Whisky Advent Day 20 – Tomatin Cask Strength

The Tomatin distillery sits high in the Highlands of Scotland in the town of the same name. This is no coincidence, the distillery owns the town, and the distillery manager is it’s Mayor! Tomatin is located south of Inverness on a site that was a stopping point for cattle drovers from the north taking their herds to markets in the south. Local lore has it that whisky has been made on the site since the 1400s, with cattlemen stopping to fill their flasks before continuing their arduous journey. Curiously, the distillery’s name translates to “hill of the juniper bush” which may be a clue to the site’s felonius past. Juniper wood was a popular fuel source with illicit distillers as it gives off no smoke!

The distillery was built in 1897 in a seemingly isolated spot 1000ft above sea level on the edge of the Monadhliath Mountains. But Tomatin also sits along the rail line connecting Perth with Inverness, and its founders decided to open the Tomatin Spey District Distillery to capitalize on the Victorian Whisky Boom. As I eluded to last night, the timing was poor with the Pattison Whisky Crash bringing the entire Scotch Whisky industry to its knees. Tomatin closed in 1906 with its owners filing for bankruptcy. But where there is crisis there is often opportunity and new owners brought the distillery back on stream just a few years later and it plodded along until 1956 when the stirrings of new whisky boom prompted the owners to double its capacity.

In 1974 the distillery saw even bigger changes, its production was increased 6 fold further as the demand for Blended Scotch Whisky surged globally. It now had 12 wash and 11 spirit stills, and a capacity of at least 12 million liters, bigger than any current distillery (although that is set to change). The distillery was one of the industry’s most important at the time, and one of the few to bottle their own make as a single malt. But the plans were again overly ambitious, as a producer of bulk malt whisky, the industry’s collapse in the 1980s forced the distillery into liquidation in just a few years. A classic case of the bigger they are, they harder they fall.

Tomatin’s largest market was Japan, and this put Japan’s largest drinks producer Takara Shuzo Ltd. into a tight spot. They banded together with another firm and bought the distillery in 1986, making it the first Japanese owned Scottish distillery. Although Tomatin was still integral to blends like The Antiquarry, which Takara Shuzo also acquired, the focus began to shift to single malts. This change in tact picked up an enormous amount of steam over the last decade. Five years ago Tomatin was unheard of in Canada, it is now an established and trending brand. The distillery has a deep core range including unpeated and peated offerings, the latter bottled under the Cu Bocan label.

Tomatin Cask Strength – 57.5% – Matured in Ex-Bourbon & Ex Sherry – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: leather, Christmas cake, chocolate, warm ginger snaps from the oven and citrus airfreshner; nutty, molten brown sugar, candied fruits and mixed Christmas nuts. Palate: big, rich and spicy, massively sherried; huge, brooding and drying nutty Oloroso sherry notes; firm leather, wet muddy leaf litter, more candied fruits in medium dark chocolate and tingling spices: cinnamon hearts, candied ginger and some clove just pulled out of honey baked ham. Finish: long, leathery and very sherried; drying and nutty with fading Oloroso sherry, chocolate and spice. Comment: bang for buck, if you want a lot of sherry and a high abv at a low price… this is your malt! - $73

Order a Tomatin Cask Strength! $73 – More bottles coming next week!


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