The village of Tomatin stands on the banks of the River Findhorn in the Highlands of Scotland, some 18 miles south of the city of Inverness. The village stands on an old cattle trail and it is said that as far back as the 16th century, drovers were able to fill their flasks from a whisky still which stood behind the Old Lairds House.
A legal distillery wasn’t founded until 1897 however, at a time when the whisky industry was about to hit a serious downturn, thanks, at least in part, to the reckless behaviour of the Pattison Brothers. Tomatin lasted just nine years before it was forced to cease production in 1906.
The operation recommenced under new management in 1909 however, and by the late 1950’s it had begun to steadily increase production capacity until the distillery eventually housed an incredible 23 pot stills, making it the largest in Scotland by 1974, capable of producing some 13 million litres per year.
Tomatin rarely, if ever, ran at full capacity though and when industry-wide over production came to a head in the early 1980’s, creating what is often referred to as ‘the whisky loch’, the business floundered. Liquidation came in 1985 and were it not for the spirits’ popularity among Japanese customers, the distillery would likely have been lost forever.
In 1986, Takara Shuzo & Company partnered with the Okura Company in order to purchase Tomatin and any stocks of aging whisky still on site. Over the years that followed, they began to scale back production, removing 12 stills from commission and producing around 2.5 million litres per year.
Though as much as 80% of the Tomatin malt goes into blends like The Antiquary, recent years have seen more of a focus on the brand as a single malt, with an extensive range of different expressions from 12 to 36 years old, including a series of peated expressions under the Cu Bocan label.
Here however, is a Tomatin single malt which has been bottled by the ever reliable Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Aged for 9 years in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel, it has been bottled at 61.8% abv and retailed at around £50, exclusive to society members.
*Full Disclosure: I am part of an affiliate programme with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. As such, I can be paid commission should any of my readers choose to become members. That said, I will always strive to give a fair and balanced review. This sample was issued as a free gift with an online order I made in the run up to Christmas.
Smell: Fruity and Floral nose, with Green Fruits, Pepper, Vanilla, Heather Honey, Malt, Coconut, Chocolate Orange and Bourbon.
Taste: Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Pepper, Biscuit, Dark Chocolate, Orange and Oak.
Value for Money: Sold at time of release for £53, a price which it manages to live up to.
Official Tomatin bottlings are of a decent standard, but early entries to the range are occasionally let down a wee bit by lower bottling strengths. Here however, the quality of the spirit combines well with a first fill bourbon barrel, and really shines at its full cask strength. Shows the level of quality I’ve come to expect from the SMWS.
For more on Tomatin, click here.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a unique members only whisky club which releases an array of new single cask bottlings each month. Members not only gain access to this monthly out turn, but also to the purpose built members rooms in Society venues in Edinburgh and London.
For more information on joining the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, click here.