Tullibardine Launched Anew
Gavin D Smith, Whisky Advocate contributor, shares details of the Tullibardine relaunch.
The Perthshire distillery of Tullibardine has announced a total relaunch of its single malt range, with a major makeover of both presentation and liquid, adopting the tagline: ‘A drop of pure Highland gold.’ The new lineup is due in the States by May.
According to Tulibardine’s international sales manager James Robertson, “I felt that we needed to change some time ago, as our packaging lacked focus and was behind the times, to be honest. Also when asked, no one at Tullibardine could explain what Tullibardine meant to them. I had an idea, but this was different to other viewpoints.”
Tullibardine distillery, in the village of Blackford, was established in 1949, on the site of a former brewery where King James IV of Scotland reputedly paused to buy beer on the way to his coronation at Scone, near Perth in 1488.
James Robertson says that, “We looked at the various key elements of what Tullibardine was and brought these all together, hence the ‘drop of pure Highland gold,’ emphasis on the 1488 date and the King, getting out the message that Tullibardine is a vibrant, elegant whisky that people wanted to feel part of.”
Having been restored to life late in 2003 by a consortium of businessmen after a decade of silence, Tullibardine distillery was sold to the third-generation family-owned French wines and spirits company Maison Michel Picard, based in Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy, during 2011.
As part of the Picard portfolio, there is no longer the same imperative to sell spirit to third parties in order to generate cashflow as was previously the case, allowing for greater stability and an emphasis on a smaller and more focused range of premium single malt bottlings.
Until the relaunch, the principal Tullibardine bottlings were Tullibardine Aged Oak, with no age statement, and a 1993 vintage, along with a number of cask finishes. James Robertson notes that, “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 as they never did the math to work out how old the whiskies actually were.”
Aged Oak has now been replaced by Sovereign as the entry level expression, and Robertson explains that, “Aged Oak was a good whisky with a name that did not have any real meaning, whereas we feel that Sovereign has a more powerful image and one with a meaning.”
The previous vintage variants have been replaced by 20 and 25 year old bottlings, and Robertson explains that “The finishes have been brought under control, so that we have three core finishes: 225 Sauternes, finished in casks from Chateau Suduiraut, 228 Burgundy, with casks from Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, and 500 Sherry, using mainly PX [pedro ximenez sherry]casks. The numbers relate to the size in liters of the casks that the whisky has been matured in for the final twelve months.”
Inevitably, such a refocusing of image and brand positioning comes at a cost to the consumer. Robertson confirms that, saying, “In the past, we were guilty of selling our whiskies well below the market rate and so with the rebranding we are now able to place the new 20 year old and 25 year olds at a price level that fits their age. I feel that these six new whiskies at last provide Tullibardine with a core range that has an identity and something that the consumer can feel part of, whether they are new or old Tullibardine followers.”