Tamnavulin distillery has risen from the dead like a zombie, or Jesus, or Lazarus, or Cthulhu. A regular Zombie Cthulhu L. Christ it is. It was built 50 years ago by the folks who also owned Invergordon distillery, right in a glen on the River Livet (much like its neighbor Glenlivet). For a while, before companies raised a fuss, its single malts were labeled Tamnavulin-Glenlivet. In 1993 it was purchased by Whyte & Mackay, who then closed it in 1995. Thankfully, they did not go the Full Diageo by plowing the structure, salting the earth, and selling it all to a condo development concern. Instead, W&M were nice enough to keep the parts in the building for some point in the future. Optimists! 2007 was that future point. That January they began refurbishing the place (including eventually replacing the wash stills), in May the company was bought by United Spirits, and in August they started distilling again. They were at full production capacity by 2011. A few years later the Whtye & Mackay branch of United Spirits was sold to Emperador Incorporated.
I haven't heard any word about them releasing an official Tamnavulin single malt. (If you have read differently and have a good link to the news, let us know in the comment section below.) In the meantime, most of the malt goes into the Whyte & Mackay blends. The old owners did release a number of official bottlings during previous decades. The one I'm reviewing today was distilled during Tamnavulin's second year. There isn't much info online about this bottling aside from TWE's page of a sold out dusty bottle. My sample comes from a LA Scotch Club event last year. I actually missed the event and bought the samples instead. Cool story bro.
Ownership then: Invergordon Distillers Ltd.
Ownership now: Emperador Inc.
Region: Speyside (Livet)
Type: Single Malt
Age: probably between 17 and 22 years old
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Its color is a medium gold. Lovely bold old damp oak notes lead the way in the nose. Then lemons. No, lemon sorbetto! My notes list "butterscotch" twice, so I guess there's butterscotch too. Then honeydew and a tiny bit of tropical punch. Lavender flowers, peat(?), and some OBE-like metallics. The palate starts off earthy and chalky with a little bit of peat. As it develops, it intensifies. A sweet creaminess meets the smoky note, feeling like smoked almonds and cream puffs. There's malt and also a little bit of IPA-like bitterness. Musty barrel notes linger throughout. A nice balance of soft sweet, tart, and bitter notes in the finish meets whispers of smoke and malt. It's simple but of a decent length.
Ever since I started to find musty notes in old whiskies, I've wondered about the source of those smells and flavors. Producers wouldn't actually use moldy casks, right? Or was this part of old bottle effect? Then, last month, while standing in one of Springbank's gorgeous old dunnage warehouses, with their cold earth floors and stone walls covered in splashes of white mold, I realized I may have been standing amidst the source of one of my favorite whisky characteristics. Since dunnage storage was utilized by everyone before efficiency and technology took over, perhaps maturing whisky changed in a small way, losing one more element. Or maybe it's all just in my imagination.
Also, this whisky was great. Much more vibrant than I'd expected, it had fruit and flowers without being overly fruity or floral. Nor did the smoke and earth overwhelm. It was malty and balanced. Man, I wish I had more. Many thanks to whomever stored this bottle well for three decades. I hope other bottles, somewhere out there, will be opened and enjoyed.
Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - $???
Rating - 90