Whisky Review: Tullibardine Sovereign

In 2013, the Perthshire distillery of Tullibardine announced a re-launch of their single malt whisky range. The re-launch affected both what’s inside the bottles and what’s on them, with a total re-branding and the new tagline, “A drop of pure Highland gold.” The new lines became available in May in the United States. Why the change? According to international sales manager James Robertson, the distillery was starting to feel like they were slipping behind the times.

The principle whisky line produced at the distillery before the re-branding was the Tullibardine Aged Oak, which didn’t include an age statement. Robertson explained the problem with the Aged Oak, which the Sovereign has now replaced: “The previous bottles that were available were good, but there seemed to be little continuity, consumers could not identify with the brand, and the vintage dates confused them … we feel that Sovereign has a more powerful image and one with a meaning.” With the re-branding, the distillery has also raised their prices, stating that they were previously selling their whiskies well below their market value. “I feel that these six new whiskies at last provide Tullibardine with a core range that has an identity,” said Robertson.

So how does this “drop of pure Highland gold” measure up? I decided to put the Tullibardine Sovereign to the test. In the bottle, it certainly looks like gold—the rich warmth of the color is beautiful, and a hopeful hint of what is inside.

Opening the bottle, I feel like someone has just handed me a fresh bouquet. There are some strong floral notes in here, interwoven with honey, peaches, toffee and vanilla. It’s hard to say for sure what the floral notes are, but they are not at all sharp, nicely mellowed out by the vanilla and toffee. On the palate, the Tullibardine Sovereign is very smooth and viscous, perhaps even more so than it appeared in the bottle. I taste some kind of vanilla pastry sweetness, which grows as I hold the liquid on my tongue. Then I pick up orange rind and peaches, together with the distinctive bite of fresh ginger. There seems to be a hint of chocolate in here as well. The finish is quite brief; this one definitely doesn’t linger. The ginger dominates the finish along with some other spices.

While the finish is a bit brief for my liking, the flavors are nice and rich, and the ginger does a nice job balancing out the other elements. I am surprised that the floral notes I detect with my nose don’t really seem to come out on the palate, but it is an enjoyable dram, and I was concerned they’d take over. I particularly enjoy the smooth, viscous texture of the dram; it is almost velvety. While it is not the most amazing scotch whisky I have tried at the price point (around $42), it is still quite good, and I would try it again. The Tullibardine re-branding appears to me to have been a success.

Summary: Tullibardine Sovereign

Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: Strongly floral, together with honey, vanilla, peaches and toffee.

Palate: Vanilla pastry, orange rind, peaches, ginger, chocolate, spices.

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