Founded in 1897, Highland distillery Tomatin has swelled and shrunk during subsequent whisky booms and busts. Its approachable, light, unpeated style was so popular in blends that Tomatin became the largest malt distillery in Scotland.
Situated in the Monadhliath Mountains, 315 metres above sea level, Tomatin was shuttered three years after it was built, only to be reopened nine years later by the New Tomatin Distillers Company. Steady expansion followed until the distillery reached its peak in the 1950s and ’70s. During this time, 23 stills were in use, producing 12.5 million litres of pure alcohol in a year.
When the market crashed in the 1980s, Tomatin had to scale volume back considerably and almost half of its stills were removed, leaving the team with a substantial whisky surplus. After a brief closure, the Highland distillery was bought by current owners Takara Shuzo in 1986. The purchase made history, with Tomatin becoming the first fully Japanese-owned Scottish distillery.
When Graham Eunson joined as General Manager in 2011, he brought with him 25 years’ whisky experience having worked at the likes of Glenmorangie, Glendronach, Glenglassaugh and Scapa. Since then, Eunson has become the Distillery Operations Director and solidified Tomatin’s reputation as a high-quality single malt.
Sales have grown by 83% following a rebrand in 2015 and the distillery centre regularly welcomes over 50,000 guests a year. The whiskies range from entry level (£30 a bottle) to super-prestige 50-year-old-plus at £10,000 a bottle. It is the third-fastest growing brand on the secondary market.
Instead of making whisky for other people to go into their blends, today Tomatin makes 1.6 million litres a year. Of this, 1.1 million goes into their own brand, roughly 400,000 litres of alcohol are swapped with other distilleries to get their whisky for blends like Antiquary, Talisman, Big T and Ancient Clan, and approximately 100,000 litres are sold for cash.
The team is sitting on almost 200,000 casks and has an exciting cask-finished series. After the success of Cuatro – a series of three Sherry-finished whiskies – Tomatin launched the French Collection, a trio of single malts finished in the finest Monbazillac, Sauternes and Rivesaltes barrels.
The distillery is slightly unusual in that it still has 25 houses on site for current and retired workers.