The Ascension of Tamdhu

It is not often I get excited about discovering a new dram. I think at times I’m probably a little spoiled when it comes to new whiskies and have become overly cynical at times.

Recently I’ve noticed the emergence of Tamdhu with a big surge in both its popularity and profile. I’ll admit until recently I really hadn’t much experience of the brand having only briefly sampled it in the past on a couple of occasions.

Tamdhu is owned by Ian MacLeod Distillers, who also own Glengoyne, Edinburgh Gin and the currently silent but soon to reopen Rosebank. IMD’s Managing Director Leonard Russell was recently interviewed by Dave Broom over at ScotchWhisky.com and talks about the rise of Tamdhu and their efforts to try and create the ‘new, old Macallan’

In a market in which one of the best known sherry matured Speysiders, in the form of Macallan, is becoming a huge entity of its own and that is also starting to become more and more unaffordable for many drinkers, one of two things will happen. People will seek out alternatives of a similar nature (box ticked for Tamdhu) or the genre as a whole will have its profile raised (also good for Tamdhu) Thinking in terms of creating a ‘new, old Macallan’ may yet turn out to be a very shrewd move and an indication that they are keeping pace with a market that they are no doubt scrutinising carefully.

The very fact that Tamdhu used to be owned by Macallan owners, Edrington, and was deemed surplus to requirements in 2011 no doubt lends further credence to the theory.

The distillery was first built in 1896 and was financed by a consortium of whisky blenders, led by William Grant, at a cost that would be equivalent to £20 million today. By 1898 the consortium was bought out by Highland Distillers (now Edrington) however by 1911 the distillery was closed.

The next 50 years or so saw the distillery open and close several times. After expansion in the 1970s production continued until 2009 when it was mothballed until its eventual sale to Ian MacLeod Distillers in 2011.

Tamdhu are fully committed to fully maturing all of their spirit in only Oloroso sherry casks, utilising both Euopean Oak and American Oak. A brief browse of their website shows how much the company sells itself on the importance of sherry maturation. At the current capacity of 4 million litres per year there is a huge investment made into the sheer amount of casks required to fulfil this commitment.

They produced a short film entitled “Spain to Speyside” which looks at the progression of casks from their initial construction all they way through to them being filled with spirit.


vinosjerez-sherrywines-moscatel-pouring

What every Whisky drinker needs to know about Sherry – My guide to Sherry gives an in depth look at the intermingling history of whisky and sherry, as well as looking at the varying styles and their distinct production methods.


Currently Tamdhu produce a core range of a 10 year old, a 12 year old (available in mainland Europe only) a 15 year old and a limited edition Batch Strength release (currently on Batch No.4) Recently there have been other releases, notably a 50 year old, bottled to celebrate the distilleries 120th anniversary, as well as several other travel retail expressions.

This review will focus on the recently released 15 year old and the 4th release of the Batch Strength expression.

Tamdhu 15 year old,OB, 46%abv, press sample.

tamdhu 15

The Tamdhu 15 year old is non-chill filtered, bottled at natural colour and retails for around the £85 mark. The press release states that it will be a limited annual release however there is no further information provided about the number of bottles that will be made available.

The nose is full of all the sherry nuances you would expect. Raisins steeped in weak black tea mix well with a tropical fruit backbone. There are hints of honey and distant leather, alongside some soft woody notes and a hint of cereal, perhaps even an apricot pastry or two.

The palate is buttery and retains a vibrancy with some delicious zingy orange tones and a twist of warming spices. There is a quick waft of tobacco before a dollop of redcurrant jam and an almost Rioja wine style burst of peppery tannins.

To finish it gently fades away leaving some drying oak, touches of soft ginger and white pepper along with a faint herbal tinge.

A more rich, refined and rounded version of the Tamdhu 10, however retailing for twice the price. I’d hazard a (badly educated) guess that some of the cost factor is perhaps due to the use of more first fill casks in the 15, as well as the obvious increased cost of aged stock.

 

Tamdhu Batch Strength Release, Batch No.4, OB, 57.8%abv (press sample)

tamdhu bs

As with the 15 year old this is bottled at natural colour and is non-chill filtered.

The nose is noticeably zingy and fresh, oranges and lemon sweets are the front. There is a touch of subtle oak and quite a vanilla hit amongst raisins and cocoa dusted apricots. Quite easy on the nose despite its high abv. Warm croissants drift away with a little hint of white chocolate.

On the palate again its quite drinkable as it comes, rather maltier than I expected but the sherry influences start to become more dominant with touches of distant leather and some red berries asserting themselves. Strawberries and meringues with crumbled oats biscuits.

The finish is lingering and transcends from sweet to spiced with some soft cinnamon and brown sugar notes appearing from with the vanilla and raisin.

 

Both are very impressive drams, I’m really looking forward to trying more of the range and I’d urge you to seek them out and try them too.

 

You can purchase the Tamdhu range from The Whisky Exchange

 

You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.

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