The Tamnavulin distillery is located in the hamlet of Tomnavoulin and sits on the banks of the River Livet near Ballindalloch. It was opened in 1966 by the Tamnavulin-Glenlivet Distillery Company, a subsidiary of Invergordon Distillers Ltd. The name of the distillery translates as 'the mill on the hill' from local Gaelic.
This new whisky is the latest addition to the core range of Tamnavulin, the up-and-coming Speyside single malt brand. The Tamnavulin White Wine Cask Edition follows a series of successful ex-red wine cask expressions that have been launched over the last two years. The new whisky was initially matured in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred for a finishing period in ex-Sauvignon Blanc wine casks. White wine casks are used much less than red or fortified wine casks for maturing whisky. The Tamnavulin White Wine Cask Edition is bottled at 40% ABV and is available now in the UK and USA, and will be shortly available in selected European markets. A bottle will cost £32/ $42 US/ €38.
Tamnavulin was closed for 12 years between May 1995 and July 2007. It was reopened by Whyte & Mackay who remain as the owners. The distillery has a large capacity of 4 million litres a year, although most is allocated for blending contracts. The Distillery Manager is Leon Webb, who was appointed at the beginning of May this year.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and green. Lively aromas of crisp apple, cantelope melon and something very vegetal - this is reminiscent of fresh asparagus and a bouquet garni. Hints of green tomato, elderflower and lemon sherbet also add interest and depth.
On the palate this whisky maintains that vibrancy and freshness from the nose. Initial sweet notes of vanilla, honey and white chocolate are quickly joined by some youthful heat. This reminds us of white pepper in particular. The expressive green characteristics also come through early on. These include crisp green apple, peardrop sweets, melon and tangy white grapes. With time it feels like the apple and grape have been dipped in golden syrup. The peppery nature gives the whisky punch and it becomes warmer with hints of cinnamon, gingerbread and woody tannins developing towards the end.
These late tannins make the whisky a touch bittersweet on the finish. The green tomato and vegetal notes evolve strongly and linger, with the sweeter and fruity characteristics dissolving quite quickly. However, the peppery heat elongates the finish, but gives just heat and little else.
What's the verdict?
It is interesting so see someone using a white wine cask in such a mainstream release. That can only be a good thing and spawn more such releases from other companies. Tamnavulin, and their owners Whyte & Mackay, have never been afraid to do this as their previous red wine releases show.
But that said, this whisky still feels a bit 'safe' in terms of flavour. It is nice, fresh and vibrant but they could have pushed the boundaries of flavour a little further. We guess that is the fine balance that companies face - do you make something very expressive and 'out there' or do you cater for the palate of the general £30 a bottle whisky consumer?