Over two hundred years of single malt mastery goes into each and every drop. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Selecting the barley
The birth of a beautiful single malt starts with the barley. We use optic barley which we source from several Scottish maltsters, to ensure exceptional quality: the signature of our single malts. Only barley which meets the Master Distiller’s exacting criteria is selected.
The art of malting
Our carefully selected barley is first soaked in fresh water for two to three days and then spread out on the distillery floor to germinate. This can take one to three weeks, depending on the season. During this time it is constantly monitored, turned and tended. As the barley naturally germinates, it is infused with the very essence of the distillery and the heady sea mists of Mull.
The next stage is milling our malted barley to release the starch and sugars from the grain. This is done in a traditional Porteus mill to the Master Distiller's exact specifications. The result is a course flour, or 'grist'.
The mastery of mash
We are blessed on the island to have some of the purest water in the world. It is heated and added to the grist in a traditional copper-domed mash tun. Heady sweet aromas fill the chamber as warming malted barley converts the starch into fermentable sugar. The sugared water, known as 'wort', is drawn off over the course of several hours. Only the wort from the first two waters will be extracted for fermentation. The remaining additions will become the first water of the next mash.
Time to ferment
The wort is then cooled and passed through one of our four wooden washbacks, made of Oregon Pine. The addition of yeast (nature's magic) converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol. We use single-strain yeast, sourced from Menstrie in Stirlingshire. It works beautifully.
The spirit of distillation
We distil the same way today as we did over two hundred years ago. The method comprises of two wash stills and two low wines stills.
Our fermented wash is first heated - almost to the point of boiling, but not quite - to drive off alcohol vapours. It is then condensed back into a liquid, known as ‘low wines’, which results in a very coarse distillate, around 20% ABV. It will be further refined in the second distillation in the low wines stills.
Low wines are then brought to the point of boiling and three distinct examples of new spirit are condensed. The first (‘heads’ or foreshots) and final third (‘tails’ or feints) are rejected. The steeply inclined s-shaped lyne arm of our still gives heavy reflux which leads to more refined notes in the spirit.
It is only the middle distillate, or ‘Heart of the Run’, which is deemed pure enough for collection.
And so to sleep
Meticulously crafted, this precious golden liquid will one day become a distinguished single malt. But first it must mature.
The special relationship between the cask and the air that it ‘breathes’ is critical. Our whiskies mature in original oak wood casks; a special combination of ex-sherry, bourbon, and refill whisky casks make for the perfect rest chambers. This contributes to the subtle and sublime fruitiness, with which Tobermory is synonymous.
Everything that can be done to produce an exceptional single malt has been done. Now, all we can do is wait.