Tamnavulin Double Cask

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

 
To the surprise of many enthusiasts this Double Cask release appeared in 2016 from Tamnavulin distillery on supermarket shelves to little fanfare. Owned by White & Mackay it’s fair to say that Tamnavulin keeps a low profile so much so that many still thought it was a closed distillery. Whereas in reality it reopened in 2007 after being falling silent for the previous 12 years.


Tamnavulin was established in 1966 and was one of several new Speyside distilleries from the era that were built to satisfy a growing demand rather than any worthwhile architecture aesthetic. The exception to the rule remains the glorious Tormore that is a wonderful example of a modern distillery. As with most of the distilleries under the ownership of White & Mackay, Tamnavulin has endured a rocky history with almost all of its produce going into blends. As a single malt it is rarely seen or actually appreciated as there is very little had on the market.

A rumour that does the rounds is that many of the aged statement releases that are available at the German supermarket chain Lidl’s are actually from Tamnavulin. This could be possible as its generally known that Whyte & Mackay supply the whiskies from many of its ranges and this also spills over into the single malts with an age statement. It’s a rumour almost justified by powers of deduction as folk actually buy Jura as a single malt (goodness knows why) so that’s ruled out and Dalmore is the shining star destined for a life in wine casks and Fettercairn; well what about Fettercairn? By all accounts given the 12-year gap whilst Tamnavulin distillery was closed, there wasn’t much aged stock prior to 1995 as it was. The rumour could be true although I remain unconvinced.

Tamnavulin is also limited by what I like to call the curse of Paterson, as let’s be frank here the distilleries that fall under his leadership do not enjoy the best reputations. My own thoughts on Jura are well known, but then you have Dalmore that is blighted by cask frolics and artificial colouring. Then you have Fettercairn which prompts widespread groans from enthusiasts. Funny thing is, track down an independent bottling of any of these distilleries and in their naked form (i.e. without master blender tampering) they are far superior in most cases to the official bottlings.

Whisky Rover therefore has a general disdain for most things out of the Whyte & Mackay stable however there is always that one bottle that changes opinion and proves that something good can come out of evil. A prime example being the 30-year-old Jura released by Cadenheads earlier in 2016. I’m always prepared to give a repeat offender a chance hence the purchase of this Tamnavulin Double Cask that is a UK exclusive release to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the distillery. Tracking this one from earlier this year it’s price has steadily come down from circa £30 to a more reasonable £20 for what is essentially a No Age Statement release bottled at 40% strength, chill filtered and tanned to within an inch of its life. These are the hallmarks of the aforementioned master blender (who is not named on any of the packaging), but at least the price is becoming a little more realistic.


The double cask means this matured mainly in ex-bourbon casks from America (of all places) before receiving a sherry cask finish of unstated duration and sprinkling of E150. Perhaps with Emperador Inc. purchasing Whyte & Mackay in 2014, this release is just the first step to introduce the distillery to the modern whisky enthusiast? Time for the review.

Colour: a light caramel
Nose: familiar notes with honey and almonds then caramel. Rich tea biscuits follow with marzipan, toasted bread and at the end red applies. The addition of water reveals toffee and walnuts.

Taste: pretty benign palate-wise although some would say subtle. I’m picking up decaying oranges, old ginger root and a bitterness from the wood. The finish is a gentle parade of cherries. Water I’m pleased to report actually improves matters but use sparingly. The addition unleashes more fruity notes with black pepper and syrup.

Overall: the low expectations of this whisky were met. I’ve heard criticism from some and my own perspective is if I was celebrating a 50th anniversary then I’d at least made it memorable for the right reasons. This is bottom shelf supermarket fare and as such will find favour with those who are price driven and prefer a lick of sherry taint. The casks involved in this whisky creation must be overtired and the briefest of sherry finishes. Somewhat disappointing or it could just be like Jura the spirit from the stills itself if flawed.

At £20 this is correctly priced although the Aldi single malts offer much better value for money and importantly flavour. A little water lifts this one up a couple of notches but it’s nothing memorable yet somehow remains a solid sipper as we managed to get through half a bottle easily without too much complaints. 

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