interview tomatin
Interview

Masterful craftsmanship: Scott Adamson about Tomatin whisky

Based in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the award-winning Tomatin Distillery is characterised by its smooth and mellow single malt whiskies. With a deep commitment to craft, the environment and the local community, Tomatin has established itself as a symbol of quality and tradition in the whisky world. The distillery’s latest creation, the “Italian Collection”, is a trio of single malt Scotch whiskies. It demonstrates Tomatin’s craftsmanship by combining the exceptional Highland malt with the aromatic diversity of Italian wine casks.

We spoke to Scott Adamson, Blender and Global Brand Ambassador at Tomatin, about the latest innovation. He also provides insights into the history and future ambitions of the iconic distillery.

Could you give us an insight into the history of the Tomatin distillery and what key moments have shaped the brand?

Scott Adamson: Tomatin Distillery was built at the peak of the Victorian whisky boom in 1897. For most of the last 126 years, we produced single malt for the blended Scotch whisky industry. We started off as a small distillery but, as the global demand for blended Scotch whisky grew from the 1950s, so did we. By the 1960s we held the title of the ‘World’s largest single malt distiller’ and we reached our production record of 12.5 million liters, from 23 stills, in 1974. This all came to a shuddering halt a decade later when a decline in global whisky demand led Tomatin to enter liquidation.

Tomatin Distillery

Tomatin Distillery

Fortunately, we were purchased by Japanese company Takara Shuzo International and slowly the company’s focus shifted away from supplying other companies to developing our own brands. Tomatin was first bottled and sold as a single malt over 100 years ago, but it has only been in the last 20 years that this has become the core of our business. Today we only produce 2.5 million liters a year, with a focus on quality, not quantity. This has led to us winning the trophy for not only Scotch Whisky Producer of the Year, but Outstanding Spirits Producer of the year at the 2022 IWSC Awards.

Craftsmanship plays a crucial role in the production of Tomatin whiskies. Could you please highlight the specific artisanal aspects or techniques that set Tomatin apart from other distilleries?

Scott Adamson: Single malt scotch whisky is perhaps the most tightly regulated spirits industry in the world, with only three ingredients and a handful of processes permitted in every distillery. Our focus on quality has allowed us slow things down and take a very hands-on approach to whisky making.

tomatin

First-class barrel selection

We have the longest fermentation process in Scotland at 168 hours, and our distillation rate is half that of most other distilleries. We also have our own cooperage on site which aids our first-class cask selection and maturation policy. Additionally, all our casks are matured on site in our 13 warehouses. Moreover, many of our staff live on site in distillery-owned cottages, which ensures that our production techniques are passed onto the next generation of whisky makers.

Tomatin recently introduced the “Italian Collection,” three single malts matured in Italian wine casks. Could you tell us more about the idea behind this collection and the flavor influences of the Italian casks?

Scott Adamson: Our versatile spirit and our Master Distiller Graham Eunson’s forward-thinking approach to maturation has allowed us to explore the use of a wide variety of casks over the last 15 years. The Italian Collection is the third of our Countries Series in which we shine a light on some of the casks available from a particular country, and the incredible aromas and flavours they can add to our single malt. The Italian Collection saw us use Madeira, Amarone and Barolo casks to produce three distinct single malts that pay homage to Italy’s esteemed wine regions.

tomatin italian collection

The Italian Collection: Three single malts, refined in Italian wine barrels

The Marsala casks feature a delicate balance of sweet and citrus flavours whilst the Amarone casks move into notes of rhubarb and strawberry jam with gentle spice and the Barolo Edition delivers bolder notes of dark chocolate and mulled wine. The Italian Collection also combines the rich tapestry of Italian wine culture with our elegant Highland single malt whisky. Italy has a historic, unrivalled passion for single malt scotch whisky, so this latest trio of releases, is a tribute to that longstanding relationship with a unique take on our traditional Highland malt.

We wanted to capture the essence of Italian wine, its history, nature, landscape and traditions and weave it into our whisky, all embodied within a single glass. Each expression in this collection is a testament to the seamless blending of these two worlds, offering a truly exceptional tasting experience for whisky lovers.

What awards has Tomatin received in recent years and which of these awards are you personally most proud of?

Scott Adamson: Due to our commitment to quality, craftsmanship and tradition, we have been fortunate to win several awards for our single malts over the last couple of years…

Our introductory single malt, Tomatin Legacy, was one of only three single malt Scotch whiskies to receive 99 points at the 2022 IWSC awards. At the other end of the range, our 36 Years Old was awarded Best in Show at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Beyond this, we were awarded Scotch Whisky Producer of the Year and Outstanding Spirits Producer of the Year at the 2022 IWSC Awards, and were delighted to accept the award for Sustainable Distillery of the Year at The Icons of Whisky Scotland Awards in 2023. These are all testament to the way we make whisky at Tomatin.

Tomatin Legacy

Tomatin Legacy

“To What Matters” is Tomatin’s new brand platform, emphasizing the importance of meaningful things in life. Could you please elaborate on how this philosophy is manifested in the production and concept of the brand?

Scott Adamson: To What Matters was launched to celebrate the importance of human connection and special shared moments. It also honours the legacy of the people and place involved in the creation of the finest Highland whisky, this shared purpose is central to the success of the Tomatin distillery, and we know are important to the custodians of our whisky.

Tomatin has a partnership with Kammer-Kirsch in Germany. Could you tell us more about this collaboration and the goals behind it?

Scott Adamson: We have been building our partnership with Kammer-Kirsch since 2019. We were looking for a partner with a great knowledge of the German market and also Scottish Malt whisky and found both in Kammer-Kirsch. We aim to extend our distribution of Legacy and 12 throughout the supermarket channel and to also develop our range in the specialist retail channel, adding extra value and awareness through our limited release and single cask programme.

Tomatin Distillery

Tomatin Distillery

What role does sustainability play in Tomatin’s corporate philosophy? Are there specific initiatives or projects you would like to highlight?

Scott Adamson: We are extremely proud to have been announced as the Sustainable Distillery of the Year at Whisky Magazine’s 2023 Icons of Whisky Scotland Awards. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of non-fossil fuels are the cornerstones of our efforts; and we became the first distillery to introduce a biomass boiler in 2013, reducing our carbon emissions by 80%. More recently we have focused on water usage and have reduced our consumption by more than 50%. We are also invested in promoting sustainable tourism in the Scottish Highlands and are committed to creating a diverse habitat for wildlife in the local area.

As a blender at Tomatin, how do you approach the development of new products? What factors and criteria are particularly important in this process?

Scott Adamson: The underlying goal of blending is to meet, and hopefully exceed, the demands of our consumers. Ultimately this hasn’t changed since blending began over 200 years ago, but what has changed is that whisky drinkers are looking for a wider range of drinking experiences than ever before.

tomatin scott adamson

Blender & Global Brand Ambassador Scott Adamson

In terms of new product development, this opens a lot of exciting opportunities to experiment with ingredients, production techniques and maturation. Regardless of the product in development, I always ask myself two questions “would I like to drink this?” which lends to the quality of the liquid and “does it meet the company and market’s requirements?” which focuses more on the quantity released and RRP. If the answer to both of these questions is “yes”, I know we are going in the right direction.

Finally, what are Tomatin’s future plans and goals? Are there new projects or product lines that we can look forward to in the coming years?

Scott Adamson: Our goal is very simply to increase the distribution of our single malts and the awareness of our brands around the world so that more people can enjoy the wonderful whisky that we produce. Naturally this will involve lots of delicious new releases in the years to come.

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+++ We thank Scott Adamson for the open and very interesting interview! If you also have an interesting brand, then we should talk. Just send us an email with the subject “about-drinks interview” to redaktion@about-drinks.com – we look forward to hearing from you! +++

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