Tamnavulin Wine Casks

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Tamnavulin Distillery

The Tamnavulin distillery was established during the 1960s whisky boom. For much of the distillery’s life, its primary focus was the production of spirit for use in blended Scotch. It was a common component in the recipes of Whyte & Mackay, Crawfords and MacKinlay’s.

Single malt bottlings weren’t unheard of, however. Newspaper advertisements of the 1980s saw Tamnavulin promoted as “the naturally light malt whisky”. One bizarre campaign declared it “what the Wolf of Badenoch was howling for”. The Wolf of Badenoch, by the way, was Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan and third son of King Robert II of Scotland. He earned his name by sacking the town of Elgin and burning its cathedral to the ground in a jealous rage. An interesting choice, then, to associate one’s product with. Yet another advert talks up the malts scarcity and warns that “it will cost you a cool fiver or more”. How times change.

Despite its usefulness as a blend component, Tamnavulin was closed down shortly after its parent company, Invergordon Distillers, was taken over by Whyte & Mackay in 1993. All remained silent until a change of heart in the mid-’90s saw the distillery reopened after a major refurbishment.

The malt all but disappeared over the years, until Whyte & Mackay decided to relaunch in 2016 to mark 50 years of the distillery. The newly branded Tamnavulin single malt Scotch whisky launched with the Double Cask expression and was followed the next year by a Sherry Cask expression. Since then, an array of wine cask finishes have been released.

*Full disclosure: I was sent the whiskies featured in this review free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.

Tamnavulin French Cabernet Sauvignon Finish

Smell: The nose is rich and chocolatey at first. Deep plum notes. Brambles and blackcurrant. Sweet oak. Vanilla. Ginger.

Taste: There’s impressive body for a dram at 40% that has presumably been chill-filtered. Wonderfully full flavoured with the same plum and blackcurrant notes that appeared on the nose. There’s a sort of dry woody spice towards the back of the palate too. Some fiery pepper in there as well. A splash of water will remove some of the heat and allow those fruits to mingle with some toffee notes.

Thoughts: I must admit, I didn’t expect to find this much flavour in my glass. It’s a surprisingly robust dram. The wine cask has certainly made its presence felt. So much so, I felt a wee bit of water improved the balance a little. It is only 40% though, so go easy.

It’s priced at £30 a bottle but UK supermarkets may have deals on if you shop around. Even at full price you would have a decent wee dram on your hands. I’m quite impressed with the direction Tamnavulin is going in. They still seem to lack a decent age statement and a couple of bottles at higher strength would be nice but nevertheless, things are coming along nicely.

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Tamnavulin German Pinot Noir Finish

Smell: There’s a nice little bit of woody spice on the nose. Then raspberry and cherry. Fresh oak. Baking spices.

Taste: Cherry and cranberry right at the tip of the tongue, followed closely by a flash of peppery heat. More juicy fruits towards the side of the tongue. Raspberry and blackcurrant. Some drying oak towards the back of the palate. Quite a dry finish.

Thoughts: Not quite as sumptuous as the Cab Sav offering but still a decent whisky. Once again, the wine cask has integrated well. I was a little worried that this pair would be too similar but there is a noticeable difference between them and it’s down to those finishes. Where the first is robust and chewy the second is lighter, dry and spiced. I think my personal choice would be the Cabernet Sauvignon Finish but this isn’t Desert Island Drams so why have one when you can have both? At £30 I wouldn’t mind having them both in my cabinet.

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