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Gordon and MacPhail Tomatin Distillery 2002 (Connoisseurs Choice)

Review: Gordon and MacPhail Tomatin Distillery 2002 (Connoisseurs Choice)
Single Malt Scotch Whisky    (89/100)
Posted on September 12, 2018

The Connoisseurs Choice is a series of malt whiskies from various Scottish distilleries many of which are no longer producing whisky.  Boasting over 40 different single malts available from the Scottish regions The sheer variety of styles and flavours of whisky available from Gordon and Macphail’s Connoisseurs range is staggering.

The Tomatin Distillery is located in the Monadhliath Mountains near Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland. The Distillery was established in 1897. (For those who do not know, the term “established in 1897″ is a code term which represents an acknowledgement by the distillery that the company began to legally pay taxes on the spirits it produced in that year. When the Distillery actually began to produces spirits is not acknowledged.) Because of its location in the Monadhliath Mountains, Tomatin is one of the highest distilleries (elevation wise) in Scotland at 315 metres above sea level. In 1985 as the Distillery was expanded and was at that time renamed, The Tomatin Distillery Co Ltd..

The company now operates 12 stills, in a process which perhaps more closely resembles a large-scale industrial factory rather than a typical Single Malt Distillery. This is because the distillery has always been a large-scale producer of whisky for Scotland’s major blends.

Gordon and MacPhail Tomatin Distillery 2002 (Connoisseurs Choice) is a Single Malt Whisky which was distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2016. It was matured in First fill bourbon barrels with no special finishing. The Spirit was bottled at 46 % abv..

Note: I was invited to a private Scotch Whisky Tasting where I sampled several expressions in the Gordon and Macphail Connoisseur’s Choice Line-up including Inchgower 2005, Tomatin 2002, and Caol Ila 2003. As a guest at the tasting, I was given small 50 ml samples of some of the spirit to take home. At the tasting, I took brief tasting notes for some of the spirits and compiled this review based upon those tasting notes as well as from tasting sessions with my small sample of Tomatin 2002.

In the Bottle  4.5/5

The Connoisseurs Choice range arrives in a beige cardboard box with corner cutouts on the front and back. If the bottle is placed in the box properly, then the one view displays the front label and the other view displays the opposite side of the bottle where the back label tells you many things you might want to know about the bottle you are purchasing. For example, the back label tells me that this particular bottle was distilled in 2002, and bottled in 2016 (13 or 14 years of age). It also provides very a brief summary of whisky notes which hints at what I can expect to encounter in the bottle, (although in many cases the tasting notes provided by the seller sometimes seem to be a work of poetic license on their part).

In The Glass  9/10

Colour: Pale golden colour with a slight amount of haze. The Whisky was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels which had apparently imparted much of their colour to the previous bourbon.

Legs: Medium-small droplets which develop into slow-moving leglets. A light oiliness is apparent.

Initial Aroma: Fine oak spice and butterscotch, malt barley and a ribbon of corn. Almond turning to marzipan with hints of heather and menthol

Decanted Aroma: Dusty grain and more malt barley, Fine oak spices with poplar and willow, bits of camphour and light baking spices, vanilla, banana, apricot brandy, and canned pears.

The overall aroma is very well-balanced with the various scents and smells working together rather than competing with each other. Vanilla pudding and hints of milk chocolate may be added to my olfactory perceptions.

In the Mouth 54/60

Alcohol push and Spice: Quite smooth considering the spirit is 46 % alcohol by volume. I had to re-check the label just to make sure. Fine oak spice build but does not become uncomfortable.

Initial Taste: Light butterscotch and a corn=like sweetness combined with malt barley, fine oak spice and heather. There is a light bitterness which dries the palate making you receptive to another taste.

Follow up: Moderately complex with oak and heather melding with almond, vanilla and butterscotch. A fruitiness is apparent with flavours of apricot and pears perhaps augmented by a light touch of cherry and raisin. As I found the dram on the nose, the flavours appear to coexist very nicely.

With Ice: The malted barley gains strength as do flavours of vanilla and almond. There is also a nice ribbon of milk chocolate which appeals strongly to me.

Mixed in an Old Fashioned: I mixed my cocktail with Fees Barrel aged bitters and a touch of simple syrup. The flavour was outstanding, and I wish I could have mixed another.

In The Throat 13/15

Body and Length: Medium bodied with spicy finish

Flavours during Swallow: Heather, Malted Barley and Vanilla

Lingering Flavours: Oak Spice, pears, and lightly bitter grain kernel.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The only flaw is a tiny disappointment at the end of the swallow as a light bitterness creeps in. The whisky satisfies in every other way as the moderately complex dram displays nicely balanced flavours. The malt does not club with big flavours rather it beguiles you with nuance.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Old Fashioned Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Tomatin 2002
1/4 oz  Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
dash Fees Barrel Aged Bitters
2 large Ice Cubes
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first four ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may (loosely) interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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