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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where's the Love? Tullibardine 1993 (46%abv US Edition)

And here is the Aged Oak Edition's sparring partner.  Yes, more Tullibardine.  Some of you American folks may still see this particular whisky sitting on the shelves selling for a very reasonable price.  But most of you have passed it up and will continue to pass it up.  Hell, I used to see old green-bottle Cadenhead dusties of Tullibardine selling for under $100 and yet I never even considered considering lifting the bottle off the shelf.

Thanks to a generous member of the LAWS crew, I was able to try the Tullibardine 1962 vintage.  48 years old, and something Jim Murray soiled himself over, the whisky was......okay.  If it was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price, I'd happily recommend it because it sort of drank like something that was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price.  Its smoothness (sorry, I had to use THAT word) made for pleasant drinking, and one could perhaps thank its age for that.  But that very age also cut out whatever lively zip a 12 year old single malt would exhibit.  Thanks to Jim Murray's pronouncement the 48yo mostly sold out a few years ago.  But there are a few bottles still floating about.  So if you're in the market for a sleepy 48-year-old officially bottled single malt that costs less than a Kia, keep lookout for the '62 at $800.  Or you can spend your money wisely.

Anyway, this review has nothing to do with the 1962.  I just wanted to say that 99.99% of the whisky community isn't missing anything having not tried the oldie.  Let's see what we missed with the 1993.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (now Picard Vins & Spiritueux)
Distillation Year: 1993
Distilled by: White & Mackay
Age: ???
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon casks
Region: Mid-Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? ???
Caramel Coloring? probably not much
(Thank you to Florin (a prince) for the sample.)

Keep in mind that this was the US release of the '93.  It was bottled at 46%abv, but not finished in wine casks.  I'm unsure of its bottling date.  If I figure that out, then I'll update the above info.

The color is amber.  The nose leads with citron candles, peaches, and Three Musketeers chocolate bars.  Lots of grains, leafy.  The apples here are riper than those in the Aged Oak Edition.  With time, it picks up burnt bread, tree bark, and honeydew notes.  The palate starts off with a simple combo of lemon, caramel, and sugar.  Then there are hints of baking chocolate, honey, and rose petals.  With time a cardboard note opens and expands, countered by a wormwoody bitter note.  The finish is spicier and holds onto the honey note.  Also, notebook paper.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets weird.  Very rubbery.  Sunscreen, burnt raisins, burnt hair, and notebook paper (again).  A hint of caramel.  The palate is odd too.  Rubbery fruits, bitter carrot cake, burnt soap, and burnt vanilla.  Yes, some of those things aren't things, but there it is.  The finish is bitter and soapy.  Cardboard and generic caramel.  Thankfully it's all brief.

So, obviously, don't add water.  It's probably a good idea that this was bottled at 46%abv.  I'll focus on the neat serving.  The nose is easily the best part.  It gets a little quirky as it oxidizes but remains pretty solid.  I have little complaint about the palate until the cardboard arrives.  The finish is mild and short.

Before the Tullibardine Taste Off, I had expected I would ridicule the Aged Oak and trumpet this one.  Happy to find them both grain-forward, I actually wound up liking the younger (and lower abv) whisky much more.  While I can't give a rave review to either, I was intrigued enough that I'll keep a lookout in case any of Tulli's current non-finished whiskies end up in a clearance pile.  I'd very much like to try the 20 or 25 year old, but certainly not at their current prices.

Availability - Some specialty US retailers still have a few
Pricing - $50-$70
Rating - 76 (don't add water)


  1. You're dumping on another bottle that I really liked. So much, in fact, that I bought two more at what I considered the bargain price of $50. Once again, I have to surmise that the sample got worse for the wear in the two years since I finished this bottle (April 2013). Here's what I wrote in the heat of the moment:

    "I just opened my bottle of Tullibardine 1993. Here in the US they sell it at 46% - what a great idea! in Europe/Canada it's 40% -, and apparently that makes a big difference. There's nothing light about it! It has an uniquely oily, almost waxy texture, and it feels closer to a cask strength than to a 40% whisky. The dominant notes are citrus (lemon), malt, oaky Chardonnay, and some walnuts. It has the nose of an Old Pulteney (through Speyburn) and the body of a Clynelish. All in all, very elegant and well put together - an excellent whisky, and a revelation! 3.5*/5"

    1. There's the love, folks!

      Here are the Top Ten reasons why I am not worried about the sample's condition:
      8-10. The Aged Oak Edition was bottled in a mini, with a less reliable closure, two years before the 1993 was put in a sample bottle, and stayed in unknown storage for most of its life. Meanwhile the Aged Oak was in great shape.
      7. There was no air in the better-sealed sample.
      6. I trust your sample filling procedures.
      5. I trust my sample storage procedures.
      4. None of the neat notes came across as evidence of corrupted whisky.
      3. I spot quite a bit of overlap in the notes we each found.
      2. If you want to see me dumping on a bottle, see Homestead Bourbon.
      1. We may just have a difference in opinion. It's just a shame that no one else online seems to have reviewed this whisky. The version the LAWS guys reviewed was a 13yo 43%abv.

    2. The whisky was sold as 18yo, although I don't remember if this information was also on the bottle. (I'll have to check when I get back home). If that is correct, the bottling date should be 2011-2012.

      The cardboard and notebook paper notes, plus burnt/soap/bitter in your review are what made me think of a corrupt sample, since these are consistent with "cooked" whisky and they didn't match my notes and memory. (Although your "soap" may be my "wax".) My 3.5* would be about an 85 on your scale, and we rarely disagree that strongly, from my experience. I'll let you know when I open another bottle.

    3. I certainly won't say no to another try. It could be an 18yo. I think they stopped bottling the vintages around 2011-2012 when the ownership changed.

      I cooked a bottle of Powers and a bottle of Bank Note due to poor storage conditions a few years ago, I should have taken notes but I remember them being singularly sour. To me, cardboard notes come from exhausted casks in the mix, something I've gleaned from Lismore, Glenrothes Select Reserve, current Glenlivet 12, and my own cask misadventures. I think Jordan is of this opinion about cardboard notes as well; I'll have to ask. Also most of the weird stuff here came from when I reduced the abv. At 46% it was much better, and there had to be a reason why they bottled this batch at that strength when almost all of the '93s were bottled at 43 or 40.

      Also note, I don't grade on Whisky Advocate's scale wherein an 80 connotes rotten urine. My 76 is still something I'd drink again. And a 76 is generous compared to most of the Maniac scores of the '93s. So I think we're looking at the difference between a B grade and a C grade. While we're usually more in sync, I'm pretty sure we differ more than that when it comes to Midleton's Irish whiskies.

      In any case, if you offered me more Tullibardine 1993 I'd be happy to sample it sooner than two years after receipt.