Tomato or Tomatin who knows what its called but the distillery is a large and industrial building near Inverness in Scotland. I have visited the distillery shop once while holidaying in Aviemore a few years back but there wasn’t enough time for a tour.

Part of the coach holiday circuit the tours were packed out all through the day while large groups crawling around the usual production areas led by a guide who would be answering questions. I tend to avoid these kind of massive groups anyway because there is little chance of seeing much, asking much or indeed hearing much. The drive up to the distillery was nice though and the visitor centre had a range of bottle your own bottles rather than the usual single cask. If I am back up there during the off season I might go back for a tour but until then I am happy to wait this one out.

The Distillery

The Tomatin distillery sits right on the border between the Highlands and the Speyside region.

As with so many scotch whisky distilleries there is evidence of illegal distillation on the site for centuries. The name Tomatin translates as “Hill of the Juniper Bush”. This is significant because Juniper wood does not produce smoke when it is burned. Something of a requirement if you want to distill spirit outside and not get caught by the excise men.

The legal distillery dates from 1897 and the location had a lot of advantages. From the new railway to the plentiful supply of water. In fact, the only thing that was not plentiful was a skilled workforce close at hand. To solve this problem the distillery was built with enough housing to accommodate the whole workforce so it could be relocated and close at hand. An interesting fact about the distillery today is that 80% of the current payroll still live in site in those original houses.

Tomatin through the 1950’s to 1970’s gained a good reputation with the blenders and increased capacity to an eventual 5 sets of stills to meet demand. They also had their own range of single malts something very unusual at the time. The below video shared from the Tomatin distillery YouTube page is a PR movie made in 1958. It is really interesting to see the whisky production technique from back then and how that compares to some very modern distilleries today.

With the global downturn for blended whisky in the 1980’s the Tomatin distillery was wound down and closed. The size of the operation meant the overheads were too high to sustain when blenders did not want to buy any stock. In 1986 the distillery was reopened by  Takara Shuzo who were previously the largest single customer of Tomatin distillery. This marked the first time a scotch whisky distillery would be owned outright by a Japanese company. Something that is very common today for better or worse.

The Dram

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Bottled at 51% this is the 4th batch of Tomatin from Boutique-y. There doesn’t appear to be any bottles left but Master of Malt who own the Boutique-y brand do have a Tomatin exclusive in official Tomatin branding at 11 years old aswell.

Tomatin 11 Year Old 2008 (cask 79) (Master of Malt)

This 2008 vintage is in a full size bottle and £66 which makes it better value than most of the similar styles of bottles we have been talking about this week. The notes on that are honey’d and sound rather decent indeed. So while this one isn’t available perhaps when reading this 2008 vintage will be.

Tasting Notes

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Colour – pale yellow

Nose – toffee clove and peppercorns with some cardamon spice making this almost curried spicy. The heat is tempered though with a lactic milk note

Palate – very nice texture is the first thing to notice. There is the usual suspects of cinnamon and vanilla initially. More of that dairy lactic note as well running from the nose.

Finish – The long finish is full of spice and sweet wood sap. There is a lot of wood interaction and a drying bitter wood note.

Final Thoughts

I thought this was a pretty decent dram with a good amount of active maturation going on. I would guess its a refill ex-bourbon barrel but with it not being on the Master of Malt website anymore I didn’t have any details to pass on.

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