I’ve 10 drams from Tormore to review, so I’ve decided to split them over two articles. Today, I’ll engage in some musings about the architect behind the Listed distillery building. Tomorrow, the second piece will focus on the state of whisky in 1960, based on a superb archive article I found whilst researching this piece.
Tormore is a relatively modern distillery. Built in 1958 for £300,000, it was one of the first distilleries constructed in the post-war boom period. Given that it was built on a greenfield site, the distillery does not have the usual nostalgia or folksy history to discuss. Thus, writers often focus on Tormore’s architecture. I, too, hope to shed a little light on the designer: Architect Sir Albert Richardson.
Sir Albert Richardson, born 1880, was affectionately known as “the Professor,” given the extent of his teaching. He was an eminent figure who was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. Tormore was one of his last projects before his death in 1964. Richardson was described as “the greatest living friend of architecture at a time when architecture was passing through a phase of lawlessness and lack of principle.” (Birmingham Daily Post, Saturday 03 March, 1956)
Richardson’s style was greatly influenced by the style of the late Georgian era and the restrained neoclassicism of Sir John Soane. However, he also understood that these ideas needed to meet the challenges of modernism. This is perhaps why many of his buildings have been successful; they are fit for modern times but also retain features of the flamboyant past.
Richardson was so dedicated to understanding the Georgian standards of living that he initially refused to install electric lighting in his 18th century townhouse. Unsurprisingly, his wife eventually changed his mind! Not content with candlelight Richardson, was known to dress up in Georgian clothes and even was carried through the streets in a sedan chair.
He once told a dinner:
“We want more fun in life. For example, men could dress up a lot more. Don’t buy an overcoat; buy a cloak. It would look a great deal better with a red, blue, green or yellow lining.” At the same dinner he went on to state “Those blind scientists – they know nothing of art. I know, I have worked with them. They can smash the atom, they can wreck a town, but they don’t contribute to human happiness.” (Birmingham Daily Post, Saturday 03 March 1956.)
I can only begin to imagine how, in Presbyterian Alvie at this time, Richardson would have fitted in!
Richardson’s chief critics argued that his style was outdated and reactionary in the face of the dogma of International Modernism. Richardson was quite contemptuous of the intellectual pretensions of the Modern Movement; he derided Le Corbusier and Gropius who were “creating environmental disasters and urban deserts with their style.”(Encyclopedia.com)
Tormore Distillery was listed in the 1980s in recognition of the importance of his style applied to a distillery. Richardson is now somewhat forgotten. His last retrospective exhibition was 1999, and in 2013 Christies auctioned the contents of his Georgian townhouse acquired during his career, after an offer to save it for the nation was rejected by the National Trust.
The development of Tormore distillery itself is captured in a beautifully nostalgic film from 1963. In the film we learn about the quality of water, a recreation of Sir Albert Richardson sketching the design, and construction of the distillery. Interestingly, the film focusses on depopulation as a contemporary issue the new distillery would address. This same issue has been highlighted with the development of island distilleries such as Raasay in modern times.
With the surge in modern distilleries, architecture is again in the spotlight. From the striking but divisive design at Macallan (rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners), to the symmetry of Dalmunach (Archial Norr), to the other-worldly Bombay Sapphire (Thomas Heatherwick), only time will tell if any of these striking designs become recognised as listed buildings as rapidly as Tormore did.
In the spirit of Sir Albert Richardson, I donned my (metaphorical) cape and had some fun with a huge Tormore vertical. Five reviews today and five tomorrow. Huzzah!
Tormore 12 Years Old – Review
40% ABV. £50 (auction price including fees and postage)
This is an official bottling; it was the only official release until 2014, when 14 and 16 year old editions were released. It’s most likely chill-filtered and coloured.
On the nose: Flamed orange peel, baked apple, baking spices, butter toffee, vanilla, digestive biscuits and coca nibs.
In the mouth: Homemade digestive biscuit, fig rolls, a little char, honey, slightly nutty, caramel, fruity and oak spices on the finish.
Very tasty actually and quite morish, a dangerously easy drinker.
Whisky Broker Tormore 12 Years Old – Review
16/09/2008 – 28/10/2020. From bourbon barrel #701352. 52.1% ABV. £50.
Colour: Pale straw
On the nose: Toffee, vanilla, custard, runny honey, icing sugar, gentle orchard fruits, yeasty malt, proved dough.
In the mouth: Buttery texture, custard tarts, vanilla, apple sauce, baking spices, water brings out apricots and fresh figs.
I really enjoyed this release and bought a second bottle; whilst not as fruity as other expressions it was still delicious and fairly priced.
The Pearls of Scotland Tormore 19 Years Old – Review
September 1995 to October 2014. Cask #20257, assumed to be a bourbon barrel. 49% ABV. £90.
Colour: Ripe barley.
On the nose: Pineapple upside-down-cake, vanilla, struck flint, fresh and juicy, malty richness, orange blossom, almond frangipane.
In the mouth: Apricot jam, toasted pastry, trail mix, dried pineapple, fragrant and fruity balanced by oak spices, caramelised spun sugar, pine resin on the finish.
Picked at a great age, this straddles the bright youthfulness of the teenage years with the complexity and depth of age.
Old Malt Cask Tormore 26 Years Old – Review
November 1992 to October 2019. Refill bourbon cask #HL16492. 47.3% ABV. £155.
Colour: Ripe barley.
On the Nose: Wood spices, aromatic fruit, pineapple fronds, ripe red apple, dusty vanilla, butter shortbread, poached pear.
In the mouth: Oily juicy tropical arrival of pineapple, passion fruit, Galia melon, settling to be more savoury, over-ripe fruit funk, restrained oak, gentle spice, lingering fruit aromas.
Another great pick, I love how fresh and juicy this is.
Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection Tormore 30 Years Old
Distilled 1988, matured in a bourbon hogshead, bottled Spring 2019. 43.2% ABV. £125.
Colour: Ripe barley.
On the nose: Oaky, yeasty wash, caramelised apple, some slightly vegetal savoury notes, hay meadow, getting brighter and fresher, crushed pineapple, dried ginger, a pinch of sweet paprika.
In the mouth: Oak forward, richly oaky without completely overpowering the fruit which is restrained. Baked apple, poached peach, apple turnovers, flaked almond, toffee, barley sugars, a bit dry, dusty, and tannic towards the end with a pinch of dried porcini mushroom powder.
Tasty and interesting but not as juicy, and marginally too oaky for me.
Lead photo courtesy of nicelocal.co.uk.
Sir Albert Richardson photo courtesy of royalacademy.org.uk.
Extract from the 1960 Who’s Who, 112th Edition, Adam & Charles Black.
Tormore 12 Years Old Photo courtesy of Master of Malt.
Alvie is further south west from Tormore, south of Aviemore. Advie is the scattered settlement a few miles west of Tormore on the A95. Are the two being confused? A very interesting tale, and I look forward to the further insights promised
David, thanks for spotting the typo. Advie is of course correct.