If you recognize where that’s from, welcome to the list I’m on. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing.
Tobermory is made in such a way that specific flavours of pungent notes are forefront. For some of us we enjoy these notes in the form of fermented pickles and blue cheese. For others, they note the same note is present from various human body parts, and they don’t like it. For others still, they love those smells and their associated parts and even some of the humans attached.
Thus, like booty and blue cheese, we end up with a polarizing unique flavour profile. I’ll be the first to say I prefer my Tobermory with peat in it, and you can check out the Ledaig reviews to back that up.
That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on Tobermory. Or booty or blue cheese. I just haven’t found the right one yet. Let’s look at three very different versions that I happened to have, at three different times, all while wearing different hats.
Let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Tobermory 23 1995 Maltbarn is up first, and if you’ve been following any of my other reviews lately you’ll see I was at a Maltbarn tasting. Which was fun.
As part of said lineup we were lucky enough to try what turns out to be the oldest Tobermory I’ve ever had. In addition to personal acheivements that ultimately no one gives a flying fuck about, it was an ex-bourbon cask one that I proudly announced as butthole whisky and was met by a deafening judging silence.
Yay child-like levels of shame. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Cask Type: Bourbon cask
Number of bottles: 119
Colour: 10Y 9/6
Nose: Wet dog, cinnamon, mature pear that eventually goes to pear tartlets, earth/floral, brine
Hey, it’s that musty note. That “nobody wiped down the dog after being in the lake” note. Or that “the pears have been out too long” note. Jumps between those.
Cleaner though than normal. Less “people of the night’s stinky backside” going on here. More spice and fruit and a bit of live dog. Which the dog prefers, typically.
Taste: Moss, lots of honey chocolate, grass, lemon, star fruit
Huh. So at first we have some of that earthy/mossy note, and think it’s going to continue with lots of the funk/blue cheese/boooootay notes, however… no. Just a ton of honey chocolate. And more honey chocolate. With a dash of some acidity, to continue on the honey chocolate.
Finish: Cereal, brine, grass, metal, musty/dust, mint
And still more odd. We get some of the island brine and some of that mustiness and some spice, however this whole thing just kinda peters out. No funk, no harsh notes, nothing funky. Really clean and grass forward.
Conclusion: A cleaner Tobermory. I don’t know how to feel about it all. I mean, you drink Tobermory for that dirty, raunchy note, and this is devoid of that. Don’t get me wrong, we have some of that on the nose, in spades, but it dissipates quick enough as you drink it.
So we learn something new. It was never that unctuous note turning me off, it was something else. Because take it away and I was having a hard time parsing this one. I certainly like chocolate, but wanted a bit more. I don’t know. Maybe this is proof that I’m not the chocoholic I always thought I was. Oh well, more for the rest of you.
Tobermory 12 is up next, and we’re taking a different approach on this one. I sadly missed a tasting where this was poured, but was lucky enough to swap for a sample.
Tobermory 12 is the new OB from Tobermory, taking over for Tobermory 10 as the new entry into the Tobermory world.
Why replace the 10? Well they did take a 2 year hiatus to upgrade the distillery, they probably made some decisions. These are all ex-bourbon barrel whisky. Perhaps their stock got older, changed flavour, and it was time to promote that fact. Or perhaps they wanted people like me to stop calling them butthole whisky.
Well good luck there people, I have no shame.
So how does it taste? I infamously reviewed the 10 twice and was called the worst person ever for it. What will I think about the 12? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: Not yet available at the LCBO
Cask Type: American Oak
Colour: 7.5Y 7/8
Nose: Toffee, overripe peaches, sweat, ginger
Well that’s a surprise. Yes, there’s a bit of that funk/fermented/old fruit element here. But not to the extreme amount of various South East Asian dwellers nether regions.
No, we have a sweeter, lighter, fruity nose. Nice to nose, however I’m getting flashbacks to my previous Tobermory and being tough to it being clean. However here I’m liking the level of funk. Perhaps I draw a line in liking funk at foods.
Taste: Honey, ginger, sour sweat, wood, vegetal
Okay, more honey and ginger. Almost tricks you into thinking they’ve cleaned up their act.
But right there you get that sweat. It’s not blue cheese, it’s not ferment. It’s sour sweat. And if you haven’t tasted sweat, then you gotta get out into the world and live a bit more. Or deal with your fear of dirtiness with a trained professional who will help you. No shame, get yourself some help.
Finish: Earth, ginger, lemon-lime soda, brine, hazelnut, more sweat
More earth, more of that lemon/ginger note that’s so clean. It’s really interesting. But now we start getting some salt and nuttiness. Water brings back the sweat.
It’s kinda tough to bring out the dirty Tobermory element here.
Conclusion: Simpler, less dirty than the 10. However… I really feel it’s cleaned up almost too much.
So where I spoke ill of the old 10 was the sheer amount of dirtiness. Here we see less, so I gotta love it, right? But in losing that aspect, I feel it took some of the old complexity. Which makes me a putz who can’t be pleased, like my mother, as Prince would say.
On the other hand, seriously this is easier to bring someone into Tobermory better. You can start with this, almost, at a tasting, and it won’t throw them off. So while I think old Tobermory nerds may be a bit turned off, I think new Tobermory fans will pop up.
Tobermory 10 2008 North Star is a single cask pick from North Star. Simply put, it’s a sherry cask whisky at 10 years old. Is this the solution to the 10 going away? Is that even an issue?
Really who knows, I’m just happy to have another one for the series. Let’s see what a cask strength pick by North Star tastes like, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask type: Sherry Butt
Number of Bottles: 330
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Blue cheese, coastal, peach, floral
Immediate funkiness. Any lost strong blue cheese fomo feelings I had before are gone. I’ve forgotten it all. I am the sunlight on the spotless mind.
Well, no. But there’s some nice brine, funk, and peach here. And there’s still some elements of the honey/floral with water.
Taste: Overripe peaches, caramel, lots of mint, cinnamon, simple syrup
Wow. Okay, so there’s still a lot of funky fruit notes and sweets. That’s all great. Some of the sugar can get a bit high/raw, but frankly not too much.
That’d be all good if the spices didn’t go completely berserk and live on your couch for weeks on end. Seriously the amount of mint here is way, way too much.
Finish: Cotton, peach, smoke, ginger, mint, brine, sweat
Finish goes back to some smoke, the spice doesn’t dominate as much, and has more floral elements. Water brings out the sweat aspect from the 12, but most of these flavours are pretty raw and unbalanced.
Conclusion: Overly spicy and unbalanced. Too young, simple, and spicy. Like what I’ve experienced with a lot of these young Tobermory, you get this great nose with complexity going on and then tons of peaches, some floral, and nothing to match it.
So it’d be easy to write this one off in that case. I think it does do it better than a lot of Tobermory I’ve had. The only huge issue is that mint on the taste. It’s so strong it’s too much and it really does ruin what should be a solid dram.
Scotch reviews #1138-40, Island reviews #123-125, Whisky reviews #1760-62