Tomintoul Distillery is tucked away in the Speyside region of Scotland, between the Cromdale Hills and the River Avon, within the Glenlivet estate. The natural environment, fresh air and pure water add to the uniquely smooth and mellow character of our award-winning Single Malt Whisky, known as “the gentle dram”.
If you want to impress your friends, the proper way to pronounce Tomintoul is “Tom-in-TOWEL”. In Scottish Gaelic this means “hill of the barn”.
Nature at its Best
Tomintoul is within the whisky producing region of Speyside, famous for making great tasting whiskies.
The area surrounding Tomintoul is of astounding natural beauty, with an array of flora and fauna specific to the region. Many of Scotland’s most endangered species are protected in the wilderness here. These include the golden eagle, mountain hare, wild cat, black grouse, crossbill, dotterel, ptarmigan, crested tit, pine marten, red squirrel, water vole and otter.
Many pheasants live around the distillery and will come to visit us when the grain trucks arrive for a free dinner. One particular fellow, who we’ve named Vincent, has become a bit of a distillery mascot, and can be fed by hand.
Tomintoul is within the gateway to the Cairngorm National Park, in the 23,000 hectare (230 square kilometres) Glenlivet estate.
The local village of Tomintoul was built in 1776 by the 4th Duke of Gordon and is the highest village in the Highlands of Scotland. As the area is so high, snow in the winter can often last quite late into the spring. However, it’s one of the driest areas in Scotland, as the Cairngorm Mountains intercept much of the rain.
There are a number of quarries in the Glenlivet estate that are no longer in use. The area holds different types of rock, including quartz and red sandstone formed as far back as 740 million years ago.
The estate of Glenlivet has been part of The Crown Estate since the 1930s, owned by the Queen of the United Kingdom. Since 1760, surplus revenue, after management expenses, from The Estate, has been surrendered to The Exchequer each year. For 600 years, The Glenlivet Estate was owned the Dukes of Gordon and Richmond. It was the 4th Duke of Gordon who planned and built the local village of Tomintoul in the 1770s.
The local minister of Tomintoul in 1797 wrote that “Tomintoul is inhabited by 37 families, without any industry. All of them sell whisky and all of them drink it. When disengaged from this business, the women spin yarn, kiss their inamoratos or dance to the discordant sounds of an old fiddle”.
The Battle of Glenlivet was fought on 3 October 1594, as a religious conflict between Catholic and Protestants forces, in response to a 1593 decree, ordering all Catholics to give up their faith or leave the country. George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly, and Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, led a Catholic force of 2000 local Highlanders from Clan Gordon, Clan Hay, Clan Comyn, Clan Cameron and Clan Cumming. They won victory over the 10,000 Protestant force led by Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll, consisting of Highlanders from Clan Campbell, Clan Murray, Clan Stewart, Clan Forbes, Clan Macgillivray, Clan Maclean, Clan Grant, and the Chattan Confederation of Clan Mackintosh. Their victory was said to be down to their use of artillery and horse over irregular infantry.
As the hills in this region of Scotland that surrounds Tomintoul are so secluded, they were the perfect place for illicit distilling. This was the small-scale illegal distillation and smuggling of whisky which was not declared to avoid tax. By 1820, as many as 14,000 illegal stills were confiscated each year. The Excise Act was introduced in 1823 so that whisky could be distilled under a licence, which allowed an acceptable profit to be made legally.
Whisky Producing Regions (Map)
If you were to draw an imaginary line from Greenock in the west to Dundee in the east, the Lowland region continues down from this line to the border with England. Whiskies from the Lowland region are known for being light and grassy. There are only a handful of distilleries that remain in the lowlands region today.
Speyside is a small area of the Highlands famous for making good whisky, which is highly concentrated with distilleries - it is here that Tomintoul is located. The superb quality of pure spring water which falls through the hills, the crisp fresh air, and the unspoilt countryside define the region.
Islay is an island just off the west coast of Scotland. Surrounded by the sea, the distilleries on this island have traditionally relied on peat to malt their barley, and as a result their whiskies are very smoky and medicinal. They also gain salty, seaweedy characteristics from the damp sea air. We use peated barley to make Tomintoul Peaty Tang, which, with its deep smoky flavour, is pretty unusual for a Speyside malt whisky.
The Highlands is the largest region of Scotland and whiskies from this region can vary in flavour, from light and flora to nutty and rich. Highland whiskies are usually known for being quite complex.
Campbeltown used to have 21 distilleries but now just has three, which produce salty, smoky, dry whiskies.
Island distilleries are usually influenced by their coastal location, with hints of the sea, and light, peaty, smoky notes.
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