Whisky Magazine Issue 44
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Our mystery visitor made the long trek to Tomatin and found a distillery not geared up for the tourist or casual visitor
Whatever else they were thinking about when they built Tomatin, it wasn't tourists. Located just 18 miles south of Inverness, and handy for the main A9 road from the south, Tomatin is not the tourist board-approved image of a distillery.
For one thing, it's situated on a bleak piece of moorland. This has its own austere beauty, but it's far from the traditional image of hills and glens.
Then the approach road is dominated by warehouses – not low-lying, atmospheric dunnage warehouses but unapologetically large, modern slab-sided structures. But at least they prepare you for the shock of the redundant dark grains plant that looms over the distillery. I've seen nicer collieries. In Swansea. In the rain.
The tour itself is pretty straightforward. A simple visitor centre houses the bar, shop and a video lounge. You're invited to watch a low-key corporate film, then accompanied on a tour of the distillery.
Or part of it. Tomatin was once famous for being the largest single malt distillery in Scotland, with an impressive 23 stills. It was, in fact, a factory for making malt whisky, the vast majority of which was required for blending.
However, in recent years, about half the stills were removed and the vacant space in the still house clad in some vibrant purple chipboard, which is where your ‘tour' mostly takes place. Some very attractive photographic panels grace the walls, but it's hard not to get fixated on the rusting girders above your head and the marks on the steelw...