Tomatin Distillery: A Most Human Whisky
At first glance, Tomatin seems alienating. Nestled in the Monadhliath Mountains just south of Inverness, the snowy, seemingly barren ranges and moors seem distant, inhospitable and even inhuman.
Beware! Appearances are misleading. Tomatin is a place of much warmth, beauty and human history. Most of all, Tomatin is a story of surviving with much heart. Let’s tell the story from the beginning. It starts with illicit distilling.
It is surprising to know this, but the story starts with gin. Tomatin means ‘juniper hill’ the main ingredient in gin and was associated with illicit gin stills, defying the writ of the British government due to the place’s rugged remoteness.
A fascinating fact about juniper is that if you burn the plant, it produces no smoke, meaning the excise officer could not spot an isolated still. Whisky came with the railways.
In 1892, an enterprising local, John MacDougall discovered that the final route of the Highland Railway would pass through Tomatin, making it easily accessible to Inverness.
He believed that he could make exceptionally good whisky, and Tomatin does for several interesting reasons.
A Distillery, Literally, Above All Others
The first aspect that makes Tomatin unique is its location. Situated 315 meters above sea level, it holds the title of the highest distillery in Scotland.
This altitude plays a significant role in the whisky’s flavour, as the cooler temperatures and pure, crisp mountain water contribute to a delicate and nuanced spirit.
The water is indeed remarkable for a very specific reason.
Not All Water is Good for Whisky
Mountain streams are not usually good for whisky because they contain too much mineral content.
Tomatin uses water sourced from the Allt na Frithe, a nearby mountain stream. The water runs through granite, moor and peat and the minerals are filtered out.
This gives the distillery water perfect for whisky production.
Tomatin has the longest fermentation period in the world – an astounding 168 hours or one week. This gives the distillery a really fresh, tropical and fruity spirit.
Altitude, water and fermentation would be enough to distinguish Tomatin from other distilleries, but Tomatin is all about the human.
Children Living in a Distillery
Tomatin is not just a distillery, it’s a village – a small family village: the distillery contains 30 houses rented to workers. Workers in the distillery say that their job is not just a job but a lifestyle.
Driving into the distillery, don’t be surprised if you see children on the way to school.
It’s common to find successive generations of families working in the distillery.
Graham Eunson, the warm and unassuming Distillery Operations Director and Master Distiller, created the popular Legacy brand by asking members of staff to vote for it.
In the 1980s, Tomatin was bought up by a Japanese company. This is not what is unusual.
The Japanese owners were so enchanted by the unique characteristics of this distinctly Scottish brand that they decided to run it in a hands-off manner, trusting in the devotion of its staff and management to see it through any difficulty, and the distillery has indeed overcome many difficulties.
It’s remarkable to know that in the 1970s, Tomatin was the biggest distiller in Scotland, providing blenders with their whisky.
Since the 1990s, this has changed, and Tomatin retains its whiskies for its own unique blends and has made great strides into the single malt market. Their single malts are increasingly popular around the world.
From Viking to Master Distiller
Graham Euson, the Master Distiller, has remarkable ancestry. He is a direct descendant of the founder of Highland Park, Magnus Eunson, a man of direct Viking descent.
Despite the many innovations and new recipes that Graham has introduced to Tomatin, Graham sees himself simply as a custodian of the remarkable whiskies of Tomatin.
Despite his modest and self-effacing manner, the excellence of a whisky is determined by both the traditions of the past and the energy and dedication of the present.
We present here some of the core range of Tomatin.
For the Young
Legacy is a no-age-statement whisky created for a younger demographic. You could describe it as a bourbon style whisky. It is light, sweet and easy to drink with flavours of toffee, caramel and rich fruit.
Charmingly, Graham, originally, created two flavours for Legacy and then carried out a blind test with the staff of the distillery choosing the final recipe.
For the Dangerous
The well-balanced Tomatin 12 Year Old is one of the distilleries best sellers. It is aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. It has flavours of fruitcake and spiciness and is dangerously easy to drink.
For the Rich
Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Wood Finish is one of the deeper and richer whiskies of Tomatin’s large range.
It’s been aged in ex-tawny casks which is a less sweet port than ruby port but nuttier. It has flavours of chocolate, fruit and berries.
Desiring to Please You
We have a very large range of Tomatin delightful whiskies. As you’ll see, Tomatin is one of the distilleries that caters to every taste, from the beginner to the connoisseur.
It’s a pleasant thing to know that in the isolated mountain ranges of Scotland there exists a company that deeply desires to please you.
Visit them here.