it comes to opening our wallets, but in Asia and elsewhere, the prospect of something refined and exclusive may be priced at a level which is too good to ignore.
As a whisky enthusiast that consumes whisky on a regular basis, these are exciting times. So, hopefully, we can guide you here towards some bottles that are worthy of your attention. Sadly, several of the releases below have sold out, but you may see the odd bottle at a local retailer. We’ll do these in alphabetical order – or you could argue – in order of greatness, with the Tormore being King of the Hill.
Thompson Bros. Glen Moray 2007 – review
This 13 year old was bottled at 50% ABV from 2 x 1st fill ASBs and shipped to various markets.
Colour: light honey.
On the nose: a creamy vanilla greets, popcorn with some caramel topping. A light varnish, banana, marshmallows and apples. A tinge of alcohol here and there – suggesting a more youthful whisky. Time reveals more fun notes with lime and coconut. A touch of water unlocks pine cones, nettles and camphor.
In the mouth: a tad more simple on the palate but enjoyable nevertheless. Stapes of vanilla and caramel linger but we also have a pleasant creaminess, green peppercorns and a tea-aspect. It does drop off on the finish and a splash of water reveals more oils and just a more coherant wholesome dram.
Thompson Bros. Highland Single Malt 2010 – review
This 10 year old was bottled at 57.3% ABV. As a Web exclusive this promptly sold out and was a low level ASB with just 90 bottles produced. Maybe the cat might be a clue?
On the nose: fresh wood, plenty of punch and vigour initially. Soon, cream arrives and the aroma of a new mattress. Time is beneficial. Green wine gums, cinder toffee and eventually pine needles with a hint of menthol. Almonds, that signature beeswax, lemon cheesecake and Werther’s original. Apologies, I didn’t add water as I was enjoying it!
In the mouth: far more mellow than anticipated. Almost purrs like… Vanilla, ice cream cone, a gentle wax, nutty, nougat and petrichor.
Thompson Bros. Islay Single Malt 1993 – review
This 27 year old was bottled at 49.9% ABV and compromised of 2 x Refill ASBs and was shipped to various markets with 536 bottles in total. The rumour is that it’s a Laphroaig and the label is the lead image on this article.
On the nose: almost a sweet peat with a splash of sea salt and some earthiness. Mossy, chalky, metallic hint and some syrup. Well-formed and lovely. Sugary apples, yellow dyed smoked haddock with a creamy vanilla, white chocolate and honey.
In the mouth: well-formed, more honey, some hemp and the delicate peat comes through on the finish. Some coal dust, more coastal moss again. There’s golden syrup, cask char with a touch of iodine before the finish comes through if you give it time in the glass. I actually enjoyed this one too much so apologies!
Thompson Bros. Speyside 1994 – review
This 27 year old was bottled at 45.7% ABV and was a UK exclusive with only 121 bottles produced.
On the nose: good balance here between the wood character and honeyed fruity aspects. Pine cones, Kiwi Fruit, blackberries, pineapple cubes and a touch of orange. There’s also beeswax in palaces and sweet oats.
In the mouth: juicy and fruity, very enjoyable on the palate and easy drinking. More citrus notes now rather than wood. Some Highland toffee, apples, a touch of smoke and a general sense of refreshment. Memories of orange sherbet as well.
Thompson Bros. Speyside (Glenlivet) 1998 – review
This 22 year old was bottled at 48.9% ABV and as a web exclusive sold out quicker than a new edition of Irn Bru mainly because just 45 bottles were produced.
Colour: dulled gold.
On the nose: typical Speyside on arrival with a fruity focus featuring papaya, Kiwi fruit and apple strudel. A dusting of cinnamon as well. Oddly fatty and oily in parts, which I’m enjoying! Then more refreshment with lime cordial and a carbonated orange drink.
In the mouth: well-rounded and confident at this age. First thing into my notes was rice pudding not something I’ve had in a long time. Plain crackers and warmed shortbread. That Speyside fruit basket kicks in but remains balanced showing some good cask integration wth the spirit. A touch of smoke lingers as you reflect upon an intriguing whisky.
Thompson Bros. Tormore 1992 – review
Aka the Great one, this Tormore is bottled at 28 years of age and 47.2% ABV. This was from a Refill Hogshead and is a UK exclusive due for release in early February and should be around £185. Great label featuring the wonderful gardens that surround Speyside’s greatest paradox.
Colour: white gold.
On the nose: delightful but a dram for the more experienced, such are the nuances of Tormore. Gala apples, ripe pears, old putty and struck flint. Some petrichor and a pleasing waxiness. Sappy, withered and dried orange, white chocolate and loose Silver Needle tea. Rich Tea biscuits, lemon posset and this doesn’t need water – perfect as it is.
In the mouth: sheer harmony, apple juice with flashes of Silver Needle once again and lemon peel. Gold leaf, a vanilla cream and there’s a savoury herbal element deep down. Beeswax and a delicate sprinkling of wood spice.
Another strong selection, which begs the question why don’t some other indies hit this mark?
The Highland 10 year old is best summed up as charming. Plenty of character and confidence, whereas the Glen Moray is a more of a Steady Eddie with no thrills and a dependable ride. Think of it as a BMW in the comfort mode setting, while the unknown Highlander has moved up into the sport mode option.
The Islay and Speysides continue the high batting average. Each showcasing a different style and validation that Scotch isn’t becoming just one and the same with the regional elements and production differences merged into one huge melting pot. These casks showcase the differences. I’m also noticing more low outturn casks from independents lately. I wonder if that’s part of the reason for the recent clampdown on cask selling at some warehouses where buyers have to be aware of the fill level.
The Tormore is one of the best independent bottlings I’ve had from this distillery and as a connoisseur of all things Tormore, they don’t come along too often. So, this is something to savour and appreciate. It is also a lost style of Tormore as they’ve changed the filling strength in recent years and moments like this have slipped through our fingertips. These early to mid-nineties vintages can be top-notch and this is another to enjoy.
Thanks to the Thompson Bros. for the samples and photographs.