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Tamnavulin was one of many distilleries that opened during the whisky boom of the 1960’s. Established by Invergordon Distillers, its purpose was to supply malt whisky that could be utilised in the company’s blended scotch brands. Located in the heart of Speyside, in the tiny village of Tomnavoulin, the distillery stood where once there was a Carding Mill, used by local farmers to turn their fleeces into wool. It was once common practice for Speyside distilleries to adopt the suffix of “Glenlivet” but it could be argued Tamnavulin had more of a right to it than most, being only the second distillery to physically reside within the glen of the River Livet itself.
Invergordon Distillers was later taken over by Whyte & MacKay and with the market in steady decline by the 1990’s, the new owners decided that Tamnavulin was no longer required. The distillery was mothballed indefinitely and jobs lost, leaving one distillery worker to express his disgust in the local paper, infuriated by an earlier promise that the takeover would not lead to redundancies.
Tamnavulin lay dormant until 2007, when Whyte & MacKay, now under the ownership of India-based United Spirits, carried out massive refurbishment of the site and resumed production, once more with the aim being the supply of malt spirit for use in blended scotch. Another change in the ownership of Whyte & Mackay however, this time to Phillipines Brandy producer Emperador in 2014, would lead to the release of a Tamnavulin single malt for the first time in more than 20 years.
2016 marked 50 years since the distillery first went into production and in order to mark the occasion, Emperador gave the green light for a new, affordable Tamnavulin single malt, thus “Double Cask” was born. Three years later, the range was expanded, with the release of a Sherry Cask Edition. This single malt was matured first in American Oak before being finished in three different oloroso casks sourced from individual cooperages in Spain. Bottled at 40%, a litre bottle retails at Tesco supermarkets for £45, with the regular 70cl going for £32 – though I have often seen it reduced further.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample so that I might take part in a virtual tasting. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Despite the sherry influence it’s malt and honey notes I’m noticing first. It’s even a little bready. Then there’s some raisin and sultana with walnut and cinnamon. There’s apple, vanilla and caramel too.
Taste: Lots of cinnamon on the palate, in flavour rather than spice. Ginger too. There’s also chocolate raisins and tobacco leaves. Apple juice, possibly even a wee touch of blackcurrant. That malty, bready note comes back on the finish, with some currants.
Thoughts: There’s a pleasing fullness to the flavour and the sherry finish is well balanced though it does feel like it lacks a wee bit in mouthfeel. Some like a lighter liquid on the palate, but sadly I’m not one of them.
At first I felt the sherry finish was a bit superficial as it seemed to evaporate quickly but on the second visit it held together much better. Without chill-filtering it could be really quite good, though that would no doubt push the price up. As it is, the Tamnavulin Sherry Cask is a decent wee dram that won’t break the bank, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. To be honest though, if you’re in the UK, you might be as well waiting for it to go on sale at your local supermarket. Please be aware that as an affiliate of Master of Malt I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make.