Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition (2020)
Tamnavulin is seldom seen as a single malt. Actually, I’ve only ever reviewed one other expression from this Speyside distillery. Like the Tamnavulin Double Cask, the Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition is an official distillery bottling. According to the distillery’s website it was ‘enhanced by a finesse in three different Sherry casks’. That’s probably a fancy way of describing a straight-forward finishing process. Also, I assume they mean three different types of sherry casks, otherwise it would be an extremely small batch release.
Tamnavulin is a relatively young distillery, only celebrating it’s 50th anniversary in 2016. Usually it’s pretty impressive for a company to achieve that milestone, but in Speyside (let alone Scotland) there are dozens of distilleries with a history dating back to the 19th century. Tamnavulin is Gaelic for ‘mill on the hill’ and the distillery is located between Dufftown and Tomintoul. As it is a product of the 1960s whisky boom, it doesn’t quite have the same visual appeal as others in the area.
The distillery was built and owned by Invergordon Distillers, a company bought by Whyte & Mackay in 1995. At the time, its most interesting asset was the eponymous grain distillery located in the Northern Highlands of Scotland. It was the principal reason why Whyte & Mackay took over Invergordon Distillers—and Tamnavulin with it. With the whisky market in decline in the mid 1990s, Whyte & Mackay immediately decided to mothball Tamnavulin. It took 12 years before the distillery was reopened, but it still functions mainly as a supplier for blended whiskies.
So, while Jura and Dalmore (and nowadays even Fettercairn) are positioned by Whyte & Mackay as proper single malt brands, Tamnavalin remains a sort of black sheep of the family. Although I probably shouldn’t use that term, as it is a unnecessarily derogatory, because there’s much commercial value in anonymous blend fillers like Tamnavulin. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some true gems hidden in their warehouses. But due to Whyte & Mackay’s current policy, there’s only a small chance of them ever seeing the light of day. For now we’ll make due with the few official bottlings that are available, like the Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition.
Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition (40%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Hints of raisins but also copper coins, marzipan and a touch of crème de cassis. There’s whisper of rhubarb as well, with just a whiff of watery orange juice.
Taste: Sticky honey and gentle spices with just a touch of green banana, but also dark caramel, red apples and almonds.
Finish: Soft red fruits and some gentle spices. Short to medium.
A good value whisky that compares favourably to many big name Speysiders in the same price range. Worth seeking out if you’re in the market for an easy sipping whisky at a low price. Don’t expect miracles though.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.