Odd, isn’t it, that despite nearly 10 years of tasting and writing about scotch whisky I can still pick up a bottle and think, “That’s a real distillery?” There is still so much to learn about this golden elixir. In fact, it’s part of the reason my blog is still called “The Scotch Noob”… I will never not be a noob. I will never not be learning about whisky.
Tamnavulin is, indeed, a large (6 stills) Speyside distillery located, confusingly, in the village of Tomnavoulin. Relatively new, Scottish distillery wise, it was constructed in 1966 and was quiet for a 12-year span, reopening after renovation in 2007. Like Jura and Dalmore, Tamnavulin is owned and operated by Whyte & Mackay (now a division of Emperador). As is the case with most of the “lesser-known” distilleries, the vast majority of its output is used in blends, primarily those made by Whyte & Mackay. Tamnavulin whisky was finally marketed once again as a single malt starting in 2016.
The website for Tamnavulin looks like it was designed by Diageo there’s so little tangible information. It seems like the Double Cask refers to a maturation in American oak ex-bourbon and then a partial finish in ex-sherry casks. There is no age statement, and the whisky is bottled at the bare minimum of 40% ABV with no mention of the use of color or chill filtration (which almost certainly means they use both). This is all bad news on paper, so let’s see what happens in the glass.
A cursory examination of online whisky retailers shows that while Tamnavulin whisky is available in the US, it is only carried at a few shops. Distribution is much wider in Europe and the UK. The Double Cask was the first modern single malt expression from Tamnavulin, which now also sells a Sherry Cask, a Red Wine Cask, and a number of exclusive editions.
Nose: Meaty, nutty, and malty. Deep, oily notes of beeswax and coconut butter. The oily toasted nut aroma almost reminds me of ghee. The sherry notes are very faint – mostly adding the nuttiness and a faint suggestion of dates or prunes.
Palate: Thin body. The tongue burn is almost nonexistent. There is a hint of smoke, like smoked salt, but mostly it’s all about toasted nuts, dates, and chewy buttery toffee.
Finish: Medium-long. Those same aroma notes are back with a vengeance – deep and robust buttery flavors continue through the finish, along with toasted nuts and a bit of port wine. This evolves slightly, adding black licorice before fading.
With Water: A few drops of water add a little sweetness – which wasn’t lacking – but amps up the tongue burn. It also adds a bit of menthol to the finish. Maybe try it without water first, and then add a little to see what it does for you.
Overall: Very lovely and unexpectedly deep flavors. The butter is what gets me – that’s not something I normally find in a whisky. It reminds me a bit of GlenDronach 12 year but with less fruit, and more butter/nuttiness. Too bad this isn’t really available in the US. When it is, I hope it stays around the $40 mark which is where it belongs. I also hope the distillery decides to read the room and release the whisky at 43% or 46% without color or chill-filtration, and maybe even cop to an age statement. A noob can dream.