This month’s whisky is a Limited Edition, Award Winning, BELTER of a Sherry Bomb (note the capitals!), from the spiritual home of the sherry-bomb…Speyside. Roll out the red carpet for the Tomintoul Cigar Malt. It is not only a brand-new whisky to arrive on our shores but we have scooped the ENTIRE initial Australian allocation of it.
It’s always nice bringing a new whisky to market in Australia. It’s even nicer when we can get the entire initial Australian supply for our Club members. It’s going to be literal months before this superbly rich whisky is available again for the rest of Australia.
The Tomintoul Cigar Malt was created by Tomintoul head distiller, Robert Fleming, on the occasion of his 30th anniversary at the Tomintoul stills in 2020. It is a limited edition comprising of just 12 Oloroso casks and was released by the distillery in 2021. Such is the way of international shipping that it’s just made its way to Australia little over a year after its release.
So… what is a ‘Cigar Malt’? Well, look – there’s not exactly a scientific definition. In fact, as far as I can tell, this is only the second company to brand a ‘cigar malt’ (or indeed use the term in its marketing). Dalmore was the first to release a ‘Cigar Malt’ back in 1999 and it quickly became one of their most popular lines. It was discontinued in 2009 but the outcry was so great from the loyal fans that they released the updated (and more expensive) ‘Cigar Malt Reserve’ two years later. So around 10 years since Dalmore revived their Cigar malt, Tomintoul has thrown their hat into the ring with this limited edition bomb of a whisky.
So in a nutshell, the Tomintoul Cigar Malt is a whisky that is designed to partner with good cigars. In fact, the Tomintoul Cigar Malt’s alternative name is ‘Parejo’ – Spanish for partner! Even though it contains a percentage of peated malt, this whisky is certainly robust, but most assuredly not reminiscent of an ashtray, or burning tyres, nor does it contain any of the ‘hospital’ notes’ common in peated whiskies from, say, Islay. This is peat as part of the flavour profile, not dominating it.
The Tomintoul Cigar malt is not meant to imitate cigar smoke. The Parejo is designed to be big enough to ‘stand up to’ a good cigar, without being dominated or overpowered on the palate by the huge flavour of the smoke of the cigar. Which is not to say you need to smoke a cigar to enjoy this whisky. Quite the contrary – for exactly the reasons it was designed with cigars in mind, this whisky is a great pairing with a variety of ‘BIG’ flavours. Alongside a big, charcoal grilled steak, after a huge roast meal or to enjoy with a cheese that’s bluer than when I dropped a flywheel on my thong-protected big toe.
Now the Tomintoul Cigar Malt is actually quite a step away from Tomintoul’s usual style. Tomintoul refer to themselves as ‘the gentle dram’. They normally age their whiskies in ex-bourbon casks. Renowned for their light, floral, downright amicable whiskies, the Cigar Malt is anything but! This one is purposely big, heavily sherried and robust. Not only that – it really steps out of the ‘Tomintoul Mould’ by incorporating a percentage of peated whisky in the mix!
Many don’t realize it, but the Tomintoul Distillery does, in fact, produce peated whisky. For five weeks every year, the Tomintoul distillery ferments and distils peated malt. This peated whisky is normally released under the ‘Old Ballantraun’ label. The ‘Old Ballantraun’ is almost a polar opposite of the Tomintoul brand – known for their heavily peated gob-smackers. Tomintoul has built a brand around selling ‘the gentle dram’ which means they normally steer clear of the heavier, punchier style of whisky, as they don’t want to ‘scare off’ their regular customer base. That this contains any peat at all is quite a departure for the Tomintoul brand.
Nose: Big stewed fruit on the nose strait away. Also a big dose of hot pancakes with maple syrup there as well as well as subtle biscuit spice. Very feint peat notes – more a mustiness than smoke.
Palate: Wow – this is a BIG whisky. Massive, sweet jammy notes, balanced by a spicy paper hit. Deliciously mouth coating, a nice pepper hit mutes the sweet notes somewhat for a moment, but they return all wrapped up in a mild smokey deliciousness!
Finish: Big, loooong, satisfying. That pepper chases more fruit, honey, dark chocolate and coffee notes. Smokey wisps appear, exit then reappear as the exquisite finish rolls around your mouth. It just rolls and rolls and rolls!
It’s definitely peated, but it’s not an ‘I’ll ‘ave you Jimmy’ knuckle-dusting peat. There are no band aids, tyre fires or seaside notes here. Those oloroso casks have definitely done their part in tempering and refining that peat into a lovely addition as opposed to a sole ingredient. To me, a fantastic ratio of fruit and smoke. Neither dominates – but rather both sweet fruit and peat work together to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts! A big whisky in any language!