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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Tobermory, Mull, Scotland

What's the story Tobermory?  This is an unusual review because I didn't actually get to tour this distillery.  We did go there, we drove all the way across Mull and arrived there in middle of afternoon in plenty of time only to be told that all the tours for the day were sold out.  I was little pissed off, but that was made much worse by the visitor center staff there who seemed to think that somehow I should have known better than to vist their distillery without a prior apointment,  Let's say their attitude grated to the extent that my notebook simply says under the Tobermory entry "No. No. No."   It was made worse by the fact that I really wanted to try their fifteen year old but they were sold out.  Sold out at the bloody distillery shop - how does that happen?  Didn't strike me as the most organized place and the complete opposite of all my distillery experiences before (and after) that date.  I vowed then (yes I actually vowed) to not drink Tobermory but then it turns out the 15 year old is in the 101 Whiskies to Try Before you Die list (damn) and that the Malted Muse has also bottled a limited edition single cask Tobermory (double damn) so I have decided to break my vow (for now).  Consider yourself lucky Tobermory, very lucky.

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Barton 1792, Kentucky, USA

My fourth stop of the day (but this distillery, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac and is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail) and if the Jim Beam experience lowered my expectations regarding the asthetic qualities of bourbon distilleries, then Barton 1792 sent them crashing through the floor.  This was a whiskey factory and industrial site, pretty it aint.  Still I really like the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve so this is still worth seeing as it goes some considerable way to dispel the Scottish distllery myths about the location, water and overall "terroir" magically contributing to the wonderful spirit.  1792 is a great product... and it is made in slightly run down, red brick factory in the middle of Bardstown.  I also learned that the 1792 date is a bit misleading, it has nothing to do with the distillery, but was chosen because it was the year that Kentucky became a commonwealth of the United States (well played Sazerac Marketing Department).  My tour was a little surreal, they are not in production now so our first stop was the obligatory bottling hall where we got to see (and hear) Taaka vodka filling.  Vodka on a bourbon tour?  Our guide seemed to have carte blanche to wander the site and so we did, rather aimlessly, looking at warehouses full of Magaritaville mixers and Cluny blended scotch as well as loaders, boiler houses and weigh bridges with the same level of enthusiasm as the stills or warehouses themselves.  This was a tour that desperately needed some structure and editing.... even I was bored by the end.  Simply put they need a story... what are they trying to tell the visitor?  Jim Beam talked about their family heritage, Maker's focussed on their brands, Heaven Hill told the overall bourbon story.  Sazaerac... come up with a story and then build a tour.  The highlight was without doubt the samples at the end, one I had never even seen before but will definately look for, Very Old Barton, and of course the excellent, high rye content, 1792. Just before I left I was, of course, offered a chocolate and I realized I had just been to my first Kentucky distillery that DIDN"T have a Beam connection.
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