Tobermory 10 year old and 12 year old Single Malt


Looking out from anywhere along the North Coast of  Northern Ireland you are likely to spot the Scottish Isles of Islay and Jura with it's distinctive Paps. Behind these though is another whisky producing Isle that is often overlooked in favour of it's more famous, or in the case of Jura, infamous counterparts. That Isle is the Isle of Mull.

Home to a population of just 2,800 inhabitants and just one distillery, Tobermory. You can learn a bit more about the distillery in my Ledaig review from February. Suffice to say that Tobermory is the distilleries unpeated whisky and Ledaig is the distilleries peated whisky.

The first time I tried the Tobermory 10 year old was in it's old presentation in an old dumpy style bottle when it was bottled at 40% abv and was coloured and chill filtered. Surprisingly I came across it in my local Wetherspoons, probably about 15 years ago, a time when my whisky journey was at a fledgling state. The experience wasn't a good one. In fact a little research later after I bought the updated version of the 10 year old revealed that the Tobermory 10 of that time was pretty much universally loathed.

It was relaunched in around 2010/2011 by owners Distell with a new presentation, not only in bottle design, but also in liquid with the now Distell synonymous output of 46.3% abv, non chill filtered and natural colour. Ralfy reviewed this waaaay back in 2011 and waxed lyrical on how the whisky was a major improvement and that all scotch producers should take cursory look at Distell's liquid presentation.

As ever in life and the whisky industry, nothing stays static and so change was afoot. The 10 year old was replaced in 2019 by a 12 year old expression that was released to celebrate the reopening of the distillery. Rather than just keep the maturation the same as the 10 year old, which was solely bourbon cask matured, the 12 year old is bourbon cask and virgin oak cask matured. It is presented exactly as the 10 year old though.

I can't remember exactly what the 10 year old cost but I believe it was in the region of £35. The 12 year old was £42.

That completes my trio of Distell based reviews for now. Tasting notes time.

Tobermory 10 year old 46.3% abv

Nose: Quite funky - lots of lactic notes. Yeast, fresh butter, goats cheese and all butter pastry. A light note of engine oil. Apple, pineapple and barley. Ozone, ground ginger and flint. Vanilla and icing sugar turn up at the end.

Palate: This is salty, lemony and peppery on arrival. Lemon verbena, brine, fresh lemon slices, wet pebbles and chalk. Rocket. Rising bread dough with honey and black sesame seeds. Granny Smith apples with fresh pineapple slices and unripe apricots. Dry oak.

Finish: Medium length  - dry white wine, maritime saltiness, butter and tart citrus.

Score: 7 out of 10

Tobermory 12 year old 46.3%

Nose: Light, fresh and sweet. Freshly sliced oranges with malted barley. Apples and ripe pears. Some minerality, salted caramel and wet sand. Danish butter cookies. Honeysuckle. Cinnamon, nutmeg and linseed oil.

Palate: Lots of barley upfront with vanilla and honey sweetness. Butterscotch. Apple and pear crumble topped with brown sugar and cinnamon. Clove. Plenty of woody spice from the bourbon barrels. Then comes a wave of salinity and chalk with a mossy note in the background.

Finish: Short to medium with lemon zest, white pepper and drying oak

Score: 7 out of 10

Overall: I'm pretty sure these scores will be a tad controversial, but sure when have I not been controversial with my scoring? Anyway....I really like the 10 year old, I like it's austerity and challenge. Definitely not a beginners dram as this is definitely a throwback to yesteryear. Get past it's dry minerality and give it time and consideration I think it has a lot to offer.

The Tobermory 12 is definitely a dram created for the more modern palate used to sweetness. It's a very different style from the 10 but adds a level of approachability that probably isn't present in the 10 year old. Saying that it's really drinkable, well constructed and definitely worth the asking price. I'd definitely buy it again.

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