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Howling Highlight: Interview with James Robertson

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 10, 2010

An Interview with James Robertson
by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

At the Edmonton Food and Wine Festival.

At the Rocky Mountain Food and Wind Festival, I had the privilege of meeting up with James  Robertson, the International Brand Manager for Tulllibardine Distillery. This distillery is one of many that had been mothballed, by previous ownership, and was now being resurrected and brought back on stream by a dedicated group of businessmen. James, who treated me with what I can only describe as with the utmost class and respect, agreed to a small interview.

I thought I would try to capture some of the  story of the excitement surrounding the reopening of the distillery for my readers.

Question # 1

How long have you worked for theTullibardine Distillery, and what is your role within the company?

Since April 2008 and I am the International Sales Manager looking after key markets around the world. I cover both sales and brand ambassadorial roles.

Question # 2

Exactly when was the Tullibardine distillery closed, and why?

White and Mackay closed Tullibardine in 1995 due to over production in the whisky industry at the time and also due to the fact that Tullibardine was not a core part of their portfolio.

Question #3

Do you know how the decision came about to reopen the Distillery?

A group of businessmen some connected with the whisky industry saw the potential for Tullibardine and approached W&M to sell it to them including all the old stock.

Question #4

It must have been exciting to unlock the gates/doors to the distillery for the first time when it reopened.  Can you tell me something about that feeling if you were there?

I was not there but I do know that there was an amazing feeling of purchasing a part of Scotland’s Heritage and also realizing a dream.

Question #5

I really can’t imagine the old barrels of whiskey, which were part of the repurchase.  Were they still inside the distillery or had they been stored offsite and cared for elsewhere?

All the casks were here under lock and key in the original warehouse where they had been put once filled. The oldest due to be bottled sometime soon is a quarter cask from 1952, then there are casks from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.

Question #6

Tullibardine seems to be following the model of Bruichladdich, with a variety of new cask finishes coming to market.  Is this fair? How is Tullibardine different, and how are you maintaining the old traditions of the distillery?

Bruichladdich reopened 2 years before us having also been closed by W&M. we have followed what they have done closely as they have a similar problem of no stock for the period when the stills were closed. We have not followed their model totally as they have issued over 100 different bottlings whilst we have been probably more selective but they have an advantage in that Islay is very popular whilst we as a distillery were never known for our Single Malts in the past. That said we have proved that we can produce good Single Malt and our new production with the quality of the casks that we have been buying has improved our product immeasurably.

Question #7

Tell me about Tullibardine’s new Whiskeys coming to market.

We have just bottled the Tullibardine Aged Oak which is predominantly single malt from 2004, so post re-opening with a small amount of older Tullibardine added to give it some complexity. We will continue with our Wood Finish Range and there should be a Rum Finish out in the first part of 2010, along with a few single cask bottlings.

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I would like to thank James Robertson and the Tulllibardine Distillery for taking the time for this interview. For those interested I have completed a review of the Tullibardine 1988 Vintage bottling, and that review can be found here:

Review: Tullibardine 1988 Vintage Edition

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