There are stories of cattle farmers buying whisky from a Still in the village of Tomatin as far back as the early 1600s. The distillery as we know it today however dates from 1897, though it lasted less than ten years before the effects of an industry wide slump brought production to a halt in 1906. The site was re-opened under new ownership in 1909 and distillation quickly resumed with a greatly renewed vigour.
The late 1950’s saw the start of massive expansion with the number of stills growing first from two to four, then four to six and six to ten. By 1974, Tomatin housed a remarkable twenty-three pot stills with a capacity to produce 10 million litres per year. The largest distillery in Scotland at the time, demand for the Tomatin spirit never quite justified such huge growth and the distillery rarely, if ever, ran to full capacity. When the 1980’s heralded further industry decline, Tomatin began to suffer once more and by 1986, the business had been liquidated. Seemingly a sad end for such a giant of highland distilling.
Fortunately the distillery would be saved by customers, Takara Shuzo and Okura & Co., both of whom had been importing the malt to Japan for many years. The new owners invested heavily and worked tirelessly to strip away some of the needless expansion of decades past. Today the distillery has a capacity of around 5 million litres, though significantly less is produced and recent times have seen a shift in focus from the blending industry to the development of the Tomatin as a single malt brand in it’s own right.
The distillery now offer a core range of malts beginning with the No Age Statement ‘Legacy’ and continuing with 12, 14, 18, 30 and 36 year old expressions, as well as a peated variation under the name of ‘Cu Bocan’. The 12 year old comes bottled at 43% and retails in the UK for between £35 to £40.
Smell: Malty and Floral. Heather Honey, Grass, Creamy Vanilla, Butter, Pepper and Oak.
Taste: Oak Spice, Salt and Pepper, Apple, Toast, Faintest hint of Smoke perhaps?
Value for Money: Shouldn’t cost you more than £35 and bottled at 43%. That little extra strength helps but I think it’s probably been chill-filtered. A shame because it would really have benefited from a little extra body. Remains a decent purchase however.
Tomatin can be much better than this, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor whisky. Seems spicier than the last time I tried the 12 year old – though that is no bad thing. A decent, every-day dram and a nice introduction to the nature of the Tomatin spirit.