[September, 2017] Does maturation time matter? Sure, but how much and is a longer maturation always better? Not so sure on this, that is why I do a head-to-head of three Tomatin at different ages: The NAS "Legacy" (WB id 41415 that I bought for 21,50 Euro in March, 2015) versus the 12-year old (WB id 58291 that I bought for 23,50 Euro in March, 2015) versus this 18-year old (WB id 11380 that I bought for 55 Euro in September, 2014. This is batch L12/9935).
Colour: The colour is adjusted using caramel on all three releases so it useless to analyse it. But for the records, the NAS is at jonquiripe corn, the 12y two shades darker at yellow gold and the 18y another two shades darker at amontillad. Perfectly designed but with no significance, unfortunately. The texture of the NAS shows medium fast legs with small tears, the 12y has many fast legs and late fat tears while the 18y shows late sticky tears that slowly build legs.
Nose: The NAS offers a rather immature nose on strong malty and nutty aromas with some fruits in the background that nevertheless is not too bad at all. The 12y shows some modern style sherry aromas but little more than this. The 18y offers more mature sherry aromas together with nice fruity and wooden notes. Clearly I like the 18y best followed surprisingly by the NAS that I find significantly better than the rather one-dimensional 12y.
Initial mouthfeel: The NAS arrives warming and a little coating with slight astringent moments from tannins. The 12y is less coating but without the drying feeling of the NAS, too. The 18y is not much coating too and shows significant more drying moments (tannins again) than the other two. Here I like the 12y most followed by the NAS with the 18y being weakest of the three.
Taste: The 18y offers the broadest flavours spectrum of the three with really delicious barley sugary, sherry sweet and fruity flavours. No flaws that I can detect. The 12y owns a malty driven profile with some sugary sweet flavours and a few sherry-induced aromas that, again, is rather one-dimensional. The NAS is malt-driven too with some more spices from the woods. This round the 18y takes with a significant margin followed by the NAS. The 12y is clearly last.
Finish: The finish of the NAS is of medium length and rather sweet without distracting bitter or drying moments. The 12y owns a rather short finish with some minor drying notes (papers). The 18y finish is of medium length and adds more exotic fruity flavours to the profile that are really delicious here. No distracting moments with the 18y. So this round clearly takes the 18y. I like NAS better than the 12y, again.
Water is not needed on any of the drams. It turns them smoother (what I like) but it takes out a lot of power, too (what I do not like). The nose of the 18y really improves with some drops added (more exotic fruits, one point up).
An interesting result: Except for the mouthfeel the 18y wins all dimensions with a clear margin (so maturation time really adds more and deeper flavours) but the young NAS (most probably around 8 years old) beats the 12y on all these dimensions, too. But I guess that they added some older casks to the "Legacy" that provided these additional aromas profile - what is a usual practice these days. So, NAS not always is too bad...
By the way: I just repeated this head-to-head with a visitor that is very new into single malt whisky (and without telling him my results). He came to the same conclusion: 18y best, then NAS "Legacy" as a runner-up and 12y being clearly last. Incidental? No, "it is as it is" (a famous slogan in the german region I live in).