Planet Whiskies Tomintoul Distillery Tour

Planet Whiskies Tomintoul Distillery Tour

Planet Whiskies had a fantastic trip up to the Speyside Whisky region of Scotland to visit Angus Dundee Distillers Tomintoul Distillery within the Cairngorms National Park. Then, after the distillery tour and tasting, which was hosted by Iain Forteath, the master blender of Tomintoul, our press group travelled and stayed the night at the recently bought country home of Tomintoul House in the Aultmore Estate (previously called Aultmore House). The trip was a two-day adventure organised by Naomi Cameron at 3x1. Also with us for most of the two days was Gillian Gibson, the brand ambassador for Angus Dundee.

The two-day trip started with an early morning train from Balloch train station to Glasgow Queen Street, then picked up by minibus with the rest of the press group to start the trip up to Speyside. On the way up to Tomintoul, we stopped at the House of Bruar, a lovely out-of-town shopping and food area just north of Pitlochry. After 30 minutes, we hit the road again and headed to Tomintoul Distillery via Aviemore and Grantown-On-Spey. Ninety minutes later, we arrived at Tomintoul Distillery to be welcomed by Iain and Gillian of Angus Dundee, who escorted us into the boardroom of the distillery, where we had a welcome lunch, a chat regarding the distillery and a lovely Tomintoul dram. During our chat, Iain told us so many interesting facts about the distillery, one of which was that the spirits distilled at Tomintoul are used for their Tomintoul and Old Ballantruan Whisky Ranges. Still, the most significant portion of the spirit goes into Angus Dundee's portfolio of blends, which can be found in over 80 countries worldwide.

Planet Whiskies discovered that the Tomintoul Distillery closes for two weeks over Christmas/New Year and four weeks in the summer. But before this happens, Tomintoul produces the Old Ballantruan Malt whisky for three weeks, which is heavily peated. As with heavily peated malts, which use an intensely flavoured spirit in production, this can be 'messy', and a full clean-down of the distilling equipment must be completed to avoid any carryover for the unpeated productions after the distillery reopens. So, this spirit is made before the distillery shuts down and cleaned before reopening.

Tomintoul Distillery Tour: The Stills

Now was the turn to visit the warehouses themselves, and it was fantastic looking at all the barrels, with tags and the history within each section of the warehouse. Walking up the aisle, passing all the many-year-old whiskies waiting to be bottled 'soon', was very warming, and with Iain talking about all the processes involved with the barrels, it shows how important every aspect of the distillery works together. We finally stopped, and Iain produced a gadget used to smuggle out whisky from the distilleries years ago. This was placed down your trousers and is very hard to spot, but it can hold a fair bit of whisky. Inside it he had an exceptional malt for us to try, and this was a 20-year-old Tomintoul dram that was 58%. It was lovely in smell, taste, and heartwarming on this cold February afternoon in the Cairngorms.

After the tour, we all returned to the boardroom, where Gillian had set up a special Tomintoul tasting. Five drams were waiting for us: Tomintoul 16-year-old, Tomintoul 12-year-old Old Oloroso Sherry Cash Finish, Tomintoul Cigar Malt, a Tomintoul Single Cask and Tomintoul 25-year-old.

Master Blender at Tomintoul Distillery : Iain Forteath

As we went through the tasting, we discussed what food could go with each malt, and Iain had fantastic knowledge regarding which whisky should be drunk when eating particular food. It made it doubly interesting when talking about the cigar malt and how, later that night, we could also try it again while having a cigar. When trying the Tomintoul 16-Year-Old, you can tell why Tomintoul's tagline is "The Gentle Dram", it was so smooth to drink, unlike others we have tried during our travels. The 16-year-old was excellent and had to be considered one of Planet Whiskies favourites during the whole distillery experience. All the drams were lovely, and since I had never tried Tomintoul before, each dram had a different edge, and it was hard to work out which of the whiskies was Planet Whiskies' No.1'. The tasting lasted around 60 minutes, and through the tasting, both Iain and Gillian were perfect hosts, answering any questions we had. Once the tasting was over, we all returned to the minibus for our night accommodation at the marvellous Tomintoul House.

Tomintoul House (Aultmore House)

Arriving at Tomintoul House was like walking into history within an old-style TV show. It was by far the most prominent house (and grounds) I have had the pleasure of staying in, and there was a ghostly atmosphere around it. The previous owner before Angus Dundee was the famous singer Bob Dylan, who had bought the county house a few years before.

Inside, everything looked stunning and homely; you just had to pinch yourself that you were staying there. We were shown our rooms, and the rooms did not disappoint and all aspects were thought about before we arrived. The view from Planet Whiskies room was of the mountains of the Cairngorms National Park, which was a truly fantastic view. Once settled in, we descended the stairs to the main reception room directly next to the dining area. A couple of bottles of champagne were being 'cracked open', and you just knew you were in for a night of good company, fantastic drinks and drams. We all chatted about our distillery tour earlier that day, and all agreed it was an excellent tour and tasting, where we learned so much about Tomintoul and Angus Dundee.

Dinner at Tomintoul House (Aultmore House)

It was now time for our evening meal as we all wandered into the dining area. A glass of white wine was poured, and the first course was Moroccan sweet potato soup with coconut cream. The main course was Scottish salmon, white wine sauce, baby potatoes, and green vegetables. Again, it was served with white wine, matching perfectly with the salmon. Dessert was then served: traditional Scottish cranachan, Tomintoul 16 years old, and chef's shortbread. A great touch with the personalised menu for everyone in the group was having your name at the top. The service of all the drinks and food was outstanding, making the whole experience extremely enjoyable. Credit has to go to the long-term local staff working at Tomintoul House and before at the Aultmore House. Once dinner was over, we all chatted about our day again, and stories of other food tastings with wine came up numerous times before we headed outside to the firepit to enjoy a few more drams and marshmallows cooked over the fire.

The firepit experience was lovely on a cold February evening. We all sat on benches next to the firepit, drinking drams from Tomintoul, and also talked about what everyone's favourite dram of the day was. Iain then brought out the cigars and offered one to everyone. The Planet Whiskies team took one, and of course, we had to have a cigar malt with it. It was a freezing night, with a wind, so having a dram heated the body. The time at the firepit was exceptional and closed off a lovely day, with great company.

Tomintoul Range of Whiskies

Planet Whiskies would like to say thanks to Angus Dundee and 3x1 for the invitation to Tomintoul and the gifts that we all received, including a 70cl bottle of Tomintoul 16-year-old. We also received miniatures of the core range of the other Angus Dundee Distillery Glencadam. Naomi from 3x1, who was excellent, planned the whole trip perfectly and was extremely helpful. Once at the distillery, our hosts, Iain and Gillian, couldn't do enough for you throughout the afternoon and evening. Both made us feel special, and they were interested to find out as much as possible about Planet Whiskies and how it all started over 17 years ago. I'm sure we will all meet up again soon, and we will still be talking about the fantastic adventures at Tomintoul Distillery, Tomintoul House, and the Cairngorms National Park.

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