Tobermory Hebridean Gin

Famous for its brightly painted houses that line the main street up to the pier, with a backdrop of tree-lined hills that look across the Sound of Mull, Tobermory is the principal town on the Hebridean island of Mull and the starting point for a trip to Iona. If you stay the night in the town, as I did some years ago, the whisky distillery, originally known as Ledaig Distillery when it was founded in 1798 but known more prosaically as Tobermory Distillery, and its products are worth searching out.

Sadly, when I was there, they had not started distilling gin, but this omission was rectified in April 2019 when they launched Tobermory Hebridean Gin, joining the ever-growing band of whisky distillers who see an opportunity to cash in on the ginaissance by using their expertise to produce spirits that take less time to produce and offer a boost to cashflow. Ironically, I had to go down to Cornwall, on a recent visit to the headquarters of Drinkfinder UK, to pick up my bottle.  

The story goes that their foray into the world of gin came about when they had the opportunity, as you do, to buy a 60-litre 1950s copper still from South Africa, which they shipped over to Mull. After refurbishing and fitting it, it was christened Wee Betty, joining The Botanists’s still in Islay, Ugly Betty, as a still bearing the name of Betty. Perhaps it is a Scottish thing. Anyway, the gin has gone so well that they are upgrading to a larger still.

Unsurprisingly, the bottle, clear and circular with a domed shoulder, medium sized neck with a turquoise foil, and wooden cap with cork stopper, makes great play of their distilling heritage and Hebridean origin. Embossed on the front of the bottle above the label is “Est 1798” and below “Isle of Mull”. The white label, two thin strips, one at the front and one at the back, is busy, telling me that it is “Hebridean small batch gin distilled on the Isle of Mull with rich spirit from our whisky stills”.

It names elderflower, tea, and wild heather on the front while the wording on the rear label below a charming illustration of the painted houses of Tobermory adds juniper, sweet orange peel to line up. However, there are another eight botanicals used to make the gin, whose identities are kept under wraps. A shame. What particularly intrigued me about this gin is that it uses a grain neutral spirit as the base but adds a dash of Tobermory new-make spirit as a quasi-botanical rather than the base itself, gin with whisky overtones, an interesting twist to ageing gin in whisky barrels.   

On the nose the juniper seemed a little undercooked, making way for more floral and herbaceous aromas and the maltiness of the whisky. In the glass it is slightly cloudy as it louches with a tonic and surprisingly sharp, a melange of spices, herbs, and citrus with a creamy feel in the mouth and the lurking presence of the whisky before signing off with a smooth malty and herbal aftertaste.

It is certainly different and on initial tasting I was not too sure, the juniper seemed to have got lost and the maltiness of the whisky was perhaps a little too evident. It also seemed stronger than its advertised 43.3% ABV, again perhaps a legacy of the whisky. After returning to the bottle several days later, the impact was not as great, and it proved a pleasant and interesting tipple. This is definitely one for those who like their gins on the more herbal side of the taste spectrum.

Until the next time, cheers!

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