Tomintoul (Pronounced: Toh-min-towel)
Glenlivet, Balmenach, Braeval, Tamnavulin
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills (steam heated)
3,300,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Angus Dundee Distillers Plc. (since 2000)
Ballindalloch, Banffshire AB37 9AQ, Scotland, UK
No - but visits are possible by appointment
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2000 - JBB Greater Europe (Whyte & Mackay) sells the Tomintoul distillery to Angus Dundee Distillers plc.
2003 - A 16 years old official bottling is released; an expansion of the range besides the 10yo, 12yo & 14yo.
2005 - The first version of 'Ballantruan' whisky (a young, more heavily peated variety of Tomintoul) is released.
One unusual aspect of the launch is that some independent bottlings were available a while before the first OB.
2009 - A 14 years old official bottling of Tomintoul is re-released (a 14yo OB was also available around 2000).
1) Tomintoul is one of the few Speyside whiskies to produce a more heavily peated malt whisky. The standard production process is replaced for two weeks every year with a process to make a whisky with a peatier character. This variation of the Tomintoul malt whisky is usually referred to as 'Ballantruan'.
2) The Tomintoul distillery lies in the heart of the Speyside Glenlivet region. Glenlivet and Balmenach were both built in the year 1824 . For a century and a half no other distilleries were built in the immediate vicinity. However, within a decade three new distilleries were constructed here; Braeval (1974), Tamnavulin (1966) and Tomintoul (1965).
3) The village of Tomintoul is said to be the highest village in the Highlands; it is located at almost 1200 feet (350 meters) above sea level. Tomintoul is not the 'highest' distillery in Scotland though; that's Dalwhinnie.
4) Tomintoul used to have a storage capacity of circa 75,000 casks in four racked warehouses, but in September 2007 two additional warehouses were completed, adding room for another 36,000 casks.
5) The tag line for Tomintoul is 'The gentle dram'.
Tomintoul 12yo Portwood Finish 'Limited Edition' (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Polished and sherried, although it starts fairly restrained. Opens up a little over time. Whiff of smoke?
Taste: Starts with a big fruity explosion. Woodier in the warm centre. Some tannins in the finish. Standard.
Score: 76 points - a smidgen above average, but it doesn't have as much depth as other malts in this style.
Tomintoul 1976/2007 (40%, OB)
Nose: Big, fruity and complex. Obviously a malt whisky with style and substance.
Lots of subtle organics. Christmas fruit pies. The development continues over time. Beautiful.
Taste: Gentle, smooth and sweet - brilliant balance. Strong tannins, mixed perfectly with the fruity notes.
Some smoke as well. Close to perfection. Touch of smoke or peat emerging after a few minutes. Very nice.
Score: 89 points - although not all of the other malt maniacs were quite as enthusiastic as I was...
Tomintoul 40yo 1966/2006 (45.2%, The Whisky Fair, 139 Bottles)
Nose: Aaah! A clear smell from my childhood I can't identify... Sweet and very fruity.
Hubba Bubba chewing gum? Definitely fruity candy. Raspberries? Here's a malt that 'shakes its tailfeather'.
A BEAUTIFUL nose that keeps surprising. Over time it grows more serious with whiffs of something farmy.
Hint of mint? The development never ends. Amazing vivacity. Definitely 90's material.
I didn't dare to add water because it might break up the blossoming of this malt.
Taste: Hmmmm. Fairly weak in the start after the last two 'overproofs'. It picks up after a few seconds.
Sweet fruits again. Fairly short finish, but surprisingly fresh for such an old whisky.
Not as great as the nose, but very good mouth feel for a 40yo.
Score: 91 points - which is an average of a nasal score in the upper 90's (!!!) and a palate around 83 points.
A bit like some of Wack Wiebers' bottlings. Those lucky enough to own a bottle should just sniff it...
Tomintoul 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Malty and grainy. A little sharp but not very outspoken. A good, MOTR malt but no more.
Revision: This time I also got a faint hint of oil in the nose. Once again the sharpness struck me.
Taste: Sweet and malty, a bit harsher in the centre. Hint of smoke, perhaps? Very drinkable but plain.
My second tasting confirmed my initial feelings; a good malt but not special enough for a score in the 80's.
Score: 75 points - I can't find anything really remarkable here. No flaws but little distinctive elements either.
Tomintoul 16yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Aaaaah. Lovely sweetness like an old dark rhum. Then lots of rubber. Vegetable stock. A finished whisky?
Revision: Once again the nose impressed me quite a bit at first. Sweet with something 'veggy'. Interesting.
Taste: Yuck!!! I really didn't want to try more than a few sips from this one. Could it be a 'bad tongue day'?
Revision: It's not nearly as bad on the palate as I first though - almost 'recommendable', in fact.
Score: 77 points - once again the nose is nice enough; it loses it on the palate. I'm off course today it seems.
Tomintoul 27yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Very fruity; dried apples. Mildly sherried, it seems. Not terribly complex but lovable.
Revision: Malty and fruity in the nose again. Lovable. Light hearted.
Taste: Sweet and, again, very fruity. Lovely mouth feel with just the right amount of tannins for me.
Revision: Very enjoyable on the palate too - even more so than during my first try.
Score: 83 points - but it might have gone even higher with a little more power on the palate. Very nice.
Tomintoul 38yo 1967/2005 (49,2%, Adelphi, C#4485)
Nose: Soft and slightly oily. Nutty too. Over time some citrus emerges. In this case the palate works better.
Taste: Malty & nutty on the palate as well. Peanuts and chocolate? Toffee? Hint of liquorice perhaps?
Then loads of wood... Softens up over time. Should it be in the 80's? Very nice but just a tad bland.
It did MUCH better during round two when I gave it enough time. The fruits on the palate work beautifully!
Score: 87 points - most definitely a candidate for a silver medal at the MM Awards 2006.
Tomintoul 'Ballantruan' 2001/2005 (62.1%, MacKillop's Choice, Dst. 17/12/2001, Btl. June 2005, Cask #14339)
Nose: This was very grainy; hardly a surprise at such a tender age. Peat. Werthers Echte. Organics.
Unfortunately, some 'grappa' notes emerge as well.
Taste: The nose isn't bad at all, but it was too immature and grappa-ish on the palate.
It tastes very young and unrefined but also has some surprisingly mature complexity in the nose.
Score: 65 points - not to shabby considering its tender age...
Tomintoul 38yo 1967/2005 (49.2%, Adelphi, Cask #4485, 196 bottles)
Nose: Sweet and fruity in the nose. Subtle with gradual development towards organics and rubber.
The profile becomes quite unique after fifteen minutes and matches some cheeses perfectly.
Taste: I might have gone for a score in the 90's based on the nose alone but on the palate it didn't match up.
It almost seemed more like a fruit spirit than a malt whisky. Very nice, but not quite up to the 90's standards.
Score: 89 points - further proof that I may need to increase my 'still score' for Tomintoul to four stars.
Tomintoul 37yo 1966/2003 Rum Finish (52.8%, DL Platinum, 201 Bottles)
Nose: Whaat? Is this Tomintoul? But I get peat! Lots and lots of it, in fact - and very good peat too.
Organics as well - reminding me of some OMC Ardbegs distilled in the early 70's. Horse stable. Ammoniak.
Leather. Still, there's a lighthearted undercurrent. This is simply flabbergasting!
I can hardly believe this isn't an Islay malt. Was this really 'just' a Tomintoul?
Taste: Plenty of peat on the palate as well. Liquorice. Smoke. Just lovely.
Brilliant mouth feel. Smooth, yet powerful. I can't detect the rum finish here.
Score: 92 points - quite amazing; could 'peated' Tomintoul be the Brora of Speyside?
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Tomintoul Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Tomintoul page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Tomintoul expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
The distillery is located in the 'Strath Avon', the valley of the river Avon.
Like the eskimo's have many different words for snow, the Scots apparently
have many words for valley - and they usually use the word 'Glen'. So, the
name of the area might have been 'Glen Avon' just as well. In fact, that's
the name for a range of 'bastard' malts from Italy, imported by Sestante.
The region is called 'Avonside' on the labels of those bottles, by the way...
distillery has always been focused on producing malt whisky
for various blends, but in recent years it has become more widely available
as a single malt - both as official and independent bottlings. Based on my
own impressions, the quality of the whisky that's produced at Tomintoul is
a few notches above that of most other malt whiskies aimed at blenders.
The Tomintoul distillery is one of the more recent additions
to Scotland's brigade of malt whisky
distilleries. In fact, Tomintoul is one of only fifteen (operational) distilleries that were built in the
second half of the 20th century - the others being Allt-A-Bhainne (built in 1975), Arran (1993),
Auchroisk (1974), Braeval (1974), Deanston (1966), Glenallachie (1967), Glenturret (1959),
Isle of Jura (1963), Loch Lomond (1966), Macduff (1962), Mannochmore (1972), Speyside (1990),
Tamnavulin (1966) and Tormore (1960). Tomintoul may not be among the top scoring malts on
the Malt Maniacs Matrix, but looking at its contemporaries it performs quite well...
Tomintoul was founded as recently as 1964 by two whisky traders from Glasgow,
W. & S. Strong & Co. and Hay & HacLeod & Co. They managed Tomintoul through
a company named Tomintoul Distillery Ltd. Production at Tomintoul started in July
1965 and continued under the first owners for almost a decade. In 1973 the
Scottish & Universal Investment Trust (a company owned by the Fraser family)
bought the Tomintoul and Old Fettercairn distilleries, followed not much later by
blenders Whyte & Mackay. Both of the distilleries were transferred to the new
owners, who released the first ever single malt bottling of Tomintoul one year
later. In 1974 the number of stills was expanded from two to four, all heated
by steam. The Scottish & Universal Investment Trust was acquired in 1978
by the fairly shady investment company Lonrho. They sold on W&M in 1989.
In 1990 the generically monikered 'American Brands' conglomerate obtained Whyte & Mackay.
I'm not entirely sure if the new owners released the remarkable 'perfume bottle' of Tomintoul 12yo
(shown above), or if that unconventional design sprung from the alcohol soaked brains of one of the
previous owners. Whoever came up with this 'jugendstilish' design, it stayed in production until well
into the 1990's - until the early noughties I've bought several 700cl and 1000cl bottles in stores in
Holland, Germany and Italy.
Whyte & Mackay changed their name to the far less traditional 'JBB (Greater Europe)' in 1996.
JBB was bought by Kyndal International Ltd. a few years later in 2001, who decided to change their
name to... Whyte & Mackay Ltd. shortly afterwards. It's enough to make your head spin, isn't it?
And then, in 2007, Whyte & Mackay was bought by the tycoon Vijay Mallya from India. When I write
this update (Spring 2009), it seems that Mallya may have bitten off a little more than he could chew...
However, by that time the Tomintoul distillery was already passed on to a new ownership; in 2000 Angus Dundee Ltd. obtained the distillery. Their first new release was a ten years old expression in a new packaging in 2002. A 16yo followed in 2003, a 27yo in 2004 and the young, peaty 'Old Ballantruan' in 2005. This oddity in the Tomintoul portfolio was distilled in 1991 and bottled at 50%. The same year at least two independent bottlers released their own peated Ballantruan bottlings; MacKillop's Choice and Jack Wiebers Cross Hill. Around the year 2008 three new versions were released; a 12 years old Oloroso Finish, a 'Peaty Tang' (a vatting of peated and unpeated Tomintoul) and a 1976 vintage.
As far as the technical equipment is concerned, Tomintoul uses two wash stills and two spirit stills - all of them heated via steam. There are eight stainless steel washbacks, four large ones
and four smaller ones. As for the large amounts of water that are required for the production process of malt whisky, the 'process water' comes from the Ballantruan source while the cooling water is obtained from two small
lakes in the Cromdale Hills.
In 2008 Tomintoul operated seven days a week.
A few years ago as little as 2% of the total production from Tomintoul was bottled as a single malt; the rest was used for blends. In the past these were mostly the various Whyte & Mackay blends, but since they sold the Tomintoul distillery to Angus Dundee in 2000, I assume the recipes were changed within both companies. Of course, swapping casks still happens today, as well as the buying and selling of whisky - but I just can't imagine a company that is able to produce its own malt whisky (and pretty much to exact specifications too) would turn to the competition for a significant part of its production. That simply would make little business sense... So, to me it's proof that the differences between various blends is mostly an issue of advertising, not the product itself.
Is the distillery or