Tomatin distillery lies in the village of the same name, just off the A9, halfway between Aviemore and Inverness. Dating from 1897, the distillery saw many changes in ownership over the years leading up to the 1950’s, when the then owners embarked on a vast expansion project that eventually turned a single pair of stills into 23 operational pot stills by 1974. This incredible growth gave Tomatin the potential to be the largest malt producer in Scotland with a capacity of around 10 million litres per year.
The distillery never quite ran to capacity though and in fact, the 1980’s saw production grind to a halt as the entire whisky industry hit a massive slump. The day was eventually saved when two Japanese bulk buyers of the Tomatin brand merged and bought the distillery. The new owners sensibly rolled back much of the expansion of previous years, leaving the distillery to operate well within a capacity of around 5 million litres per year.
I paid a visit to Tomatin back in June and found quite a sight to behold. During the same trip I also visited Dalwhinnie and the difference between the two sites could not have been greater. Where Dalwhinnie was quaint and charming, Tomatin was industrial and functional. Where Dalwhinnie was small with white-washed walls and Pagoda roofs, Tomatin was hulking and grey, albeit impressive in its own way.
It is, after all, whats inside that counts and the tour revealed an attractive, if vast, distillery with a charm all it’s own. While distillery tours always share a basic structure there can often be one or two quirks unique to each location that make it worthwhile. Here at Tomatin we were able to stand inside an old disused mashtun and it was nice to see the Cooper’s workshop.
The tour was followed by a tasting of Tomatin’s core range including the Legacy, the 12 year old, a Cask Strength, a 14 Year Old, 18 year old and the Cu Bocan, an excellent peated version that was first introduced in 2013. The quality of the range was impressive though I have to say the tasting itself felt a little rushed. I fully understand the pressures staff are under though, this was a busy day at the distillery with a constant stream of tourists arriving by the coach load. There is only so much time to be spent with one party before the next must be tended to. For the record, our guide Becky did a fine job of showing us around and talking us through the six drams and was even happy to arrange another sample or two back at the tasting bar in the Visitor Centre. After lengthy consideration and much internal debate I settled on a bottle of the 14 year old, matured in a Port Cask and bottled at 46%.
Smell: Raspberry, Cranberry and Orange with Malty Biscuit, Toffee, Chocolate, Nuts. For some reason, nosing a Port Cask always reminds me of Furniture Polish.
Taste: Berries and Bitter Dark Chocolate, Pepper and Chilli Powder, Orange, Star Anise, Cinnamon and Toffee.
Value for Money: Available for around £50 – £55. Great buy at that price.
Score: 45.5 / 50. About the scores…
A highland dram packing bags of flavour, a decent age statement and bottled at 46%. A fine dram that I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment.