The Exclusive Malts 1984 Tormore 29 Year Old – Review

ExMalts_Tormore

*Thanks to SF and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

To quote the late, great Michael Jackson (no, not the gloved one, this one), Tormore Distillery, “with a musical clock, belfry, and ornamental curling lake…looks like a spa offering a mountain-water cure.”¹ Now, it may come as a great shock to everyone, perhaps even my wife, but I have never set foot in a spa. Well, there was that one in Budapest, but really, that was more of a water park than a spa. In any case, having had pretty much zero experience with spas, I can’t very well confirm Mr. Jackson’s impression, but from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s easy to imagine this Speyside distillery being something other than what it actually is. Instead of the white-washed booze barns of Islay, or the brick and pagoda malt farms of Speyside, Tormore looks a bit like a country estate. Along with its relatively grand entrance, there are arched windows, a reflecting pool, and even still-shaped topiaries for god’s sake!

Tormore was founded in 1958 by a company named Long John. That “long john” strikes me more as a name for a delicious pastry or perhaps a porn star and not a distillery is of no relevance here whatsoever. Long John was the Scottish subsidiary of the large American booze company, Schenley International. The distillery began production in 1960 and has chugged along in relative obscurity ever since, though, as you might expect, the owners have changed a few times. In 1975, Schenley sold off its UK holdings, including Tormore, to the UK company Whitbread, who in turn sold off its spirits division to Allied Lyons in 1989. If Allied Lyons sounds familiar, it’s probably because that company became Allied Domecq five years later in 1994, and Allied Domecq was the company that was devoured and split up by Pernod Ricard (Aberlour, Glenlivet, etc.), Fortune Brands (Jim Beam, Laphroiag, etc.) and Diageo (er…pretty much everyone else, etc.) In 2005. Tormore ended up in Pernod Ricard’s hands and today its whisky is found in a wide range of blended Scotch and only one distillery bottling, the 12 Year Old. This independently bottled single cask release from Creative Whisky Company’s Exclusive Malts range is a rare chance to taste an older whisky from a distillery you don’t see much from.

The Nose:  Fairly bright and lively for 29 years though not without the expected wood influence. There’s fruit here, Granny Smith apples, crisp Anjou pears, and ripe figs, but there’s also a fair amount of fruitcake as well. Dried and candied fruits nestled in nutty, spiced bread along with orgeat syrup and that nougat-y Italian pistachio candy. There’s a fair amount of polished oak, soft vanilla bean, and candied ginger with a dusting of white pepper. This holds up very nicely with a bit of water, all those flavors are drawn out nicely with a little more of that nutty, nougat-y quality coming through and a subtle floral note that was barely hinted at strength.

The Palate:  Quite honeyed and zippy to start with more dried fruit notes and a complex nuttiness. There’s almond bark and salted, roasted almonds along with a bit of dark chocolate infused with orange. Quickly shows the many years of wood with tannic oak, more candied ginger, clove, and white pepper. As with the nose, water doesn’t leave much of an impression and does little to alter the flavor profile. The early honey and dried fruit notes are given a bit more space before those zippy spice notes come through.

The Finish:  Drying and mouthwatering with lingering notes of caramel, oak, and ginger with that same dusting of white pepper hanging around the longest.

Thoughts:  A very nice whisky. The nose is quite something with its complex, balanced aromas, I really enjoyed those nutty, fruitcake tones. The palate falls a little short of the nose thanks to seeming a bit too woody and spicy, though again, there’s a decent complexity and progression there as well. Overall, it’s a brighter, livelier dram than one might expect for 29 years old. While it did slow things down a bit, I didn’t find adding water added much to this one, I actually preferred it at strength. A satisfying single malt from an interesting distillery you don’t hear much about. Recommended.

The Exclusive Malts 1984 Tormore 29 Year Old, Speyside, IB +/-2013

51.4% ABV

Score:  85

¹Jackson, Michael. Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Single Malt Whiskies of Scotland. Philadelphia: Running, 2004. N. pag. Print.

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