Tomatin Whisky Experience

Oak Barrels of the Tomatin Whisky Distillery

Tomatin Whisky Experience

Established in 1897, in spite of its tumultuous history, Tomatin Whisky has been producing Scotch within the Highlands tradition, thet gives its spirit the exemplary quality that consumers expect. It was once the largest malt distillery in Scotland, with an initial business model of primarily selling its whisky to renowned third parties, like Johnnie Walker, to blend and resell, Tomatin has been branching out to sell under their own brand.

In this article, we’re going to look at the background of the Tomatin distillery and tell you all about the range of products the brand’s currently offer.


Sipping this article:

  1. The Tomatin Distillery
    1. The History of Tomatin Distillery
    2. The Importance of Tomatin Village in the brand’s production
  2. A Few Drams of The Tomatin Whisky Range
    1. Tomatin Cù Bòcan
    2. Tomatin Five Virtues
    3. Tomatin 14 Years
Inverness Forest, hometown of Tomatin Whisky Distillery
Inverness Forest, hometown of Tomatin Whisky Distillery


The Tomatin Distillery

Located in the Tomatin village in Scotland, the Tomatin distillery offers single malt Scotch whisky since 1897. The Tomatin whisky is classified as being from the Highlands, being one of Scotland’s largest whisky regions. The highlands whisky offers an array of different styles with rich and textured fragrantly floral flavours due to its rich landscape and products. In the Highlands, you will find the most famous Scottish whiskies such as Glenmorangie, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, GlenDronach, and others.

In 1984, the distillery was forced into liquidation, which allowed the Japanese conglomerate, Takara Shuzo to purchase the company and bring it to its success. This allowed for the first Japanese owned Scottish distillery; bringing the two worlds closer than ever before. The Japanese interest in the whisky world was already strong and sturdy as the exports were increasing year by year.

Currently, 80% of its production is of blended whisky however, the distillery has been reinforcing its core business to the production of single malts as it has expanded its entire core range accordingly. Some limited editions are often developed by the Tomatin distillery such as its 32-year, 40-years and single cask ranges. One of its unique offers is the Cù Bòcan whisky which is a light single malt produced for a week, once a year at the distillery.


The History of Tomatin Whisky Distillery

Tomatin’s association with the production of Scotch whisky has moved through many phases, evolving from legends about illicit stills to formal companies to its growth as the biggest distillery in Scotland to acquisition by an international company and finally to a renaissance.


The Tales

The earliest suggestions of dates for the establishment and operation of whisky distilleries in Tomatin look all the way back into the 1500s. The region was known for cattle, and the men who worked with the animals, legends say, would carry whisky on the job, which they’d source from the village.

Further stories suggest that by the 18th century, underground whisky production was a significant industry for Tomatin. The Old Laird’s House is suggested as being the place where the cattle drivers would purchase their Scotch for their hard days of work.


The Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd

The first distillery that can definitely be confirmed to have existed opened in 1897 in the form of the Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd. The company was founded by John MacLeish, John MacDougall, and Alexander Allan with the financial support of a group of investors.

It is unclear whether the local legends were an inspiration for the chosen location or whether the distillery’s success amplified these legends – perhaps both – but the site was nonetheless a logical decision, with a reliable source of water, access to the rail network, and proximity to Inverness without being urban.

The company did not survive long, going bankrupt only nine years later, in 1906. New owners bought out the assets and reopened it in 1909, after which it steadily built up its production, with the reputation following.

Starting in 1956, the Tomatin distillery began a gradual process of scaling up, reaching considerable milestones every couple of years. By 1974, the distillery consisted of 23 stills, giving Tomatin the honor of being the biggest distillery in all of Scotland.

During this time, the bulk of whisky produced by Tomatin was sold to third party companies to use in their own products. Far from being a cheap white label product, the distillery’s customers included such renowned brands as Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker, and J&B.

Inside the Tomatin Whisky Distillery
Inside the Tomatin Whisky Distillery


Tomatin Distillery Company Ltd

Following the loss of demand for blended whiskies, the distillery went into liquidation once again in 1984. Following two years of negotiations, the company was bought by one of its former clients, Takara Shuzo, a division of Takara Holdings, based in Kyoto, Japan.

Resurrected as Tomatin Distillery Company Ltd, the new leadership revitalized the old distillery, notably increasing focus on single malt whiskies rather than almost exclusively blended ones, which had been the distillery’s business model regardless of whether the blends were their own or third party.

Tomatin is currently thriving, with a sizable range of single malts and an embrace of the history, whether it be real or legend, of the whisky industry of the area. The site has a visitor center and even offer tours where guests can learn about the production of Scotch whisky and the legacy behind Tomatin.


The Importance of Tomatin Village in the Brand’s Production

Tomatin, the home of the famous distillery, is a village in Scotland. Located in the area of Inverness and about 16 miles away from the core city of the same name, Tomatin distillery is nestled firmly in the Scottish Highlands, an essential part of its role in producing Highland Scotch whisky.

The Highlands are the largest whisky producing area in Scotland, and there is produced a very wide variety of the drink. Generally speaking, however, Highland whiskies tend to be medium bodied, with further characteristics depending on their sub-region.

The name Tomatin is derived from a Gaelic phrase meaning “Hill of the Juniper Bush.” The significance of this name carries over to the distillation process, where juniper wood would burn without giving off smoke, thus making it perfect for covert distillers who wanted to operate without attracting the attention of government officials.

Today, the village of Tomatin continues as a small settlement, with a census in 2001 recording only 183 residents. With a largely agricultural local focus, a lot of residents not employed in this industry or with the distillery treat Inverness as their non-residential base, making Tomatin function somewhat as a commuter village to the much larger city.

Inverness, the town where the Tomatin Village is
Inverness, the town where the Tomatin Village is.


A Few Drams of Tomatin Whisky Range

The products offered by Tomatin are split between the core range, perennial whiskies with wide availability, and their limited editions, which are only available for a short amount of time. Let’s look at some of them.


Tomatin Cù Bòcan

Bottle of Tomatin Cù Bòcan The legend of a spectral dog named Cù Bòcan is quite famous in the Highlands region. Legend has it the Cù Bòcan was seen by a distillery worker after it ran away. The worker felt the need to touch the dog’s fur and as soon as he reached his hand, the dog disappeared into fin air as a ghostly smoke.

Nowadays, the Tomatin Distillery makes a peated whisky for a week, every year. This unique and ghostly edition is matured in a mix of virgin oak, bourbon and sherry casks offering a unique blend of notes, fragrances and tastes to this whisky.

You will feel a blend of citrus smells leading to a fresh and floral bloom. Once you have a sip of Cù Bòcan, the flavour of smoke will come through slowly with a nutty and chilly soft taste.

Be sure to try it before it disappears again.



Tomatin 5 Virtues Edition

The Five Virtues series was released to pay homage to the five elements that synergize to make Tomatin whisky. These are the bounty of the mountain springs, representing water, the local barley, representing earth, the copper stills, representing metal, the oak casks, representing wood, and the fire that drives the distillation process.

The Wood Edition uses oak from America, France and Hungary, flavoring the product with citrus, vanilla and brown sugar for a balanced taste.

The Fire Edition uses heavily charred casks and has a sweet and spicy aura, evoking cinnamon-dusted apple pie and a nose of citrus and butterscotch.

The Earth Edition breaks with Tomatin tradition to introduce a product made from peated malt with a salty smokiness in its taste. Heather, vanilla, and black fruits will manifest when you take in the aroma.

The Metal Edition, soft, light and sweet, is the most representative of Tomatin whiskies of the past. The aroma of chocolate, macadamia and vanilla works alongside the citrus notes for a classic Tomatin finish.

The Water Edition takes a mature approach, emitting a sweet aroma of chocolate honeycomb and fruits. The taste of marmalade, marzipan and toffee end with a warming finish.

Tomatin Whisky 5 Virtues Range

Tomatin Single Malt Scotch Whisky 14 Years

Tomatin 14 Year Old

Introduced in 2014, the Tomatin 14 Year Old is a special selection from the Tomatin Distillery. It has all the special characteristics of a Highland Single Malt, which was matured in a bourbon barrel with specially selected Port Casks. This offers a unique wine-like sweetness to the whisky elevating this selection to its highest notes and taste.

The first impression you will have with the Tomatin 14 Year Old is a powerful smell of red berries, grapes, vanilla, oak and a soft touch of white pepper. On the first sip, hints of dark chocolate with strawberry will emerge in your palate. Following this, crushed almonds, walnuts and jam notes with oak will leave a soft and fruity taste.



Whether you count Tomatin whisky as beginning in 1897 with the creation of the Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd or centuries before that with legends of cattle drivers purchasing Scotch from illicit distillers, we’ve learned how the village ties into the tradition of Highland region whisky and explored the development of its whisky industry during the 20th century.

We’ve learned about the products that the now Japanese-owned company offers and looked at single exemplars from both their esteemed core range and their coveted limited editions as a taster to the company’s varied offerings, always open to new connoisseurs.

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