If you travel south from Inverness in the Scottish Highland, you’re bound to find the village of Tomatin. This is – with an approxiate population of 200 and citizens, and stunningly beautiful surroundings – a popular destination for grouse hunters. The river Findhorn has its headwaters near the Coignafearn estate, and flows through the small town. And if you follow the morning crowd, you are guaranteed to find one of Scotland’s highest placed distilleries.
Most inhabitants spend their working hours inside and around these tall buildings of wood and concrete. This is a comparatively new distillery with only a century of history. And if you inquire with the locals, you’ll find that the village and the distillery are inseperable.
“It is said that Cù Bòcan is a ghost hound…”
From the outside, the grey buildings may not resemble the notion of a typical countryside distillery, yet they contain a subtle secret: Tomatin has lately raked in awards and enjoyed the appreciation of whisky enthusiasts worldwide. And there is a major reason for their popularity within the whisky craft: altitude. At an approximate 300 meters over sea level, they are guaranteed predictable weather conditions year around. This greatly assists in establishing a standard and estimating the expression upon maturation. And very little will be left to chance when you then add the seasoned human expertise of decades-long study and practise. Typically for Scotch Whisky, the water is aquired locally. Naturally, so is the barley.
Towards the end of every season, Tomatin begins creating a lightly peated whisky. It goes by the Scotch-Gaelic name of Cù Bòcan, meaning black dog. The name is derived from a local legend surrounding a mythical creature said to have haunted Tomatin for centuries. It is said that Cù Bòcan is a ghost hound that stalked a local worker one late night. Plumes of smoke rising from its nostrils as the creature bared its teeth. Defying the beast, the worker turned to touch its thick, dark fur. And instantly, the menacing figure dissolved into a dense blue fog that slowly floated towards the peatlands.
Whether this legend can be truly attributed to local superstition, or if it is just a salient marketing gimmick is difficult to accurately determine. Those who have researched the folklore phenomenon suspect a connection to The Witch of Laggan, Isobel Gowdie, and rumors surrounding the last remaining wolf population of Scotland. Tomatin themselves don’t appear interested in shedding any further light on its origins, preferring instead to focus on more tangible matters. And they do so with remarkable success, managing to impress time and time again in maintaining a diverse product line-up with vastly different, yet approachable expressions. Tomatin Distillery is without a doubt a place that dares to challenge and innovate. All the while keeping the admiration and respect for traditional, Scotch Whisky in mind.
Click here to explore our great selection of Tomatin and Cù Bòcan. Or here to visit their homepage.