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, whom 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.