...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Other Ts: Tullibardine 500 Sherry Finish

I have to keep looking up who the heck owns Tullibardine distillery.  Currently it's the Picard family, ascendants of the great Jean Luc.  Before them it was the generic sounding "Tullibardine Distillery Ltd", a company who released a number of well-aged whiskies (like a '88, '92, and '93) for bargain bin prices.  A few years after the new ownership took over they decided the range needed sexying up.  Now there are four whiskies without age statement or vintage -- Sovereign, 225 Sauternes finish, 228 Burgundy finish, and 500 Sherry finish -- as well as pricey 20 and 25 year olds.  The odd looking numbers on those finished whiskies represent the general volume size (in liters) of each type of wine cask they use for the finish.

We selected the Tullibardine 500 for an OC Scotch Club event last year.  Even though it was the second cheapest whisky of the bunch, a number of attendees liked it the best.  Their enthusiasm for it motivated me to give it a try too.  While I can't say that I loved it, I remembered it being a decent step up from Glenmorangie Lasanta.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Picard Vins & Spiritueux
Region: Mid-Highlands
Type: Single Malt
Age: ???
Maturation: first ex-bourbon casks, then ex-sherry butts
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chill filtered? ???
Caramel Coloring? probably not much

Unlike what the official notes say, its color is not a "dark, rich brown".  It's light gold, which is a good sign to me.  The lightly rosy nose is full of golden raisins and roasted nuts.  Some fresh stone fruits, rather than the dried ones found in many sherried whiskies.  Then vanilla bean, brine, cherries, and potpourri.  The palate is mild and malty.  Again, no dried fruits.  Roasted and slightly tart notes mingle with a light bitterness.  Hints of pepper, salt, and lemons.  Subtle dry sherry.  Totally inoffensive.  It finishes roasty and toasty.  Pepper and malt.  Light on the sherry.  Pleasantly dry.

And yeah, I didn't try this with water because I casually drank up most of my sample without realizing it.  Which is a positive, actually.  Again, to disagree with the official notes, I must say nothing about this whisky is "intense".  May I also repeat my own "Totally inoffensive" note from above.  It's clearly a thing one can drink and forget.  What I don't see is the quality that would make it worth $60+ in the US.  It's actually less than $40 in much of Europe, a price at which I would recommend it.  But if you're looking for something to drink and forget, and you want something better than Lasanta, and you have an extra three score dollars just lying around, Tullibardine 500 is not a bad option.

Availability - Some specialty retailers
Pricing - $50-$70 (US), $35-$55 (Europe, minus VAT, w/o shipping)
Rating - 81


  1. I enjoyed quite a lot the 1993 Tullibardine put forth by the previous owners. (You reviewed it here as you know.) I seem to remember that there's a big gap in production due to years of closure, 1995-2004, so the new owners (as the previous ones) are dealing with very young & very old whisky, but not enough in between. They are probably trying to make the best of the situation while the casks are aging in the warehouse. It looks like in a year or two we'll be seeing a 10yo or a 12yo - I'm just speculating here.

    1. Some good points here.

      As per Malt Whisky Yearbook and Maclean's Whiskypedia the mothballing was from 1994-2003. It's possible they had 10 year old stock when they did the range reboot, though perhaps their priorities are their contracts with blenders. They'll have 13 year old stuff at some point this year. If these NASes are indeed selling well -- something we don't know -- they I doubt they'd be in any hurry to do an official 10 or 12. The 20yo will probably be disappearing soon since it would be 22+ years old if bottled this year.

    2. You're technically correct. Malt Madness, my source, says "they were *already* mothballed in Jan 1995 [...]". Until Dec 2003, after which "they produced at 'Disney' levels for some time". So if what Johannes means is that they produced very little, it may be that for practical purposes they don't have any 10 year old whisky left, or it's too little to sustain an official release. That's where I was coming from with my timeline. I also think that small- and medium-sized distillers who can keep up an aged release are very happy to do so, as a point of differentiation from the pack. And probably the pack itself will come back to age-stated soon after this temporary shortage crazyness ends.

    3. "And probably the pack itself will come back to age-stated soon after this temporary shortage crazyness ends." Man, I hope so.