Tamdhu – Showing the way

In a period where oversea whisky has experimented with flavour and blending top whiskies deliver complex multi-layered expressions while too many Scottish ‘standard’ malts have maintained consistency but have failed to inspire. Scotch whisky fans now look to innovators who bring skill and complexity in their specialist area, with high-quality, exciting expressions. This revival is pointing the way to a bright future and has seen whisky from Tamdhu, Glengoyne, Glendronach, Benromach and Glen Moray amongst others emerge as the new kids on the block IMHO, despite in many cases being very old names but with a new revitalised future. These whiskies are constantly on the lips of the whisky geeks but are only just emerging to a wider audiences attention.

Tamdhu is making a move to bring their whisky to that growing market providing the same experience in the single cask expressions as sampling whisky from the barrel in the warehouse. This is the ultimate whisky tasting experience so when I had the opportunity to participate in a tweet tasting of Tamdhu expressions I leapt at the chance. Ian MacLeod is one of my favourite distillers with a growing quality stable of single malts including Tamdhu, Glengoyne and soon the much-anticipated rebirth of the King of the Lowlands Rosebank in Falkirk – only 15 miles from my home. Macleods also own a string of blends, Edinburgh Gin amongst others, vodkas and wines and even a Rum. Importantly it is a family business with a fast-growing reputation for quality, innovative whisky, transparency and great people.

So now for the tasting, Glencairn and Angel Share dropper on hand here we go.

These are huge sherry bomb drams so expect flavour and complexity, delivered from mainly first fill casks. The sherry casks remove any need for colouring and the higher strength expressions are un-chill-filtered.

10 year old – 40% ABV

Image courtesy of Tamdhu Distillery

Like all Tamdhu Whisky, the source of flavour is predominantly from the barrels but this needs a high-quality spirit to start. for the 10-year-old it is a recipe of European and American oak first and second fill barrels. Tamdhu uses 100% Sherry barrels, the barley is a mix of peated and unpeated and maturation is in the distilleries on-site warehouses. The aromas and flavours belie the age and are better compared to other sherry cask whiskies. The cask quality is outstanding and the recipe makes for a classic sherried Speysider with characteristics of older Speyside whisky.

On the nose I get; oak, vanilla, sherry trifle, liquorice, damp grass, walnut, apple, orange peel, cinnamon and strawberry jam. A surprisingly big nose for a 10-year-old.

The lovely palate reveals fruit, fudge, sherry and chocolate, getting a touch of smoke, leather and pepper and ginger as it progresses. My kind of palate.

Finally, on the finish more wisps of smoke and spices.

I enjoyed this whisky and will buy it myself. I like the deep sherry notes and the complexity created by the blending of European and American oak developing a great base spirit to produce a multi-layered whisky. This is one I would recommend to sherry bomb fans. My advice. Ignore the age statement and savour this as a great sherry cask whisky which stands up superbly to older more established drams.

Batch Strength Batch 3 58.3% ABV

Image courtesy of Tamdhu Distillery

As I mentioned I love batch strength whisky and this is no exception. Non-Age-Statement of course to me predominantly quite young but lovely. Tamdhu’s batch strength whisky has established a new reputation for this 120-year-old distillery only reopened in 2013. This exhibits great concentration of flavour.

The nose for me gives tobacco, smoke and oak, almonds and brambles with a vague hint of mocha. These aromas were intensified with a drop of water, barely had a teaspoon, no more.

The palate was rich with toffee, apricot, almonds, stem ginger and pepper.

The conclusion. The finish revealed warm sponge cake, plums and pepper with more notes of ginger.

Another lovely dram to follow the highly acclaimed Batch 2.

Dalbeallie 62.1% ABV

Image courtesy of Tamdhu Distillery

The Dalbeallie Dram is Tamdhu’s Spirit of Speyside festival release. Dalbeallie is the distillery’s railway station. A station which allowed the intact (not palletised) sherry casks to be delivered directly to the distillery and of course to ship out the finished product.

They are only releasing 1,000 individually numbered bottles future limited edition Dalbeallie Dram ‘Collectors Journey’ releases are planned annually for each Speyside Festival. This is a well-priced whisky for its quality at £90 a bottle from the distillery shop but you had better be fast.

The nose has sherry and oak, light fragrant fresh cut hay, herbs, apricot and walnuts. Really great!

The palate was rich with fruit cake soaked with sherry, cherries, pepper and light sherbet fading to ginger such great balance and depth.

The long finish gave rich tea biscuit, dry malty notes morphing to leather and oak a complete sensory experience

At 62.1% one would imagine a big alcohol hit at some point but in fact, this whisky handles the alcohol really well allowing it to enhance flavour not to overwhelm in any way. I did add a teaspoon of water but that is my palate and my normal practice.

This is a lovely whisky and for many tasters the pick of the bunch. I enjoyed it and would rate it as a lovely, special occasion well-priced dram.

Single Cask Distillery Team Edition – 120th Anniversary 59.3%

Image courtesy of Tamdhu dis

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The Distillery decided to release a Single Barrel expression, feeling that last years Single Cask 50-year-old was beyond the pocket of most whisky fans at £16,000. The distillery wanted to give a superior experience in a very special edition at a more affordable price. £250 is quite steep but for special occasions with close friends and family, it would be worth it for many.

The staff selected 12 of their favourite casks on a short list which they further reduced to 3, finally selecting a European Oak sherry cask expression as their favourite. Ths is the epitome of Tamdhu at its finest.

On tasting the initial impression is to admire the deep amber brown colour. Non-chill filtered like the other high ABV expressions. Not a surprise from a first fill sherry butt.

The whisky is 15 years old. Tasted blind I might have guessed older. This is a wonderful dram. Initially deepcomplex with some mystery it opens up to reveal hidden depths.

So down to the tasting.

 The nose is plum pudding, baked apple with raisins and vanilla. Lovely intense and constantly evolving with time in the glass, and evolving and evolving…

The palate starts strongly with ginger, pepper and a hint of chilli, it mellows quickly to buttery smooth caramel, big hints of orange zest, pears, a faint floral note maybe rose. As it evolves I taste cedar and tobacco fading to a wonderful note of leather

On the finish sometime considerable later I am still savouring every hint and note, a long exotic finish of charred pineapple, walnuts and oak, spices still dancing with a final hint of smoke and a lovely burnt toast note.

These are great malt whiskies coming from a highly skilled authentic distillery. Although Tamdhu does not spring to mind immediately as a premier distillery their quality and consistency since their relaunch ensure they are the prize winners in the major whisky awards with I understand a lot more interesting releases to come this year. I will be near the front of the queue. Tamdhu is a whisky to become familiar with you will not regret it.

Thanks to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and to Tamdhu whisky for the samples.