In an era where any spirit matured in an ex-sherry cask would easily get raved about, I find it quite odd that Tamdhu doesn’t get much recognition. This is, I guess, a good time as any to find out.
Tamdhu is a single malt I have very little experience with. Even when I was still primarily a whisky drinker four to eight years ago, Tamdhu wasn’t really talked about. The names of well-known sherry influenced single malts such as Glenfarclas, Macallan, Dalmore, Aberlour, Glengoyne and Glendronach would get thrown around so I became very familiar with them. I can’t blame it on the lack of awareness or passion. As this was a time when a lot of single malts only ended up in blends. They were much more of a mystery then but a lot were giving them a try through independently bottlers (IB)s. The best examples I can give are Benrinnes and Mortlachs which were bottled by IBs like Signatory. These were not well known but slowly became famous. I mean, look at what Diageo is doing to Mortlach now.
This made me wonder if Ian Macleod’s acquisition of the distillery from Edrington affected the presence of the brand. It turns out there is a connection. According to the Tamdhu website, the distillery closed by Edrington in 2010. Is there a chance Edrington didn’t foresee the whisky boom? Or were they just satisfied with owning Highland Park and Macallan? Maybe they didn’t know what to do with it like the Glenturret distillery? Were there more factors? Anyhow, in an attempt to connect more dots, I started to look into it some more. Turns out Ian Mcleod made a smart decision by stepping in to breathe new life into the distillery in 2012. They bought new washbacks, built new warehouses and opened a visitor’s center. According to this old Ralfy video, Tamdhu 10 was finally released in May of 2013. I guess this explains the lack of awareness regarding the brand. I’ve been told it takes years for a brand to gain popularity. The Tamdhu Cask Strength Batch 1 only came out in 2015, which explains how other high abv sherried malts are better known. I remember this being a time when sherry bombs like Aberlour A’bunadh and Glendronach Cask Strength were really famous.
My sensitivity to sulfur has made me reluctant to buying sherry-influenced spirits. Luckily, I was able to buy samples of the 10 and the Batch Strength Batch 4. So, let’s see how these two single malts will fare. You can still find the BS Batch 4, which is bottled at 57.8%, in The Whisky Exchange for £72.95. The 10, which is aged 100% in ex-sherry casks and bottled at 40%, has apparently been discontinued as of October 2018.
Tamdhu 10 year old – review
Color: coconut sugar syrup.
On the nose: Lots of pleasant fruity scents. This is like having a fruit salad getting put in front of you. The medium tone scents alternate at a quick pace but I get some bananas, dried apricot, candied melons, apple pie, dehydrated lemon peel and leather. At the back are lighter scents of thyme, cloves, mango mille-feuille, vanilla and cloves. This has lots of layers but I’d say thin layers as each scent comes and goes fast.
In the mouth: Medium intensity tastes of canned peaches, stewed apples, vanilla, honey, ginger candy and orange peel. I get light notes of cardamom, cloves, dried apricots and oleo saccharum.
Tamdhu Batch Strength Batch 4 – review
On the nose: A short and fruity ethanol bite. Behind it is an intense mix of vanilla, cinnamon, honey, butterscotch and orange peel for the first wave. For the second wave, I get muscovado sugar, dates, prunes, raisins, cherry notes from brewed medium-roast Ethiopia coffee, chocolate brownies, Portuguese egg tarts, mocha and dried stone fruits. Amazing. When I close my eyes, I can picture myself being in a bakery.
In the mouth: My first sip of this is like biting into a Snickers bar… minus the intense sweetness. I get lasting and medium intensity tastes of chocolate, nuttiness and toffee. They’re followed by a faster-fading but same intensity tastes of sultanas, dates, orange jam, ginger candy, Taiwanese pineapple cakes, mocha, honey and muscovado sugar.
I think Tamdhu has an amazing cask program. Despite both of these being 100% sherry matured, I didn’t get a hint of sulfur. To me, it sounds like Ian Macleod took the time to treat their ex-sherry casks properly.
I love the nose on this Tamdhu 10. I blame the thin layers on the abv but I think this is one of the most layered and complex 40% abv spirits I’ve ever had. Sadly, the number of layers and complexity don’t transfer too much in the mouth. The tastes are a bit thicker though which makes up for it.
The color and intensity of the sherry makes me assume this was aged in a mix of 2nd and 3rd fill ex-sherry casks. The regular sherried offerings from brands like the Glendronach or Macallan or Dalmore seem more like cheese grates as they’re more forceful and robust. This Tamdhu 10 is like a scalpel compared to them.
The Batch Strength #4 is just delicious. It’s hard to point out faults in this whisky other than hoping for a less intense heat brought about by the abv. Maybe also for the flavors to linger a bit longer as well.
Sadly, I don’t have the batch 5 to compare to this but I encourage you to get it if you can. Like the Tamdhu 10, batch 4 is delicate. It’s not a sherry bomb which will make you think of Aberlour’s A’bunadh or Glendronach Cask Strength. To entice you more to get a bottle of this or Batch 5 which is available from Master of Malt for £79.95.
For possible alternatives, The Whisky Exchange currently sells the A’bunadh Batch 63 for £79.95, or Shared Pour has batch 57 for $127.99, while the Glendronach Cask Strength is £69.95. Different kinds of sherried single malts for you to hopefully enjoy.
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I agree with the sulfur being regularly present with sherried “juice” although with Ian’s influence (if I am not mistaken), the sulfur is or was wrapped around very well. You get the sulfur hint and then that honey kicks in…shrouds the sulfur and let’s you enjoy the tannin in a mellowed manner (for me).
Thanks for the comment. I was just very glad that I didn’t get any sulfur in these 2. I mostly get it in the more contemporary releases. I only got samples of this so I don’t have a full bottle go back to and sense what you’re talking about.
I hope you will review the 12YO and Batch 5 sometime!
I bought a bottle of Batch 4 last summer. After opening it, I almost immediately went out and bought another bottle because it was very reasonably priced at my local shop. Very enjoyable and not cloying like some sherried drams. The mouthfeel is much rounder than A’bunadh which I do like but find more drying on the palate.
I love your quite evocative description of picturing oneself in a bakery–which I can confirm since I decided to revisit my bottle tonight!
The 12 and Batch 5 aren’t available here yet. But I’m definitely looking forward to it now after trying the 10 and Batch 4.
The bakery description is me missing the times I can go to Japanese bakeries after having my cup of morning coffee.
Good review… Thx for the reco… I saw it here at around £72 (Batch4) and there is a Batch 1 double that price… No Batch 5 appearance yet…
Thanks for the comment. I saw Batch 5 available in TWE a while back. Maybe not for Asia market?
I believe the 10, although Sherry matured, uses European and American Oak which are then Sherry seasoned, similar to the Macallan Double Cask and HP. You really get those American Oak notes hiding in the Sherry with the 10, at least I do. The 10 is a solid everyday dram for people who enjoy Sherried whiskies. I think Tamdhu 15 is the pick of the litter though. Nice review.
Tamdhu is a brand I’m going to look into more after this. The 12 and 15 aren’t available here yet, sadly. There must be something different that Tamdhu does from other brands as this doesn’t give off sulfur.
I agree that the 10 year makes for a solid everyday dram. I just don’t do daily drams.