Yeah, I know this is a tough gig. Announcing a Tullibardine whisky review is like trying to sell tickets for a vertical tasting of Glendullan or Tobermory. It just doesn’t capture the public interest whatsoever. Deanston has shown in recent times, things do change through investment and patience. Having the right people on board and a cohesive vision in time will be fruitful. Maybe, just maybe, in a few years time, the Tullibardine reaction will change.
For longer than I care to remember, Tullibardine has been fairly lacklustre. That’s not because of the staff or their passion for whisky. Numerous owners led to different directions and a confused approach. There’s also the legacy of bad casks and a pile ’em high approach that sadly Tullibardine has been trying to shake off for years through various finishes. I’ve tapped into this history previously via the Tullibardine 225 Sauternes review so we’ll move on.
Instead with Tullibardine, it’s looking to the future with confidence and still trying to establish itself as a single malt. Since being taken over by Terroir Distillers, a name Adam and Mark would approve of in 2011, there’s been a concerted effort and an impressive level of investment poured into the Blackford site. Sales are up and there are some positive shoots of growth abroad, but trying to reignite your reputation amongst bitter souls – or whisky enthusiasts as they’re also known – is an uphill struggle. These relatively immovable geeks are fond of travelling back in time in several forms and finding lost styles and treasures within a bottle. However, to onlookers of a less blinkered persuasion, they are seemingly more accommodating of a disappointing perfume saturated Bowmore or a lacklustre and poorly defined Ardbeg. Life isn’t fair and neither is whisky it seems when it comes to names.
The purpose of MALT isn’t just the latest release or some rare divine whisky. Recently I’ve wanted to reconnect and rediscover distilleries such as Tomintoul and Ben Nevis going so far as to put together a couple of verticals. These aren’t fashionable powerhouses with the Instagram posers, nor will they attract lots of visitors or ‘hits’ as the cool refer to them as. These distilleries are capable of greatness in the right format and we’re here to discover whisky and not follow the flock. There will be bumps in the road, misfortune, bitter disappointment and monologues from Adam. To me, this is all part of the pleasure of whisky. Finding that moment. Sharing it with friends and becoming lost in the ocean that memorable whiskies unleash.
Every distillery deserves a second chance including the holy trinity of evil. Sometimes you’ll be surprised, others furious that you offered another chance to be insulted once again i.e. the Jura Seven Wood. That’s how it goes and being involved here means I’ve ventured down darkened alleyways that many avoid. Prepare yourselves for more Jura and the overlooked. For now, let’s experience what Tullibardine can deliver for us. Visually it does look like a robust and almost aggressive maturation. Taken from a hogshead rather than a sherry butt, this shouldn’t be too surprising and 18 years is a long time in a small cell.
Tullibardine 1993 Pedro Ximinez – review
Bottled on 1st January 2009 at 18 years of age from a single hogshead – no.15084 – this resulted in 335 bottles at a robust 55.2% strength.
Colour: hand beaten copper
On the nose: initially it is a little confused as to what it wants to be. Smashed walnuts, red liquorice, a charred vanilla step from a dense frontage of rubber plants with chocolate dirt. Water reveals some cigar smoke and a sticky BBQ rub shakedown.
In the mouth: all cask unfortunately and a little fiery initially. Cherry menthol, ginger root, Manuka honey, rubbed brass then cranberries and apricots before a slightly rubbed infused finish. The addition of water achieves very little apart from removing that initial flame, perhaps more caramel in nature now with orange it has almost collapsed somewhat without adding too much whatsoever.
Not a keeper or something you’d seek out again sadly. In some ways very representative of the Tullibardine’s we used to loathe and fear in equal measure. More cask than anything else. Even then with such brute force, it’s just not enough to hide or dampen the flames of the inherent problems with the spirit at this time. The trick is not to look back in anger, despite our failure here we’ll give Tullbardine another opportunity to shine soon.