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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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Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA

Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA My first major US distillery and the first stop I made on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in May 2012.  To call this a distillery visit is a bit misleading... as the official name is the Jim Beam Heritage Tour and you don't get to see any of the actual working distillery (except for one warehouse).  Instead the focus is on the Beam family distilling history (which begins with Jacob Beam.... not Jim) and and also learn about their product range.  This is not the artisanal style of distillery I have been used to seeing in Scotland, this is a major whisky factory wth over 475 employees (thats about 450 more men than you find in Tain and 472 more than Benromach).  I learned that 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky and 50% of that is made by Jim Beam.   Their range is a bit of a mixed bag for me... I like Jim Beam Black (but not the standard White label), I like Booker's but not Baker's and I love Knob Creek but don't like Basil Hayden.  All of these Beam brands are made at this facility and interestingly all made with the usual suspects of corn, rye and malted barley... not a wheated bourbon in the range.  Highlight of tour was probably learning our guide was 8th generation Beam family and seeing the pride and passion in her for bourbon (and she was cute which also helped).  The tour was free and included a short video and samples of Jim Beam Black and Baker's small batch bourbon (and a sample of choclate to try with the Baker's... a recurring theme on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  The facility is currently undergoing an upgrade with a new store and a cafe and will in the future the tour will include the actual distillery.... so I will have to come back and revisit when that is complete and hopefully get the same guide.
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