There's gold in them hills! Formed over 400 million years ago, the basalt and red sandstone Ochil Hills that surround the Tullibardine Distillery are as well-known for the gold that was mined from them as for the liquid gold their waters become. It takes 15 years for water to permeate through the layers of stone to reach the pristine Dannie Burn, the spring from which the distillery takes its water, and the same source for the famous Highland Spring mineral water.
Located in Blackford, the gateway to the Highlands, and next to the Gleneagles Golf Course, Tullibardine is one of the oldest locations for brewing and distilling in Scotland. It was here that in 1488, the young King James IV of Scotland stopped by before his coronation to purchase beer from the local brewery. This significant action has gone down in history as the first public purchase of beer, though you can only imagine how different the transaction may have looked compared to how we purchase beer today!
Still going strong in 1503, the brewery received the first Royal Charter issued by James IV in recognition of the fine beer produced at Tullibardine, and there’ve been breweries and distilleries operating at the location ever since.
Whisky production started at Tullibardine in 1947 when industry legend William Delm-Evans visited the area to investigate the fresh spring water. Delm-Evans is one the 20th century’s leading distillery designers and his focus on energy efficiency and his mission to create an up to date ‘gravity-flow distillery’ put him many years ahead of his peers. Unsurprisingly when he discovered just how good the water was, William immediately realised he’d found the perfect location for distilling whisky and began converting the brewery buildings accordingly. The first spirit was distilled in 1949 and signified a new chapter in Scotch whisky history as this was the first distillery to be built in the 20th century, and the first since the Pattinson Crisis. He saw excellent returns on his investment thanks to the 1950s whisky boom and sold to Brodie Hepburn in 1953 before going on to design and build both the Jura and Glenallachie distilleries.
Brodie Hepburn continued production for the next few decades using the original two stills and maturing in sherry casks before they were bought by Invergordon Distillers in 1973 who increased capacity to three million litres with the addition of two more stills. Sadly, the distillery was mothballed in 1994 when Whyte & Mackay bought Invergordon and lay silent until 2003, when it was purchased and revived by local business partners Michael Beamish and Douglas Ross who did an excellent job reviving the distillery and laying the groundwork for developing Tullibardine into a leading single malt house. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed and in 2011 Tullibardine was purchased by a family company, Picard Vins & Spiritueux, who were already heavily involved in the whisky industry in France. Since taking over, Picard have invested significantly in further developing Tullibardine’s single malt releases, much to the praise and delight of critics and fans across the world.