Tullibardine (Pronounced: Tully-bar-deen)
Glenturret, Deanston, Aberfeldy
Ochil Hills, Danny Burn
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
2,700,000 litres of pure alcohol per year (not fully utilised)
Picard Vins & Spiritueux (Tullibardine Distillery Ltd.)
Blackford, Perthshire, PH4 1QG, Scotland
Yes, and it's open virtually all year round
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - JBB (Greater Europe) suffers from a management buy-out and changes its name to Kyndal.
2003 - The Tullibardine distillery (which was mothballed in 1994 or '95) is purchased by a group of businessmen with experience in the whisky industry, including Michael Beamish and Doug Ross. After they acquired the Tullibardine distillery in June 2003, they managed to get production going again by December 2003.
2009 - Tullibardine joins early in the trend of releasing underage spirits with their Pure Pot Spirit from 2008.
2011 - A press release dated 11/11/2011 says that the 'a leading French wine and spirits group' has acquired the Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire. Picard Vins & Spiritueux bought Tullibardine distillery from the private investors who brought the distillery back into production in 2003, after being mothballed for 10 years.
Later, the Brodie Hepburn company itself was bought
by Invergordon - 2 decades later, in 1971 to be precise.
Another wo decades later, in 1993, Whyte & Mackay
(who were subsidiaries of Fortune Brands at the time)
gobbled up Invergordon. Whyte & Mackay changed their
name to JBB (Greater Europe) in 1996, before they
decided to change their name once more to Kyndal in
2001. So, I guess you are already confused by now?
The picture at the right shows part of the Tullibardine
distillery in Perthshire, Scotland. As you can see from the
picture, the Tullibardine distillery looks quite modern. That
fact is not too surprising because Tullibardine is indeed
one of the youngest Scottish distilleries; it was founded
in 1949 by the architect William Delmé-Evans and C. I.
Barrett. In 1953 the Tullibardine distillery was sold on
to Brodie Hepburn Ltd. - whisky brokers from Glasgow.
Well, brace yourself - I'm afraid I'm not quite finished yet...
In 2003 the people of Kyndal decided they actually liked the name 'Whyte & Mackay' better.
Meanwhile, the Tullibardine distillery had already been mothballed in January 1995, when Whyte & Mackay was still called... erm... Whyte & Mackay. Around the time Kyndal switched back to the name Whyte & Mackay again, they had just sold Tullibardine to Tullibardine Distillery Ltd. for (allegedly) 1,100,000 GBP. That seems like a friendly price, given the impressive production capacity at Tullibardine. But then again, in recent times they haven't operated at full capacity.
In fact, after production resumed in December 2003 they only produced at 'Disney' levels for some time. When Invergordon rebuilt Tullibardine in 1973/'74 they increased the number of stills from two to four, but now only one of the pairs of stills was being used - and only part time.
However, these days they have expanded the work week from
five to seven days and they hoped to produce 2,000,000 litres
in 2008. Just like Edradour and Glenmorangie they've jumped
on the finishing bandwagon - and it seems to serve the spirit
well. It also allows the new owners to 'shape' the whiskies.
After all, all the current stocks were made by previous owners.
I have to admit that the type of whisky they made in the old
days wasn't really to my liking. Most Tullibardines I tried in the
late 1990's and early noughties had an oily 'cod oil' trait that
I'm mentally allergic to. Some of the finishes managed to
mask most of the oil, enhancing my personal enjoyment.
The picture above shows the 'old' Tullibardine 10
that was available in the 1990's.
The new design of the 'standard' releases of the early noughties is shown at the
right; although some of the finished releases are packaged a tad more elaborately.
Tullibardine released three different finished 'Vintage 1993' bottlings in 2005 (a
marsala finish, muscatel finish and port finish) and a further five finishes in 2007.
Like other 'relaunches' like Benriach and Bruichladdich, Tullibardine has released an
overload of different bottlings lately. That makes most of their bottlings very limited
releases by definition - and it's hard to discover a 'house style' within a portfolio.
But then again - perhaps 'house styles' are gradually becoming a thing of the past anyway...
When I discovered single malts in the 1990's most other maltheads seemed interested in the category of whisky
rather than specific 'brands'. That means that the general focus seemed to be on trying to discover as many different
styles and distilleries as possible. Nowadays more and more blend drinkers are upgrading to single malts, and they're
already used to drinking 'brands' rather than different types and styles of whisky. So, more and more whisky suppliers
(distilleries, blenders and bottlers) are trying to provide as broad a range of malt whiskies as possible - as opposed to
the two or three relatively "standard" expressions that were customary in the 1990's.
Anyway - now I'm getting distracted - please scroll down for some trivia and tasting notes...
1) The previous owners obtained the Tullibardine distillery in 2003. At the time, most "standard" bottlings of single malt whisky were ten or twelve years old - so most people people expected the first "new" Tullibardine whiskies to be released around 2014. However, the Tullibardine Aged Oak Edition (without an age statement) that was available at the beginning of 2011 exclusively contains whisky that was made under the new owners management.
2) The history of Tullibardine is rather similar to that of Tamnavulin. Both whisky distilleries were also founded fairly
recently (1966), have been owned by Invergordon / Whyte & Mackay / Kyndal and were mothballed around 1995.
Both were recently resurrected with the help of foreign capital.
3) Tullibardine was a disused brewery when it was 'discovered' by architect William Delmé-Evans. Rumour has it that King James IV once purchased beer at that brewery to celebrate his coronation at Scone Palace in 1488. So, that's the link to the number 1488 that is advertised in massive letter on the wall of the visitor centre. Incidentally, King James IV was the last British Monarch to be killed in battle - at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513 to be precise.
4) Tullibardine's restart after 2003 was overseen by distillery manager John Black who was born at Cardhu.
John eventually became manager at Cardhu distillery and has worked in the whisky industry (Speyside, Highlands and Ardbeg) for more than 50 years.
5) In 2008 Tullibardine produced 2.7 million litres of new make spirit - the largest amount in 1 year in their history.
Tullibardine NAS 'Age Oak Edition' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Light and mellow. Peaches. Buttercups. A little veggy. Not my style, but expressive enough.
Taste: Oy.... Oily and fairly weak. A have to admit that it's very easily drinkable. A short, depressing finish.
Score: 73 points - Tullibardine has released some great bottlings recently - but this isn't one of them.
Tullibardine 1988/2009 (56%, OB, Cask #540, 317 Bts.)
Nose: Very fragrant and fruity. Some dust. Rhum. Hints of vegetables as well. Settles down after a while.
Something very faintly medicinal far in the background. A tad metallic? Maybe a suggestion of sulphur?
Taste: Extremely fruity with a touch of smoke. Oddly enough, there's hardly any sweetness in the start.
Smoother and sweeter in the centre. A touch of cassis there? This one is quite harsh in the finish, though.
Score: 81 points - I'd recommend it, despite some rough edges... In fact, this score might be a tad stingy.
Tullibardine 1993/2009 (46%, OB, PX sherry butt finish)
Nose: Farmy and dusty like a flour factory. Veggy as well. Pleasant enough but not very expressive initially.
Opens up with time. Fruits & sweeter notes emerge after a minute, along with some sweaty notes. Coconut.
Taste: Fruity and oily. Smooth centre. Some pine and herbal notes in the finish - and perhaps a touch of smoke.
Just like the nose, it grows a little sweeter over time. The fruity notes grow more artificial over time.
Score: 77 points - one of those scores I would have increased if the MM Awards rules didn't prohibit that.
Tullibardine 1993/2008 (46%, OB, Sauternes Finish)
Nose: A weird one. Obviously finished - but in the case of Tullibardine there's often not much risk.
Taste: Off notes and a harsh finish. Fairly solid fruits though. Chewable centre. Toch of honey on the palate?
Score: 76 points - which is quite an accomplishment for a Tullibardine; I wasn't really a fan in the past...
Tullibardine 1975/2007 (52,7%, OB, Hogshead #1009, 194 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet, big and sherried. Some oil in the background?
Taste: Big on fruits and woods. Sweet centre - very enjoyable. Passion fruit? Great mouth feel.
Something herbal in the smoky, tannic finish. Faintest hint of perfume?
Score: 86 points - proof that they've finally learned how to make highly recommendable malt whisky ;-)
Tullibardine 33yo 1972/2006 (43.1%, Dewar Rattray, Cask #2597)
Nose: Wow! Surprisingly fruity with a hint of tobacco.... Beautifully polished. Cookie dough. Pine?
Taste: Smooth and sweet at first, growing more solid and fruitier (apple?) in the centre. Gritty finish.
Score: 88 points - I added a point after some organcs and Menthos appeared in the nose. Needs time!!!
Tullibardine 17yo 1988/2005 (57.1%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry Butt #269, 539 Bts.)
Nose: Starts our restrained like the 1988 OB, but grows farmier with time and a little water.
Taste: Big and spicy at cask strength. Coffee? Very enjoyable. Wow, this IS a surprise!
Score: 83 points - good, but not quite expressive and complex enough in the nose to reach the upper 80's.
Tullibardine 1973/2004 (49.2%, OB, Cask #2517, 183 Bts.)
Nose: Dusty and a little 'organic'. Fruits. It closes up within a minute, leaving only metallic smells.
No wait, now it sweetens out a bit again. Whiff of manure? Numbs the nose. Returns to metallic again.
Taste: Smooth and easily drinkable at this ABV. Subdued centre with maybe a hint of melon. Aspirin finish.
Only a faint hint of the oil that often distracts me in Tullibardines - but not much else either. Plywood.
Score: 78 points - quite similar in style to the 26yo 1973 from Signatory, also from a sherry cask.
Tullibardine 1993/2004 (40%, OB - one of the first releases of the new owners)
Nose: Sweet. Quite nice, actually. Nothing very interesting, but here's a light and accessible whisky.
Taste: Sweet and not too oily or herbal. Well, there's a smidgen iin the finish, but here it's balanced.
Score: 70 points - this might be my first young Tullibardine whisky that scores in the seventies.
Tullibardine 15yo 1989/2004 (49.8%, Hart Bros, Distilled 04/'89)
Nose: Some farmy notes. And oil, just as I was expecting. Beerish. Some vague and hesitant spices.
String beans? Butter? Perhaps something vagualy metallic. Complex enough, but not my kind of malt.
Taste: Smooth and almost sweet for a few seconds. Slick. The sweetness retreats and returns again.
Quite some tannins in the finish. This has an odd liqueurish quality to it. Not MOTR, that's for sure.
Score: 65 points - I had it in the upper 60's for most of the time, but the finish dragged it down.
Tullibardine 1988 (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004 - one of the first releases of the new owners)
Nose: Restrained. Hint of oil. Maybe a suggestion of sweetness. Alarming lack of character.
Taste: Phew... Feels a bit like fresh spirit. Rough. Dry, gritty finish. They chose to release this?
Score: 57 points - once again a Tullibardine bottling manages to disappoint me... What a surprise...
Tullibardine 13yo 1989/2003 (59.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled June 2003, 276 Bottles)
Nose: A very distinctive sweet liquorice aroma. It's quite light. A tad buttery with faint spices.
Vaguely nutty. After a while sour elements take over. Cheap vinegar. Sour apple?
Taste: I tasted nothing. This was completely and utterly flat - even at almost 60%.
Score: 53 points - The lack of power at this high proof dragged the score down to 53 points.
Tullibardine 26yo 1973/2000 (49.6%, Signatory, Sherry, C#2401, 278 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet with a good dose of sherry. Subtle fruits and a hint of mint. But the complexity vanishes.
Vomit? Still, I'd give the nose a score in the lower 80's; it may turn simpler over time, but it's my kind of style.
Taste: Not nearly as complex as the nose suggests. A subdued fruity undercurrent. Prunes in the finish.
It loses quite a few points here. Pinch of peat? Some aspirin bitterness at the very back of the finish.
Score: 77 points - it grew on me but it was a very tough malt to score; some highlights and some 'flaws'.
Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, 70cl)
Nose: Quite soft; a bit like cod-oil. Overcooked vegetables and some smoke.
It reminded me a little of the Isle of Jura 10yo - another oily one. Almost 'Irish' in style, so gentle.
Taste: Starts off with a mild and distinctive sweetness, but ends very astringent with a tannine-like dryness.
Score: 64 points - this Tullibardine is not very high on my wish list...
Tullibardine NAS (40%, OB, 'Painted Label', +/- 1995, 5cl) - no age statement on the miniature bottle.
Nose: Sweeter than I expected - and not as oily. Quite pleasant actually! What a nice surprise...
Taste: Ouch... For a moment there I thought I could actually recommend a Tullibardine. But then I tasted it.
It has the oil I loathe, although there's a pleasant coffee influence towards the finish.
Score: 70 points - which still isn't bad for a Tullibardine, mind you.
Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995, 70cl)
Nose: Ooh. Very oily. Olive oil and vegetables. Hint of salt and smoke - growing stronger.
It grows sweeter with time. Nutty. At first sight a little like Isle of Jura, Tobermory or Loch Lomond.
Taste: Weak and watery. Creamy. Sweeter over time. Oily. Gritty and peppery later on.
Dry and a little astringent in the finish. Not really my style, although the bottle improved after breathing.
Score: 70 points - but I should point out that I had it at 61 points right after opening the bottle.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Tullibardine Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Tullibardine page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Tullibardine expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or