A former brewery redesigned into a distillery in 1949 by William Delmé-Evans, the famous distillery architect. That’s one of the more interesting facts on the Tullibardine website, a Scottish distillery located in the village of Blackford. And that’s a problem.
Tullibardine is one of those brands that I often overlook. And I suspect I’m not the only one. I think there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s because there’s just not much to hook you into the brand of Tullibardine. The Our Story section on the company’s website is shockingly short. And the details that are shared come across like they’re grasping at straws.
For example, the distillery claims their story begins in 1488, but that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s the year when King James IV of Scotland stopped at a Blackford brewery to buy beer. While it is the earliest known documented account of commercial brewing in Scotland, that doesn’t make it so that your distillery’s history goes back to the 15th century.
While other distilleries of the same name were around in the late 18th and early 19th century, Tullibardine was founded midway through the 20th century. It simply doesn’t have a very long history, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, I’d like it if Tullibardine would focus more on process and people. Who is making the whisky and how are they doing it? I’d love to learn more about this apart from the occasional picture of distillery staff on social media.
And then secondly, there’s the quality of Tullibardine’s whisky. Historically it hasn’t stood out much. One important reason is that, not unlike Bruichladdich, most of their whisky used to be filled into tired, worn casks. This was changed by the current owners, the Picard family, who made sure much of the stock was re-casked. They’ve been working on improving the distillery ever since they bought it in 2011. Now, finally, it seems their labour starts to yield fruits.
I’ve been seeing more positivity surrounding the brand, both in reviews by whisky commentators as well as by consumers on social media. So, when I was recently contacted by Tullibardine’s PR people, I actually felt genuine curiosity about trying their whisky.
I took them up on their offer to send me whisky to review, which turned out to be the Tullibardine The Murray 2008 Cask Strength. This single malt is part of the distillery’s The Marquess Collection and matured in first-fill American oak ex-bourbon casks. And it is also rather friendly priced, which is a nice change of pace nowadays.
Tullibardine The Murray 2008 Cask Strength (56.1%, OB, 2021)
Nose: Plenty of vanilla, sweet pastry, orange pith and stewed apples, accompanied by a whiff of pine needles, a touch of coconut shavings and fruity hops. Somewhat chalky too. Fairly straightforward, but good. Taste: Apfelstrudel with warm vanilla sauce, whiffs of honey, a touch of pickled lemons and some mush bananas. Also whispers of walnuts and cinnamon. Finish: Sweet and medium in length with some oak shavings and a sliver of apricots.
A very satisfying bourbon-matured single malt, the Tullibardine The Murray 2008 Cask Strength is not the most complex whisky you'll ever find, but it does most everything else really well. Not a whisky to dissect and analyse, but I believe with enough intricacies to keep you interested throughout an entire bottle.