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Tobermory

Tobermory

Although founded in 1798 the actual distillery that sits on Mull today and produces the Ledaig (led-CHIG) and Tobermory (TOH-ber-mor-ee) malts was reconstructed and began production back in 1972. A more complete version of this story is written in the Ledaig whisky profile so go to that page for more concise dates and data. This page is more concerned with the specific character of the Tobermory spirit.

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Tobermory Distillery

Founded: 1798
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Mishnish Lochs
Capacity: 1 Million Litres
Owners: Burn Stewart

1972-1979: Confusion.

Tobermory and Ledaig are supposedly the respectively unpeated and peated variants produced at the Tobermory distillery, through two separate pairs of stills to avoid flavour contamination. However back in 1972 when spirit was produced at the distillery again after a long period of silence, all spirit for a time was peated and there seemed to be much confusion about what the distillery was called, let along the spirit it produced. There are many casks bottled from those years that bear either the name Ledaig or Tobermory and all are usually distinctly medicinal and peaty in style, with many of the earlier bottlings being utterly fantastic, world-class whiskies. Even today casks from 72/73 that are still occasionally bottled can show a fantastically elegant and mature phenolic character with rich peaty complexity on top of wood, smoke, spice, medicinal and coastal aspects.

By the end of the decade this confusion seemed to have settled down and peated Ledaig was now distinct from unpeated Tobermory. While Ledaig would go on to have many issues with consistency and quality control in the coming decades, with many batches apparently varying in peat level (again check the Ledaig profile for more info), Tobermory as a spirit was more consistent from this time on.

1980-2000: Flowers, Grass, Citrus and Porridge.

As far as Island malts go Tobermory always felt a little out of place to the ballsy, Atlantic infused smokiness of Ledaig. Since the early eighties and the first bottlings of Tobermory as a single malt it has maintained quite a soft and rather thin profile. Often quite grassy and a little flinty with notes of porridge, a little cardboard and vegetal tones like aloe vera or a cactus like tequila note. This made it something of a forgotten whisky amongst enthusiasts with many deriding it as thin and lacking in character, which is odd considering how many people raved about Ledaig simultaneously.

2000-Present: Oils, Salt, Fruit and Rebirth.

In recent years the distillate has shown a marked improvement, both Tobermory and Ledaig have benefitted from a renewed investment in production on behalf of Burn Stewart and the consistency and quality of both has risen dramatically. The current bottlings of Tobermory are richer, oilier and display a freshness and coastal zing that is much more in keeping with its island origins. Hopefully this emerging pattern will continue and these maturing stocks will continue to yield increasingly excellent island drams.

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