Tormore is oft-times the first distillery you’ll drive past on the A95 as you head from Inverness down to Speyside on the Malt Whisky Trail. Time and time again I’ve watched the unmistakable, imposing distillery frontage zip past, and time and time again I’ve wished it was open for visiting. There’s more than a few Speyside distilleries on my must visit, but can’t visit list – Dailuane, Glentauchers, Craigellachie (which is sitting literally behind the house that I’m currently staying in) – but Tormore has an incredible allure and uniqueness that I find hard to shake.
Built in 1958 and looking like a cross between the Grand Budapest Hotel, an electrical plant and an art deco experiment, the distillery was constructed to exploit the boom in the market during the 1950s and 60s. Its capacity has expanded over the last 60 years, but, its reputation remains largely under the radar outside of enthusiast circles. There are a couple of core range bottlings available with a 14 and 16 year old – though these too are not often seen in the wild. Your best bet, as is often the case is with indie bottlers – there you’ll find a much wider choice of Tormore expressions, oft-times at cask strength, which, personally I believe showcases the malty and firm distillate at its very best. Perhaps with the global boom for single malts showing no signs of abating, Tormore’s time in the lime-light will come. For the time being, I’m OK with it being a little niche – though I still do wish that just once I’d be able to turn off the A95 and explore the iconic and striking building first-hand.
Today’s Tormore is from the Chivas Distillery Reserve Collection. A series of cask strength expressions which showcase nine Pernod Richard owned distilleries from across several different whisky producing regions. All are bottled at cask strength and available in 50cl bottles. The 1998 vintage was matured for 15 years in ex-bourbon – this is not specified, but there’s no hint of sherry or anything more exotic here. There’s been a few different batches of these Tormore’s - ours is TM15001- and is bottled at 57.4% ABV.
Nose: Garden fresh, but still quite malty. Fruits arrive first with oranges and tangerines, both of which seem slightly reduced and soured. Then, a compote of sugared fruitiness – jelly babies – but also green apples. Vanilla is fairly pronounced and cask influence fairly high – both young sappy wood and older dry decking. Slight aromas of varnish are joined by burnt cereals, and an earthy nuttiness – walnuts. After some resting, breads and a touch of yeast. The addition of water heightens the bready aromas as well as adding lemon zest.
Taste: An impactful arrival – some will possibly be reaching for the water bottle quickly. Rather more tropical fruitiness on the palate – banana, guava and spit-roasted pineapple – all supported by high maltiness once again – golden corns, toasted cereals, some buttered popcorn. Spicing is quite prevalent here – and growing from the mid to back palate – ginger and pepper leading, some gentle anise in support. Herbalness arrives from resting for a short time – grass and a touch of mint. A few drops of water really helps here, adding in lively lemon drops as well as coconut shavings.
Finish: Medium with pepperiness and fading tropical flavours.
I have a lot of time for the flavour profile of the typical Tormore distillate – this is no exception – defined fruits with a malty backbone and spicy underbelly make for a tasty, but quite complex drinking experience, that changes both over time and with dilution (which some will probably find essential). Evocative and well worth checking out, if you happen to see a bottle – as of writing there’s still a few lurking in the visitor centres of several Chivas owned distilleries.