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The Speyside with the Peaty Tang
The outbreak of World War II brought much of Scotland’s distilling industry to a halt. As barley restrictions were put in place and buildings commandeered by the armed forces, Scotland’s famous pot stills fell silent. Peace would eventually return in 1945 of course, but it took several more years before barley stocks returned to a level that would allow distilling to resume. The authorities were eager to give the go ahead though, viewing whisky as an exportable product that would inject some much needed income to the struggling economy. With this government support, the touch paper was well and truly lit and closed distilleries all over the country sparked back into life. By the beginning of the 1960s new distilleries were being commissioned for the first time since the turn of the century; among them Tamnavulin, Loch Lomond, Deanston and Tomintoul.
The result of a partnership between Glasgow based whisky brokers Hey & MacLeod and W. & S. Strong, Tomintoul was founded in 1964. By the late 1980s, however, it had been taken over by the world renowned Whyte & MacKay who viewed the liquid as a key component in their blends. They later sold to Angus Dundee Distillers in 2000, though the spirit is believed to retain its place in many a Whyte & MacKay recipe today.
In 2009, Tomintoul entered the Guinness Book of Records after two local businessmen commissioned the creation of the largest bottle of single malt whisky ever produced. The project was intended to bolster tourism to the area but the bottle spent much of its time residing 125 miles away at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh before finally being bought back by Angus Dundee in 2019. This world record bottle is thankfully now on display at its place of birth, as it should be.
Earlier this year, Angus Dundee master distiller Robert Fleming celebrated his 30th anniversary at Tomintoul. Hailing from a family of Speyside whisky makers going back four generations, Fleming joined the industry in 1974, earning his stripes at various distilleries before joining Tomintoul in 1990. In the years since, he has played a key role in the creation of the distillery’s first ever range of single malt bottlings and worked with the new owners in 2000 to trial the use of peated barley in the production process for the very first time. This project culminated in the release of “Old Ballantruan” a heavily peated variant of the Tomintoul malt, later followed in 2008 by the “Peaty Tang” bottlings.
At 40% abv, Tomintoul “Peaty Tang” retails at approximately £30 a bottle.
Smell: Pleasantly malty with toffee and vanilla, heather honey and an undercurrent of floral peat smoke. Also apple and pear and freshly cut grass.
Taste: Smoke and ash straight off the bat but fades to toffee and salted caramel. Apple juice and malty biscuit before smoke returns for the finish bringing with it a touch of dry oak.
Thoughts: A reasonably priced every day sipper but possibly lacks a little bit of weight and complexity. Nice to see that lighter Speyside character with a touch of smoke behind it, though.
By no means one of the better known Speyside malts, Tomintoul nevertheless appears in a fairly extensive range of bottlings, with impressive diversity in the lineup. Peaty Tang certainly seems one of the more appealing, at least to me, as it offers something a little different than we have perhaps come to expect from “Speyside-Glenlivet” drams. As always I’d love to see it bottled at higher strength but the low abv is likely reflected in the very affordable price.
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