a whisky book from whisky expert Ian Buxton.
There is something undeniably romantic
about the idea of Tobermory distillery.
For one thing, itís on an island. And,
for another, itís small and has battled
for survival against capricious owners -
the distillery was founded in 1798
(Barnard says 1823) but 'silent' for
long periods in the mid 1800s and 1930s,
twice revived during the 1970s, then
under threat of property development
until it came into the ownership of Burn
Stewart in 1993. So it would be nice if
it could succeed.
But the kindest thing that one could say
about much of the whisky, marketed
alternately as Tobermory and Ledaig, is
that the quality was variable. Frankly
though, to adapt the words of the poem,
when it was good it was just about OK,
but when it was bad it was horrid. I
have had some shockers from this
distillery but, at last, thereís some
The whisky coming through now has been
distilled by distillers (previous owners
were primarily in property development)
and under the guidance of the
traditionally-minded Ian McMillan, Burn
Stewartís Master Blender and something
of a zealot, the quality of Tobermory is
Nowhere is this seen more clearly than
in this 15 Years Old expression (itís no
coincidence that the distillery changed
hands 16 years ago) which is very much
Ianís creation. The casks are stored
mainly at Bunnahabhain where each year
he selects a parcel of the best. These
are re-racked in Gonzalez Byass sherry
butts and sent back to Mull for a yearís
further maturation (there is very
limited warehousing there) before it is
bottled, non-chill filtered naturally,
at 46.3% for loads of creamy mouth feel.
McMillanís marketing colleagues have
also raised their game, with a nice
bottle, handsome box and an interesting
So, there you are - a good news story.
Now try some!
Ian Buxton's Tasting Note For Tobermory 15 Year Old
Colour: Rich deep gold.
Nose: Plenty of sherry impact, dark
orange marmalade, some suggestion of
Taste: A medium body. Fruit cake,
chocolate, vanilla toffees, light oak,
some spice notes.
Finish: Nuts, spice and salt.