Tamnavulin (Pronounced: Tam-na-VOO-lin)
57°19'7.0968 N, 3°18'38.25 W
Glenlivet, Balmenach, Braeval, Tomintoul
Springs in Easterton
3 Wash stills, 3 Spirit stills
4,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
United Spirits > Whyte & Mackay Ltd. (since 2007)
Tomnavoulin, Ballindalloch, Banffshire, Scotland, UK
No (not anymore)
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - After Whyte & Mackay (who bought Invergordon in 1993) changed its name to JBB (Greater Europe) in 1996, they decide to change the name again after a management buy-out. The new
name is Kyndal.
2003 - The name is changed yet again, back to Whyte & Mackay this time.
2007 - The distillery (which was mothballed in 1995) is re-opened again. In the same year owners Whyte & Mackay are bought by United Spirits, an investment vehicle of Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya.
2008 - The three wash stills are replaced, but the planned replacement of the spirit stills is postponed.
2011 - For the first time since the re-opening of Tamnavulin in 2007 the distillery runs at full capacity.
The Tamnavulin distillery
(the name is Gaelic for 'mill
on the hill') was built relatively recently (in 1965/1966)
by Tamnavulin-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd. - a subsidiary
of Invergordon Distillers Ltd. The Tamnavulin distillery
was constructed in response to the growing demand
for malt whisky by blenders.
The Tamnavulin distillery (some of the sources use an
alternative spelling of the name; Tomnavoulin) has six
stills that have mainly produced malt whisky for blends
like Mackinlay, Whyte & Mackay and Crawfords. It has
eight stainless steel washbacks, as well as a Saladin
box which was used for the malting of the barley. The
relatively modern equipment enabled Tamnavulin to
annually produce an impressive amount of malt whisky;
four million litres (most of it used for blends).
Tamnavulin is the only distillery in the part of Scotland that used to be called 'Glenlivet' which is actually situated next to the river 'Livet' - all the other distilleries in the area are located further away from the river. In 1993 Whyte & Mackay bought Invergordon Distillers for £382,000,000.- The purchase included the Bruichladdich, Isle of Jura and Tullibardine malt whisky distilleries, as well as the Invergordon grain whisky distillery on the Cromarty Firth. The new owners closed down Tamnavulin distillery in May 1995 and changed their name to JBB (Greater Europe).
JBB was the new name for 'American Brands' from the United States.
In the continuing corporate take-over dance they were taken over by
Kyndal International in 2001 as part of a management buy-out. At this
point the price was a little over 200 million pounds, so the sale probably
didn't include all the distilleries that had been part of the package when
Whyte & Mackay bought Invergordon Distillers in 1993. The new owners
changed their name back to Whyte & Mackay in 2003. They were bought
by United Spirits (an investment vehicle from Indian businessman and
politician Vijay Mallya) in 2007. With this purchase, the influence of
Asian interests in the Scottish whisky industry grew significantly.
The international credit crisis reared its ugly head not long after United Spirits had taken over
Whyte & Mackay. Interestingly enough, the consortium of banks that were involved with the
purchase (including ICICI Bank & Citibank) pushed for a far higher purchase price than what
others felt was reasonable. Since Vijay Mallya had relied heavily on credit in order to afford
the purchase of the company, the credit crisis significantly influenced the strategic possibilities
that were available to Whyte & Mackay. So, Mallya was looking to sell off W&M again in 2009.
When I wrote this update (May 2009), the further future of Tamnavulin was still uncertain.
Tamnavulin is a modern, efficient distillery that's capable of
producing four million litres of alcohol a year. The stillhouse
heats the incoming wash with the most recently distilled batch
of spirit. Tamnavulin's water supply (for distillation) is stored in
an underground reservoir which is connected to the distillery
via an underground pipe. Cooling water comes from the Livet.
The history of Tamnavulin is fairly similar to that of Tullibardine.
The Tullibardine distillery is fairly modern. It was founded quite
recently (in 1949) and was obtained by Brodie Hepburn a few
years after it was founded. They were bought by Invergordon
two decades later, in 1971. In 1993 Whyte & Mackay (part of
Fortune Brands) gobbled up Invergordon. Just like Tamnavulin,
Tullibardine was mothballed temporarily by Whyte & Mackay.
Tamnavulin was mothballed
by Whyte & Mackay's previous owners, but after being taken over by Vijay
Mallya in early 2007, the company invested significant sums of capital to get it re-opened again to meet
the large demand for whisky. Operation at Tamnavulin resumed in July 2007. However, when the credit
crisis broke loose all around the world one year later in '08, demand for whisky (and especially the more
expensive single malt whisky variety) diminished. I wrote the last update of this profile in the summer
of 2009, at which point the credit crisis was still raging. It remains to be seen how the whisky world
will look in 2010 when the first distillations of Tamnavulin will be mature enough to be called whisky.
In 2008 a spokesperson for the company said: "Once we are in a position to bottle the whisky then we
will be looking at other markets such as travel retail, and the US . It's just a bit premature at the moment,
but for a small, lesser known brand it's amazing how many people have been following its progress since
we re-opened the distillery."
According to the Malt Whisky Yearbook, the Tamnavulin distillery employed 13 people in 2008.
Working seven days a week they managed to produce 23 mashes within one week. This equals an
annual production of 3,5 million litres of alcohol; a little below the maximum capacity of 4 million litres.
Tamnavulin used one full-lauter mash tun and eight washbacks (four 'mild steel, four stainless steel).
Out of the weekly production, only 200 casks are filled on site and stored in one of the two racked
warehouses. The rest of the spirit is transported to Invergordon to be filled and matured there.
1) Although the Tamnavulin distillery itself is quite modern, the visitor centre which closed in the 1990's wasn't.
It was located in the old wool mill at Tomnavoulin which was used to card the wool that shepherds collected from the numerous flocks of sheep that used to wander around in the area.
2) There are two warehouses on site with a capacity of around 35,000 casks of maturing whisky.
3) The water wheel that powered the machinery at Tamnavulin has been restored.
4) The front label of the official bottling that was available in the late 1990's screamed 'This Naturally Light Rare
Single Malt Scotch Whisky takes its colour from the Oak Casks, during it's Twelve long years of Maturation'. Yeah, right...
A keen observer will soon notice that this is actually a LOAD OF CRAP! The EU back label clearly states that Tamnavulin is artificially coloured with E150a! For those of you outside the EU: that's plain caramel...
5) In 2007, Vijay Mallya ranked #31 in the list of Forbes Asia's richest individuals in India. At that time his wealth was
estimated at $1.3 billion - which means he could have bought Whyte & Mackay from his own 'pocket money'. However, he decided to borrow the money which was required for the acquisition.
Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Dusty & grassy with herbs in the back of the nose. String beans. Flowery & sweeter after breathing.
Taste: It feels quite rough on the palate. Some bitterness - although not quite as much as the Fettercairn.
Score: 71 points - but it needs some time to get there. Tamnavulin was never a real favourite of mine...
Tamnavulin 37yo 1967/2005 (46.7%, Duncan Taylor, C#1018)
Nose: Deep, heavy sherry with a good dose of smoke. Coffee. Buysman burnt caramel. Spices. Speculaas.
Not a lot of development over time - but I don't think that's a problem because I like the profile so much ;-)
No, wait; now I actually notice some development. Menthol. Spices and smoke become more prominent.
In fact, it evolves incredibly slow, but in an interesting direction; after half an hour it's quite phenolic...
Taste: Fruity, woody start with a flash of smoke after a three seconds. Extreme, but right up my alley.
Sweetens out a little over time. A solid mouth feel; it actually feels a little stronger than 46.7%.
Score: 90 points - although I can see how this would be too woody in the finish for many people.
Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, Green tube)
Nose: Veggy. Oily. Light. Spirity. Something more floral after a while. Early fruits.
The oily element grows stronger. Chemical. Vegetables - raw cabbage? Quite restrained; seems a little 'grainy'.
Taste: Smooth & quite flat. Dusty, veggy & bitter in the start. Coffee? The centre & finish are very oily.
Taste: Slightly off, like rotten fruit. Hint of pepper? Grappa? Lack of sweetness. A little 'chemical'.
I found a slight bitterness in the finish. It's a relatively juvenile Speysider.
Conclusion: 58 points - ot nearly as good as the 10 years old I tried a few years ago.
The tenner (rating 71 points) had an endearing freshness that's completely absent in this version.
And the humbug on the label makes sure it gets a few extra penalty-points.
Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB Ltd., Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: Oily. Chemical. Vegetables - raw cabbage? Quite restrained. Seems a little 'grainy'.
Taste: Slightly off, like rotten fruit. Hint of pepper? Grappa? Lack of sweetness. A little 'chemical'.
Score: 72 points - the difference with the Tamnavulin 10yo expression is fairly minimal.
Tamnavulin 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: Something very different. Oily & grassy. Wonderful lightness. Undemanding but quite nice.
Taste: A fresh sweetness with a nice long finish. Some bitterness. Not really my "type" of whisky.
Score: 71 points - I won't shed too many tears because the distillery was closed.
Tamnavulin 1988/1997 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask Series, C#4706-4709)
Nose: Oily with toffee and smoke. Farmy notes in the background as well. Peculiar - a little oxidised?
Taste: Smooth and oily start as well; a curious combination of sweetness and pine. A 'plastic' quality.
Score: 87 points - but I may have over-scored it a bit because this was my sixth 'hamstergeddon' expression.
When I re-visited this dram some three years later, it would have ended up in the lower 80's.
Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 10yo 'Naturally Light' (40%, 0B, Bottled early 1990s)
Nose: Grainy. Beer-like nose prickle. Old dish water? Not a lot going on beneath the surface.
Taste: Quite flat and superficial. As a whisky, it's just fine, but it didn't really excite me.
Score: 70 points - a smooth and easily drinkable whisky, but it doesn't seem too special.
Tamnavulin-Glenlivet NAS (75 Proof, OB, 'TG' Western Lettering, 12/3 Fl. Ozs, Bottled 1970's?)
Nose: Mellow with some spices in the background. Austere. Very enjoyable profile, but not overly complex.
Taste: Oy... Bitter start. Growing rounder, sweeter and woodier in the centre. Emerging 'antiquity'. Nice!
Score: 87 points - I had it at 84 for a long time, but over time emerging organics lift it into the upper 80's.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Tamnavulin Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Tamnavulin page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Tamnavulin expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or