This article follows on from a horizontal tasting posted yesterday.
Tormore was one of the first new distilleries in the post-war boom period. It was built during a wave of distillery construction and expansion due to increasing demand globally. I found a super article from 1960 published in the press and journal that I have reproduced below. It’s interesting, as there are certain parallels with the ongoing boom in whisky and the expansion of existing distilleries.
Aberdeen Journals, Evening Express, Thursday February 18 1960.
Yanks are trying to oust Scotch!
By William Pratt Paul
There are those who say that whisky drives the Scot, and water powers his industries. Aberdeenshire and surrounding counties have copious supplies of both, and “nectar” from the Highlands and North-east is exported to lands “far across the faem.”
Demand shows that the world’s palate has not lost its taste for “Scotch” and our beverage continues to be a vital dollar-earner, contributing much to a health national – and local – economy. Proof? – It’s in the proof whisky!
A few weeks ago the Scottish Whisky Association announced that exports in 1959 were valued at £61,852,000 – £6,000,000 up on 1958. During 1958-59 exports totalled 19,559,056 gallons. Average production is about 37,500,000 gallons per hear – and the popularity of whisky is increasing. Production of new whisky has more than trebled in the past then years, and during this period exports have doubled – and they are still rising. To get whisky into focus certain factors must be considered.
It takes several years before new whisky can be bottled, and there is no foreseeable limit to home and oversees consumption of mature Scotch. The more Scotland produces, obviously the more she must sell.
But though other countries have competed, not one has lasted the pace, for only Scotland can turn out Highland malt whisky. This is a tradition – and an art.
But there is a cloud on the horizon – a rival whisky. The call it Bourbon. America is carrying her campaign to popularise Bourbon to our doorstep. The Yankee offensive opened last autumn, and the man who launched it was the president of the Bourbon Institute Vice-Admiral William J Marshall. He led a destroyer squadron in the Normandy onslaught and is now in command of the Bourbon invasion. Nut he is not doing so wee as he did off Omaha beach!
Only a small quantity of Bourbon is consumed in the U.K. and that mainly by Americans. But “over there,” 58,000,000 gallons of it are downed each year – nearly twice as much as the total sales of Scotch throughout the world.
Nevertheless, our American cousins are drinking more Scotch than ever before. The total annual export from this country is about 12,500,000 gallons. Incidentally, world sales are in the region of 30,000,000 gallons per hear.
Trade reactions to Bourbon? A Speyside distiller sums up: “one has to acquire a taste for Bourbon and it is most unlikely that people in this country would ever be converted.” Distilling is a hardy industry and it has successfully met numerous challenges in the past – undercutting of prices, “pirate” labels, even Japanese forms of “Scotch” – to name but a few.
Whisky news is WHISKY GALORE! And thus there is a problem. Stocks are accumulating to such an extent that a deputation of Scottish Unionist MPs perturbed at the danger of unemployment in the dtrade and ancillary industries met the Chancellor of the Exchequer on February 2. The deputation stressed how the excessively high rate of £10 10/10 duty per gallos was likely to create difficulties in the export trade.
It was suggested that a reduction to £9 10/10 would mean a cut of 2/4 on a bottle and bring the price back to the 1947 level. At present it was estimated that there are 250,000,000 gallons in stock. The Chancellor replied that he could not anticipate his budget. Nut there is at least hope – hope to of a cheaper “hauf”.
Distillers on Speyside however do not agree with the view that accumulation threatens the industry. But they hailed the delegation with satisfaction for the have long regarded a cut in duty as overdue.
One distiller in this region states that distillers, blenders, bottlers and exporters are quite happy with the demand abroad, and, so long as that demand was maintained, there was security for the industry. “It could be that private whisky speculators were concerned over the tie-up of their money over a long period and feared that they could not sell on the open market at a profit” he added.
Well over £1,000,000 has been spent on the building of new warehouse accommodation in order to maintain the quality of whisky. A number of distillers are now maturing spirit for two years longer than previously, which means that extra accommodation has to be found for two years whisky production.
The Speyside distillers of Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd are work at full pressure. New warehouse accommodation has been built and modern plant installed. Messrs Chivas Brothers Ltd, Aberdeen have two distilleries at Keith – Strathisla and Glenkeith. The latter, just completed, is claimed to be the most modern distillery in the Highlands. Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown is operated by Messrs William Grant and Sons Ltd another famous name in whisky.
A new distillery costing £400,000 is taking shape at Invergordon fir the Grigor Group, the parent company being William Grigor and Son, Ltd. A new distillery company, Glen Deveron Distilleries, Ltd., are building a distillery near the mouth of the Deveron to go into full production early this year. The output planned is about 3000 gallons a week.
Speyside’s latest £300,000 distillery at Tormore, near Advie (Moray), is to be operated by the Strathclyde and Long John Distillery Co, Ltd. It commenced production in October. To meet demand the Distillers Co. ltd resumed production at their grain whisky distillery at Montrose a few months ago. Malt barns and warehouses have been in continual use, but the distillery itself has been “silent” since it was acquired by D.C.L. in 1953.
Towards the close of last year building commenced on a site in the outskirts of Perth to which Messrs John Dewar and Sons, Ltd – one of the largest companies in the distillers’ group – are moving their premisses. The latest automatic bottling machine will be used in the new premises.
A private company was formed in 1947 to acquire the 150-year-old Fettercairn Distillery, Kincardineshire, and in 1953, the company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bydand Industrial Holdings Ltd.
Oil burning equipment has been introduced to a number of distilleries, also underfeed stokers. New mechanical aids have been brought in to expedite the movement and cut down the amount of handling.
Markets – America, Canada, South America (especially Venezuela), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Far East, Scandinavia – particularly Sweden – France, Germany and Italy.
Behind the Iron Curtain there is also what an Irishman would call a “strong wakeness for the hard stuff in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany but Russia – no d’ce. No Uisge for the Russkie! The Russians have accepted Rabbie Burns. Let’s hope ere long they will accept his “John Barleycorn” – to the mutual benefit of Scotland and the U.S.S.R.
This article is most fascinating from the point of view of Tormore. because it places the development of the distillery very much in an important moment for the Scotch whisky industry. Contemporary distilleries Glen Keith and MacDuff (Glen Deveron) are not as architecturally attractive, although Glen Keith does have a certain charm, having been built into a former meal mill.
Perhaps where this news article resonated most was the parallel between 1960 whisky growth and the growth in the last 15 years. New markets, growing popularity, extensive development and founding of many more new distilleries in the earlier period will all sound familiar to contemporary readers.
There’s also the significant focus on laying down stock for the future. Certainly in 1960 there were concerns about sustainability of growth, but nobody could have foreseen the crash and whisky loch that occurred 20 years later. That crash resulted in the partial or permanent closure of many distilleries. Is it reasonably foreseeable that Scotch could have another crash in 15 to 20 years?
Below are some contemporary facts from the Scotch Whisky Association to compare with the detail in the 1960s report. Some caution, of course, that these figures are from 2020 and will be greatly influenced by the COVID pandemic. Updated figures for 2021 will be released later this month.
Now, on to the remaining 5 whiskies in the Tormore horizontal:
Thompson Bros. Tormore 1992 Vintage Aged 28 Years – Review
From a refill hogshead. 47.3% ABV. £175.
Colour: Pale straw.
On the nose: Fruity and funky, pineapple, vanilla, mango fool, well-oxidised spirit, fragrant, fruit salad candy, orange sherbet, dunnage.
In the mouth: Creamy texture, big bright juicy arrival, dropping away to more complex cooked fruit. Wood spices and lingering fruit give a lengthy finish.
Really delicious whisky, and fresh given the age, only some more exotic fruit notes and a bit more funk required to be a higher score.
Whisky Sponge Tormore Aged 31 Years – Review
Bottled by Decadent Drinks (Whisky Sponge). 1990 to 2021. An assemblage of two first fill barrels. 53% ABV. £235.
On the nose: American bourbon, sandalwood, slightly sharp, polished floors, plimsol, ginger, mace, cinnamon, white pepper vanilla, a waft of Oud.
In the mouth: Sweet arrival, with oaky exotic aromatic spices, a pinch of cayenne, then an appearance of fruit washing over and cleansing the oily palate before a fairly short and spicy finish.
Totally unexpected, some whisky to me can be over-oaked from first fill barrels after 15 years, let alone double. But here the impact has been the development of simple wood spices into something quite exotic. Really a great outcome.
Chapter 7 Tormore Aged 31 Years – Review
02/1990 to 04/2021. First fill bourbon barrel. 50.2% ABV. £250.
On the nose: Oak, cedar, slightly fruity, spiced fruit streusel, Pastel de Nata, vanilla cream, then banana chips, more American Whiskey notes, Mellow Corn.
In the mouth: Apricot Danish pastry, jammed orchard fruits, oak led baking spices of vanilla, ginger, foam bananas and fennel seeds, a sprig of garden mint, well oxidised spirit and a fruity finish.
Most likely the same parcel of whisky as the Sponge release, both bottles offer a great example of the power and versatility of the Tormore spirit, and pose interesting challenges to prreconceptions of what Scotch can be.
North Star Spirits Tormore Aged 27 Years – Review
December 1988 to October 2016. Bourbon hogshead, finished in madeira. 51.5% ABV. £140 (auction price including fees and postage circa 2019).
On the nose: Sponge cake, slightly spirity, toffee sauce, white pepper on baked peach, almond essence, cask char, crème brulé, dusty vanilla and baking spices
In the mouth: Sweet and rich, dunnage, a little vegetal, fruit forward, sweet pastry, baklava, long lingering creamy and spicy finish.
Perhaps not my preferred style of whisky, this is a little simple for its age. However, its simplicity does make it very drinkable, and a large mouthful is well rewarded. The Tormore character comes through robustly.
Gordon & MacPhail Tormore Aged 24 Years – Review
1995 to 2019. From a refill sherry puncheon. 56.2% ABV. £161.
On the nose: Sharp and sour, full-bodied cigar, chocolate delice, Medjool dates, dusty old bookshop, very mature air-dried ham, fig chutney, hazelnut, sticky ginger loaf-cake, crystalised pineapple.
In the mouth: Warming spiced fruit punch, hot cocoa, fruit burst, a spicy backbone, more cooked orchard fruit, funky dunnage air, polished oak, dried ginger, almond brittle, drying oak tannins on the finish with more Middle Eastern warming spiced and well chewed cigar on the long finish.
Gordon MacPhail’s approach is to fill their own casks with new make spirit, and what great casks they have! Often the second fill comes across as a first fill. The sherry is prominent here but the robust Tormore spirit shines through delightfully.
Lead photo courtesy of nicelocal.co.uk.
Macduff Distillery and Glen Keith Distillery stock images.
Industry figures from the Scotch Whisky Association, International Trade (scotch-whisky.org.uk)