In my last review, I mentioned that my good mate Yan dropped off a wee selection of samples to whet my appetite. I thought the Talisker Dark Storm was a tasty and easily enjoyable dram. But the next sample he threw my way, I'd heard mixed things about.
Tomatin's Cu Bocan is a lightly peated single malt. It carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and has spent its short life in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and virgin oak casks. Some reviews I've read say it's not quite there and Tomatin should stick to their rather fabulous standard range. Well, I'm all for malts mixing it up and I'm always eager to try different flavours. So I poured a healthy amount of the golden liquid into a polished Glencairn, eager to see what those crazy cats at Tomatin have been up to.
Now I love my peated malts - I have three heavy peat monsters currently open - but I'm also partial to a drop or two of peated Highland malts. They obviously have a completely different character to the Islay bruisers and I like the interplay between light fruit and dark peat. The best one to get, if you're asking, is the amazing AnCnoc Rutter. It's an incredible dram and well worth the asking price. But I digress, this is about Tomatin's Cu Bocan, so here we go.
There's a load of complex citrus notes when this dram has been left to settle for 10 minutes. I get a lot of grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. The peat is definitely there, but rather than dominate, it adds a dark character to the Cu Bochan. There's definitely a hint of sherry, along with white pepper, caramel, coffee, mint and pickled ginger. I also get smoked paprika, a slight nuttiness and dark barley. A dribble of water brings out vanilla Edinburgh rock, a little Sugar Puff sweetness, paper and something akin to a bag of liquorice all-sorts.
The taste is fresh - young - with more citrus. This time it's the rind rather than the juice and it's followed by cinnamon, hard boiled barley sugars, spicy peppercorns - but the peat seems to have completely disappeared. With a wee dollop of water, the whole dram becomes sweeter.
The finish is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Cu Bocan. I find it is here where the whisky's youthfulness makes itself apparent. That said, I also get fresh fruit, liquorice, espresso and chocolate caramel. To get there, though, I really had to dig down and spend a lot of time with it. The water is the key here, as with it, the finish produces a lovely malted chocolate milkshake note, although the young spirit note never quite goes away.
Would definitely like to investigate the Cu Bocan further, but I think a little longer in the cask would have worked wonders.