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Monday, November 20, 2023

Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 22 year old Special Reserve

All of 57 years old, Tamnavulin is one of those youngish Scottish distilleries that never really burst into the single malt scene, similar to Pittyvaich and Mannochmore, instead serving as blend fillings. It's been part of Whyte & Mackay's less-than-sexy facilities, like Fettercairn (which I like) and Jura (which I don't). It was closed for nearly 12 years after W&M's purchase, reopening in 2007. About ten years after that some Tamnavulin NAS single malts started showing up on shelves.

But before it was acquired by W&M, back in the Invergordon Distillers days, some official "Tamnavulin-Glenlivet" malts appeared as far west as The United States. One of these was a 22-year-old Special Reserve.

There's not much to be found online regarding the 22yo, other than auction listings. Some of those pages state that this bottling was from the 1980s. If so, it would have been, 1988 or 1989, since distillation began in 1966. The American labels list volume in milliliters and strength in ABV, so I think the bottlings are actually from the early 1990s.

from the bottle being reviewed

In any case, I got in on a bottle split on a 22yo Special Reserve, as well as a split of a sparring partner, which I'll review later this week. First, the 22.

pic from Whiskybase

Distillery: Tamnavulin
Ownership then: Invergordon Distillers Ltd.
Ownership now: Emperador Inc. (via Whyte and Mackay Group)
Region: Speyside (Livet)
Age: at least 22 years old
Distilled: somewhere between 1966 and 1973
Bottled: somewhere between 1988 and 1995
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins in an intriguingly unique fashion: something savory mixes with sesame seeds, pistachios, and chestnuts. Then it takes on more fun stuff like grapefruit, black walnuts, anise, and chocolate malted barley.

Unfortunately the palate REALLY doesn't compete with the nose. It's very bitter, with wormwood and bitter citrus. Then an over-baked bitter woodiness takes over. It needs more than 60 minutes (really) before it shifts gears. That's when the lime candy and tart apple cider appear.

Like the palate, the finish goes all in on bitterness. Later on it picks up notes of raw nuts, lime candy, and apples.


I can confirm the bottle was opened seven months ago and the sample was poured immediately after opening, which is why I discounted the possibility of sample issues with the early problematic palate. As noted, it improves after an hour, so I'm glad I didn't give up on it. Still, the nose sets up expectations for something much better. Olde Tamnavulin can do better. Next up, an indie...

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82 (started in the 70s)