The Tobermory Distillery was founded ten years later under the name Ledaig (Gaelic for ‘safe haven’) by John Sinclair, who had moved to the village to work as a kelp merchant. When he initially applied for permission to build the distillery he was told to make it a brewery instead as distilling was temporarily banned because Britain was at war with France and needed to save grain.
Nevertheless, Sinclair persisted and in 1823 it became one of the first distilleries to take out a license. However, in 1837 the distillery closed down for four decades, not the last time it would suffer a long fallow period. It opened again in 1877 but when the Great Depression and Prohibition in the USA hit the whisky industry hard in the 1930s, Ledaig Distillery shut down for another 41 years and was used as a power plant during this time.
The 1970s and 1980s saw more turmoil as new owners came and went and the distillery opened and closed again, even being used for cheese storage at one point. Notably, during this period, the name changed from Ledaig to Tobermory for the first time. In 1993 it was bought again by Burn Stewart Distillers and since then has only been closed for a six-year maintenance hiatus in 2013.
The whisky produced at Tobermory is available in two main forms celebrating the distillery’s dual histories: the non-peated Tobermory and a heavily-peated Ledaig. Both single malts are produced using the same stills, wash backs, mash tuns and process water but are very different in character because of the malted barley used.