Elements of success

Glengorm Castle is becoming a remote whisky paradise. Rob Allanson visited it
By Rob Allanson
There are several elements that go in to making a memorable night in a whisky bar – but Glengorm Castle is just a little bit more special.Whether it is the romantic, windswept landscape, the dramatic castle, log fire and comfy leather armchair surroundings or just the owners’ down to earth hospitality, an evening at the hotel’s bar can be the stuff you remember for a long time.Possibly one of the more remote hotel bars you might find, Glengorm is situated on the northern tip of the Isle of Mull near Tobermory. It overlooks the Atlantic and has views across 60 miles of ocean to the Outer Hebrides and Islands of Skye, Rhum and Canna. The hotel sits at the headland of Glengorm’s vast estate surrounded by forestry, lochs and hills. Built in 1860, the castle has had a history of changing hands until 1962 when it was sold to the Nelson family.The present owners, Tom and Marjorie Nelson, took over the management of the estate from his mother in 2000. Marjorie has her own family connections to the castle as her grandfather was once the farm manager. It is this family-run feeling that pervades the castle and creates the perfect rural retreat – complete with well stocked whisky bar. The bar, run as complimentary for guests staying at the castle, is found in the library.Tom decided he wanted to offer his guests some of the finest malts while they settled back in this timeless oak panelled room, replete with open fire and rows of books.He thought it would be the perfect, comfy setting for his guests to spend evenings chatting after dinner and putting the world to rights.The selection on offer may not at the moment rival bars on the mainland, but you know that each bottle had been hand selected by your host – a true whisky enthusiast.However from these humble beginnings Tom, whose favourite tipple is the aptly named blended whisky Old Mull, is hoping to expand the collection beyond Scottish shores.His aim is to build up a world wide collection of whiskies for his guests to sample, from the local Tobermory malt to hopefully Japanese and American offerings. One of Tom’s plans is to invite distilleries to contribute bottles that they want to showcase. He says that one of the first distillers to supply a bottle was Tullibardine with its 1993 expression.He adds: “The idea for the whisky bar came from visitors who sent a bottle after enjoying their stay; it reinforced my thought that the library in Glengorm castle is a truly tranquil spot to enjoy a whisky.” He says that the library became his dream location to sip whisky, with the atmosphere and furnishings complimenting the drink.He adds: “You walk in to the warmth of the roaring fire, inviting sofas and the huge windows which look over the rolling lawns out to the impressive ocean.“The view is never the same on any day, a weather element always changes. Our light is constantly changing and giving scenes different moods. When we have angry clouds with choppy seas, that’s my favourite time to lounge on the sofa by the fire and nurse a decent dram.“It’s a pure, natural atmosphere to enjoy a whisky, nothing pretentious, nothing planned. It helps you slow down and take stock of the day.” Tom says he intends to run a very informal comments book so people can pass on their experiences of the bottles available.Returning visitors will be encouraged to bring their own bottles which they can chose to leave behind for the benefit of other guests – complete with their own tasting notes.He says: “I am interested to know what Jack from Shropshire in England thinks of Helen from Halifax, Canada’s favourite tipple.“I feel that anyone visiting from the whisky industry would be challenged to envisage, let alone discover, a better location to taste whisky.“My aim is for guests to enjoy tasting the whiskies and writing honest comments – it will be fun to see which ones are favoured most. I wonder if the transient Scottish weather will be influential at all?“On a sunny, blue sky, clear, calm, blue seas day a quaffable Tullibardine 1993 may be perfect to slip down but perhaps on a thunder, low light, white horses sea day, a peaty Bowmore may warm the cockles. Time will certainly tell.”