Nestled in the heart of Scotland's picturesque Perthshire region, Tullibardine Distillery boasts a captivating history intertwined with the evolution of whisky production.
With origins dating back to the 15th century, this distillery has weathered the tests of time, experiencing closures, transformations, and resurgences that have left an indelible mark on both the industry and the palates of whisky enthusiasts.
Tullibardine's story takes root in the medieval era when King James IV of Scotland stopped by the site to buy beer in 1488, and this was subsequently recorded as the first public purchase of beer in Scotland. While the art of distillation had yet to emerge, the brewery's close connection to the crown signalled the beginning of Tullibardine's illustrious legacy in alcoholic beverages.
Fast forward to the 19th century, a period of profound change in Scotland's whisky landscape. The legalization of distillation in 1823 through the Excise Act catalyzed a surge in licensed distilleries. However, it wasn't until 1947 that William Delmé-Evans identified the site for a new distillery. The subsequent decades were marked by both triumphs and challenges. Changes in ownership and shifting market dynamics led to periods of fluctuating fortunes. Throughout it all, Tullibardine's commitment to refining its craft endured.
As with many distilleries, Tullibardine faced its own "silent stills" period when production ceased in 1994. Yet, fate had more in store for this storied establishment. In 2003, a group of investors revived Tullibardine, breathing new life into its ageing warehouses and distillation equipment. The team understood the allure of history and craftsmanship. They embraced Tullibardine's rich heritage while infusing it with contemporary energy. Reviving the distillery not only rejuvenated a physical space but also reignited appreciation for traditional production techniques.
Tullibardine's journey is a harmonious blend of heritage and innovation. The distillery's commitment to quality starts with its natural resources—locally sourced water and malted barley. These foundational elements contribute to the distinct character of Tullibardine whisky. A pivotal aspect of Tullibardine's appeal lies in its use of different cask types for maturation. While ex-bourbon barrels are commonplace, Tullibardine's experimentation with various wine casks sets it apart. The influence of Sherry, Burgundy, and other wine casks infuse the whisky with nuanced flavours, enriching the sensory journey for enthusiasts.
Tullibardine's commitment to excellence is evident in its diverse range of expressions. From the delicate floral notes of the Sovereign to the complexity of the 15-year-old, each whisky tells a unique tale of craftsmanship. The Custodian Collection, a tribute to the distillery's history, epitomizes this dedication, showcasing carefully crafted releases that pay homage to the past while embracing the present. The whisky industry's recognition of Tullibardine's achievements speaks volumes. Awards and accolades underscore the distillery's prowess, affirming its position as a formidable player in the competitive landscape. These acknowledgements also highlight Tullibardine's ongoing commitment to pushing the boundaries of flavour and technique.
As Tullibardine continues to flourish, it leaves an enduring legacy for both whisky enthusiasts and the industry at large. Its narrative encapsulates the cyclical nature of distilleries—how they can evolve, decline, and be reborn. Tullibardine's resurgence serves as a testament to the passion of those who safeguard its traditions and champion its progress. For those fortunate enough to explore Tullibardine's offerings, the experience transcends mere consumption. It becomes a journey through time, a taste of history that bridges the gap between past and present. As whisky enthusiasts raise a glass of Tullibardine, they not only savour the craftsmanship of today but also honour the spirit of resilience that has defined this remarkable distillery's saga.
Tullibardine whiskies feature in collections across the world and as such usually are accompanied by a personal story. Diego Sandrin, the Venice-based owner of the largest independent bottler collection in the world (Samaroli, Moon, Cadenhead etc.), shared the following story about why Tullibardine is special to him:
“Whilst on business in Milano I was introduced to a guy who said he had some old bottles he didn’t want. I turned up at his apartment and he took me down into the basement and all I see is boxes, just dusty old boxes. I started opening them up and there were so many bottles of Tullibardine, from the 60s and 70s…just thrown there inside the boxes, all still in perfect condition. So, I asked the guy if he wanted to sell them, and he said “I don’t want to sell them I just want to get rid of them” because he didn’t drink … blah blah blah. I said let me at least give you some money and I think I paid 20 Euros per bottle. I filled the car up to the ceiling…bottles on the passenger seat…I almost couldn’t drive it!”
Whilst the chances of unearthing a bargain collection these days are highly unlikely, bottles from the 1960s and 70s do occasionally appear at auction and can be snapped up for between £1,500 - £2,000 GBP.
The Insider’s View
Beamish International enjoys the privileged position to exclusively sell a limited number of Tullibardine casks annually to select private clients. We are delighted that the distillery General Manager, Michael Elliott, took the time to tell us a little more about what makes the distillery special and some of the ambitions it has for the future.
Who does Tullibardine appeal to, and how are you building the brand to reflect this?
“ We believe our audience are already whisky drinkers. We’re not trying to convert people who haven’t tried single malt, but instead, speak to those who appreciate the taste and craft that goes into whisky making and engage them in our story. We know that we also have a band of fiercely loyal supporters and that’s why we created a membership called the Custodian Club to get them a bit more involved with the brand.”
What sets Tullibardine apart from other Highland Single Malts?
“Let’s be very honest – there are many fantastic single malts in the marketplace that are all unique - but we are confident that when people taste our products they get a great dram, with layers of complexity at a value they are pleasantly surprised by every time. They also get the chance to experiment with cask finishes and a range of aged products up to our Custodian releases. Everything except malting also takes place at the distillery itself, including our own on-site cooperage which not many distilleries have. This allows us to control the whisky-making process from grain to glass. That’s the real backbone of the brand.”
Tell us a bit more about the Custodian Club, as the membership card alone looks pretty special!
“As I said, we recognised that we have a band of loyal followers and we’ve always called our fans ‘custodians’, so we created the Custodian Club as a way to reward them for their loyalty. Each member is given a coveted Black Astrum card and with it comes discounts on tours and the distillery shop, first access to new releases and exclusives, invites to events and much more. We’ve also chosen single cask editions based on votes from our Custodians, so they get the chance to get involved in the brand in a more meaningful way.”
Why have you chosen to exclusively partner with Beamish International to offer some very special casks?
“ The Beamish team came highly recommended from existing partners within the industry, and it quickly became apparent that there was a great expertise and deep understanding of the market for special casks. Both the potential cask customer and the distillery have very similar requirements - a direct link, a professional, transparent, and clear approach to the cask/bottling and with confidence that our rarest whiskies are being well looked after.”
What advice would you give to someone looking to build their whisky collection and why is it essential to have Tullibardine in it?
“ It’s good to start with whiskies that you enjoy first and foremost. You want to be able to speak for the liquid and you can’t do that if you never open the bottle or experiment a little. I also like to have whiskies that have a link to a year, a place, an occasion or a special moment. For me that adds to the enjoyment of the whisky and sharing with friends and family. Luckily our range is great value so you can experiment with ex-bourbon, cask finishes and aged products quite easily. Tullibardine is definitely an essential for the whisky shelf and we recommend to have a bottle open at any given time.”
If you could take one bottle to a desert island, what would it be?
“ In terms of our own whisky, today I would choose one of our limited editions; The Murray Triple Port is a great all-rounder with lots of sweetness and many layers of complexity. Problem is, it might go too quickly! If that was not available, then our 15-year-old would be my easy choice.”
The Tullibardine Market
Tullibardine enjoys a tranquil spot away from some of its other Highland classified contemporaries. The focus is on the quality of the liquids and letting time do its thing. Things are not rushed and because of this, the distillery has a strong fanbase of those people who enjoy drinking whisky and who recognise value. The 25YO for example can be found in the online auction market for under £200 GBP; a fraction of the price of other 25YO Highland Single Malts. It’s not just the consumers who appreciate the liquids. Many of the Tullibardine range have picked up significant awards from The International Spirits Challenge as well as the Scotch Whisky Master’s and this is a brand which is really gaining momentum.
The jewel in the Tullibardine collection is the 1952 60YO. Just 70 bottles were produced and are housed in a bespoke Baccarat decanter. You would expect to pay in the region of £12,000 GBP to secure one in the secondary market which again underlines the value the distillery offers. Very few 60YO single malts are available at these price points, therefore shrewd collectors are offered a chance to buy a piece of history at the pinnacle of whisky production. It is only a matter of time before a growing number of people switch to Tullibardine, recognising the quality-to-value ratio and forcing price appreciation.
Casks of young liquids (sub 10 years) are popular trades amongst the online auction community, however, where things get really exciting is the exclusive offering Beamish International has secured direct from the distillery where several mature casks have been slowly resting for decades and decades.
Current Stock Availability
Beamish International is delighted to be able to provide our clients with access to exceedingly rare cask stock direct from the distillery on an exclusive basis. Please contact your account manager for more details, who will be able to advise further on how to secure your order.