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Issue 5 - The several lives of Tobermory

Whisky Magazine Issue 5
August 1999


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The several lives of Tobermory

Tobermory distillery has made whisky for only 14 of the last 69 years- and its incarnations have included a blend and a vatted malt. Tom Bruce-Gardyne mulls over it.

At times it feels just like the west of Ireland. If you visit in the spring, the vivid greens, lush pasture and dank, moss-covered walls of Mull seem straight out of Donegal. The climate is equally fickle. Seasons change by the hour with cloudless skies turning black, and then clearing again as if on a whim. Watching the weather roll in off the Atlantic one thought occurs – after 3,000 miles of sea no wonder those clouds are content to spill their load on this first piece of land since the Newfoundland coast. When it comes to making whisky there is no lack of water, and whatever the past problems of Tobermory, the island's only distillery, drought was never one of them.

As it turns out the Irish connection is far from superficial. The landscapes of Mull and large parts of County Antrim in Northern Ireland were sculpted by the same hand. Sixty million years ago there was intense volcanic activity in the area as the Atlantic Ocean began to take shape. The eruptions and outpouring of lava were like a fanfare for the departing Greenland and North America as they began to drift westwards. As the lava cooled it formed basalt, sometimes in near-perfect columns to create structures of spectacular beauty. On the island of Staffa, just off the west coast of Mull, Fingal's Cave became the muse for Mendelssohn's Hebridean Overture. Across the water the Giant's Causeway was the foundation of a mythical bridge linking Ireland to the Western Isles. Today the stream that feeds the Bushmil...

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