Tullibardine. They're growing, so what can their French owners do to make them stand out?
Tullibardine has come a long way, but has a long way to go. I say this in the most endearing way. They have so much potential. If you were to visit now, like I did, you would see a lot of “coming soon” explanations. This distillery and the brands that are associated with it our now currently owned by Terroir Distillers which is a subsidiary of the French Wine conglomerate, Picard Vins & Spiritueux. Check out their footprint within the Scottish Whisky industry: https://scotchwhisky.com/whiskypedia/2609/picard-vins-spiritueux/ and their other spirits brands: http://terroirsdistillers.com/ .
Since this 2011 purchase, growth has been the first matter of concern. Including the actual buildings, capabilities on site, marketing and growing both their single malts and keeping their blends strong. Not only did this French firm purchase Tullibardine the Single Malt brand and distillery, but also the blends that come with it including Highland Queen and Muirheads.
Currently Tullibardine Distillery is producing about 2.5 Million Liters of new make spirit per year. They are not absurdly large, but have the space to expand. They purchased the buildings next to them that used to comprise of shoe shops, food shops etc. and plan to make this area their bottling center. You will also find a new building right in the parking lot where the cooperage will be. This could be turned into quite the little complex for the brand. They are redesigning their visitor center as well to help build the brand name Tullibardine. There are currently about 24 people that work there and you could see the cooper preparing his space for once it’s ready. They also have bonded warehouses on site. With all of these new pieces of the puzzle, you could have almost every part of production, except for malting, right on site here.
In regards to their production capabilities, they are currently running 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Their water is unique because it comes from the Danny Burn, which is a stream that runs through volcanic rock. This of course will affect taste. While I was there I saw their one mash tun working and actually agitating the grist while it was being watered with the second hot water bath. There were 9 stainless steel washbacks. The lovely tour guide, Linzie, mentioned that she herself can’t even know the strand of yeast they use since it is kept a secret, like many distillers do. Although she did say it is live yeast that needs to be refrigerated once received, which is different than other distilleries I have visited. They have four copper stills and put the new make spirit into the cask at 66% ABV. All Tullibardine brands start in bourbon barrels and then spend some time in different sherry, port casks etc. for different releases.
They have an interesting way of bottling and labeling their single malts that is different from most in the market. They don’t put age statements on any bottles except for the 20 and 25 year. This gives them the flexibility to play with the ages of their casks and how they blend them. I am curious how this tactic affects Tullibardine and other brand that do this. I am very excited to watch how this brand alters their marketing and bottling releases. With a wine company as an owner and regulations changing in America about how many times bourbon barrels can be used, I feel they have an opportunity to experiment and play around with different casks and flavors. Although the French owners have a much larger wine portfolio than whisky, I do hope they can build the brand and continue to grow it. They had lovely people working there including Linzie and Gavin from the visitor centre. They answered all of my questions and even let me wander through the bonded warehouse after the tour. I took a few selfies with my selfie stick, but the lighting wasn’t good so I will not be sharing them!
Here are the drams I tried.
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Honey, pear, chai spice, some oak, coconut spice.
Palate: Spice all the way around! Pepper, zest fruit, slight perfume instead of fruits.
Aged completely in American oak barrels.
Tullibardine 228- Burgundy Finish
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Sherry, raspberry, a bit of flowers, earthy.
Palate: Oak spice right away, roasted malt, creamy chocolate, old fruit.
Next up is Glenturret…