Whisky and Words Number 58: Tomintoul 16

The Tomintoul16 comes in an elegant and arty carton.

Has it been 3 months since my last review? Yes, it has. No shortage of whiskies on hand, so I will set my nose to the grindstone. We have another Speysider here, and because this has some age to it, I’ll compare it to my Glenlivet 21. Stiff competition! As you can see (left), this was a small bottle (that’s my carved walnut from the Great Wall next to it. Yes, I have a carved walnut). It was our last day in Edinburgh and I saw this in the shop and grabbed it. Paid £10 (!) for this little gem so I have high hopes.

First , what do we know about Tomintoul. You will see their tag line ‘the gentle dram’ on the carton and the website, where you can see a nice flyover video of the distillery, which looks big and very tidy. Located on the Glenlivet estate, they are the highest village in Speyside. Their marketing collateral talks a lot about the water:

“The pure spring water we use is drawn from The Ballantruan Spring”

and there is a link to ‘learn more’ but I got a 404 error. The ‘learn more’ link about the distillery works however, and we see that the distillery was built in 1964. Fairly new. They provide extensive narration on this page covering the basics of making whisky. Of interest, they talk of grinding the malt but not drying it so they (like most) are buying their malt from a big supplier. Other than that, we learn the 16 uses ex-bourbon American oak casks. With an output of 3.3M litres per year of spirit from two wash and two spirit stills, they are on  the small side.

The lighting here makes the spirit look a bit darker than it is.

On to the product. It is, as you can see, a light straw color. The nose is indeed gentle and smells of violets and damp granite with a touch of honeysuckle sweetness. On the palate, Tomintoul is really subtle. Fresh-cut green grass, more violet, vanilla and a light herbal bitterness on the edge of the tongue to balance. The herbs remind me of the Cragganmore 12 but lighter. Quite interesting. Compared to the Glenlivet 21 (review coming soon), the Tom 16 is much lighter on the palate and has more going on in aroma, where the Glen 21 is thickly unctuous and has caramel smoothness. The Crag 12 is a better comparison.

Tomintoul 16, Speyside Single Malt, 40% ABV

Nose: Gentle, smooth and smells of violets and damp granite with a touch of honeysuckle.
Palate: Fresh-cut green grass, more violet, vanilla; light herbal bitterness on the edge of the tongue to balance.
Finish: Remarkably long for a low-key palate. Pleasant and lively herbal bitters really hang on.

Bottom Line: I have to hand it to the malt master, he has created a dram even more diaphanous and yet complex and pleasing than the Cragganmore 12. I expect older, longer matured drams to be heavier on the caramel vanilla and oakey bitterness. I suspect the master at Tomintoul keeps a very sharp eye on his casks and uses a high percentage of first fill casks. At a quite reasonable $68 here in Oregon, it is a buck less than the Cragganmore 12 and I would say a step ahead as a choice for those who appreciate a delicate herby Speysider.

Tomintoul 16, a delicate and intriguing Speyside malt

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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