The distillery which operates today was established in 1897 at the peak of the Victorian whisky boom by three men, John MacDougall, John MacLeish and Alexander Allan, along with a handful of investors, on the site and form The Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd. . “Tomatin” translates to “Hill of the Juniper Bush”, as juniper wood gives off no smoke while burning it has long been a favourite of illicit distillers who must keep their practice secret.
Tomatin, although at over 1000 feet above sea level on the edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, is a very practical location; next to a newly opened rail line, not far from a market (18 miles south of Inverness) and on the Alt na Frith (meaning ‘free burn’) which provided a perfect source for soft, Highland water.
The only thing it couldn't offer was a workforce, so when distillery construction began the architect was instructed to build a number of houses to accommodate distillery workers. Over the years the number of houses onsite grew and there are now 30 houses on site which Tomatin continues to offer to its employees.
1974 saw the most significant boost to capacity with the total number of stills reaching 23 (12 wash and 11 spirit) requiring seven spirit safes and with the capacity to produce around 12 million litres of alcohol every year. At this time Tomatin was the largest distillery in Scotland. During this period Tomatin was considered amongst the most important producers in the market place and one of the few distillers to offer their make as a single malt - initially a 5yo then also at 10yo. The vast majority of the whisky made at Tomatin was sold in bulk to third party companies and was used in many famous blended whiskies such as J&B, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker. The success and size of Tomatin was, however, also its demise with the bust of the 1980s - retail sales of blended whisky decreased, and so did demand for Tomatin, forcing the company into liquidation for a second time.
In the 20 years prior to going into liquidation the growing export of Scotch Whisky meant that Tomatin’s biggest customer was Japan’s largest drinks producer – Takara Shuzo Ltd. As Tomatin was forced into liquidation in 1984, Takara Shuzo joined forces with the respected trading company Okura and purchased the distillery, forming the Tomatin Distillery Company Ltd and thus creating the first fully Japanese owned Scottish distillery in 1986. Since that time, the focus has changed and the distillery has gone from strength to strength. There has been a change in strategy to grow the Tomatin brand in its own right.Show more