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Tullibardine 1988 Vintage Edition

Review: Tullibardine 1988 Vintage Edition  (Scotch Whisky) 82/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 24, 2009

Tullibardine distillery sits in Perthshire county in the Highlands region of Scotland.  The site where the distillery stands was originally a brewery built in the 12th century.  This makes the site one of the oldest sites for the manufacture of alcoholic beverages in Scotland, if not the world.  What made the site good for brewing beer was the plentiful supply of clean fresh water from a spring in the nearby hills. This is of course the same factor which makes the site ideal for making whisky, which began in 1947, when the site was purchased and converted to a distillery.

In 1993 the distillery was mothballed, and it, and some of its whiskey, lay dormant until 2003 when a new consortium purchased the distillery as well as its remaining whisky stocks.  We are on the verge of the receiving the first new whisky from the reopened distillery.  In fact I sampled a four year old bottling at the Edmonton Food and Wine Festival in October of this year.  So I thought it would be nice to review one of the first bottlings of the original dormant whisky which the new owners released in 2005.  A 1988 Vintage Tullibardine (17 years old) from my personal collection.

In the Bottle:  4.5/5

The Scotch Whisky people know something about presentation that eludes us North Americans.  Scotch bottles on the shelves of our liquor stores all have nice tin sleeves or attractive cardboard boxes.  This of course makes me, the buyer, automatically think that what is inside the box or sleeve must be special to deserve such treatment.   Almost every Scotch whisky I own comes in a nicely corked bottle, and the companies which make them almost always provide a nice historical note on the side of the box or on the label.   This bottle of Tulli is no different, it is by no means the best presentation I have seen, but compared to the North American whiskies it is more than satisfactory.   A drawback of the presentation is the lack of an age statement on the bottle.  Doing some simple math I believe the age to be 16 or 17 years.

In the Glass 8/10

The whisky is a medium straw colour with very little oil apparent in the glass.  The nose is honeyed with a light touch of caramel.  A faint hint of smoke curls up in the corner with a sherry like accent.

In the Mouth 50/60

The smoke I noted in the glass has asserted itself in the mouth with a persistent oily cigar smoke presence which underlies the honey and vanilla notes on the palate.  I use the term cigar because the smoke seems to have a certain organic texture.  The sweetness of the malt is very pleasant, as is a mild buttery feel the malt has upon the tongue.  I find the balance between the smoke and the sweetness to be just off, and we seem to have two separate experiences in the mouth rather than a unified balanced malt.

In the throat 11.5/15

The finish reminds me  of Sherry finished whiskeys. The light cigar in the mouth has turned faintly sulfurous in the throat.  A saving grace is the trails of caramel and sweet vanilla custard following the smoke down the throat.

The Afterburn  8/10

This is a delightfully mild Scotch Malt.  It is slightly smokey and mildly sweet, but it seems trapped between the two distinct styles.   At times the smoke seems to have its origins in Peat, and at other times it seems to be a disguised sherry presence.  My guess (and this is pure speculation) is that we have a bottling of different styles of barrels which upon blending lent us this dual presence.  I do not find the malt to be wanting in any way, but it is also not spectacular. It is  mild and pleasant, or I guess I could use Tullibadine’s own term, it is quite quaffable!

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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