Tamdhu “Batch Strength” (58.8%, OB, Batch 001, Sherry Casks, 2015)

In our series of NAS Cask Strength Whiskies, here is number three. After the nice Glengoyne and the surprisingly good Tomatin, here is Tamdhu. Tamdhu is since 2011, the new jewel in the crown of Ian MacLeod, who have managed to save yet another distillery from the hands of the Edrington Group. The group chose to focus on the highly marketable Macallan and Highland Park brands, so no use for this low profile, but high quality distillery Tamdhu is. Over the years all previous owners haven’t done a lot with the Tamdhu brand, so there aren’t a lot of Tamdhu expressions around. Ian MacLeod, being the new owners, came up with a nice retro design and up ’till now have released four expressions. A 10yo that is widely available, blended from first and second fill Sherry casks. A limited edition 10yo, blended from first fill Sherry casks only, which has sold out rather quickly. And last but not least, two batches of the Batch Strength expression. Today we’ll have a look at the first batch, although last year the second batch saw the light of day.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Funky bread-like notes. Cereal and smelly, brooding Sherry. Quite spirity and paper-like at first. Cold dish-water. After a short while of breathing a more likeable fruity note emerges, but not much. Hints of gravy, Beer and menthol. Butterscotch and a rather strange burnt note, with an acidic top note (that’s why its strange). I’m not alarmed though, because the previous two NAS cask strength expressions started out funky as well, but turned out to be really tasty in the end. Next a more vegetable and woody note. Spicy but not in a big way. Still some paper, (slightly scented toilet paper comes to mind), as well as some jasmine tea. Pencil shavings start to emerge. Soft with a hint of sweetness. Creamy and nutty. The more it breathes the more toffee it shows. The strangeness mentioned above never really disappears.

Taste: Big on toffee and pencil shavings. Wow. Nice. Sweet. Hot. Big. Brash. I like it! Here too a funky note. Even some orange skin. Different from the other two, but one that screams yes! Its good. Where the nose had some off-putting aroma’s, the taste is very inviting. If you like cask strength, this is immediately likeable. Sure a bit raw and at times a wee bit under-matured, but not much. It won’t be twenty years old, but it won’t be three years either. Well made, you can taste a lot of care went into this. Lots of nutty Sherry notes, so I’m guessing some Sherries that matured under flor were used as well. Wonderful woody elements adding to the whole. Medium finish at best. The big aroma’s turn dry and then disappear altogether, which invites you to take another sip.

First of all, this is all Sherry casks, as the plan is for all Tamdhu releases, but way different from the all Sherry cask Aberlour A’Bunadh, blended solely from Oloroso Sherry casks. Compared to the other two I reviewed recently, or even to the A’Bunadh, this is maybe priced a tad to high, but I suspect this liquid was also quite pricy to produce.

However, if I had to choose on smell alone I would pick the Tomatin, which is also less expensive than this Tamdhu, but since Ian MacLeod made the bold move to buy this distillery, which isn’t known to the big public, I understand the pricing and the Whisky is definitely worth its price. In a direct comparison with the Tomatin Cask Strength, it is obvious both are equally good, and both show something about the distilleries they’re from. The difference in taste is a matter of opinion, as well as your mood. You can’t go wrong with either of them, including the Glengoyne which did score one point less.

Points: 85

Thanks Alan!

Tamdhu 23yo 1987/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #3649, 656 bottles, 500ml)

Earlier I reviewed two young Tamdhu’s, a 2004 and a 2005 bottled by dutch indie bottlers The Ultimate (Van Wees) and both turned out to be pretty good. This time we’ll have a look at a much older 1987 bottling by another dutch outfit, this time Mo Òr (The Whisky Talker). Tamdhu’s are usually pretty good when matured in Oloroso, so I’m guessing this also wil not be too wonky.

Tamdhu 23yo 19872010 (46%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #3649, 656 bottles, 500ml)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Lovely creamy Sherry. Nice alcoholic nuttiness. Clay and cask toast. Not too cloying and can be even called fresh, like in a breath of fresh air (carrying a little bit of dust). Licorice mixed with a hint of burnt leaves. Very aromatic, just move it around in your glass and lots of aroma leaps out of the glass. Creamy vanilla and some good oak. Nice balance and highly aromatic. Medium complexity but very appetizing.

Taste: Creamy with licorice and cask toast. Warming, and half-sweet. Clotted cream. However, already from the start this has a “thin” quality to it, which is remarkable since the nose was so aromatic and full. In stead of the creamy and honeyed sweetness, it starts with a sharpish burnt note. Charcoal and in the background a tiny hint of sulphur. The vanilla cream comes later. Smoky toffee. Warming with good creamy sherry and although the start was thin, the finish does linger on a bit.

I’m guessing this was better at cask strength. Very appetizing. good stuff and the kind of Whisky you’ll want to have first when this is in your collection, so easily drinkable. A bottle that will be empty soon, also because it’s only 500ml. Yup, not wonky at all.

Points: 88

Tamdhu 6yo 2004/2011 (52.9%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #5439, 680 bottles)

Just before Christmas I reviewed a young Tamdhu bottled by The Ultimate (Van Wees, The Netherlands). That one was only 8 years old and I dared to mention in that review that at 8yo that Whisky was maybe bottled to late, since a lot of wood was present in that bottling. Luckily the wood gave the Whisky a lot of character, but I hoped it would have been a wee bit sweeter. Now look here. I’ve got an even younger Tamdhu bottled by The Ultimate. This time I’ll have a look at a 6yo Tamdhu from 2004 (the second of the six, bottled in 2011), and have a look how the two compare. How was your Christmas, by the way?

Tamdhu 6yo 2004/2011 (52.9%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #5439, 680 bottles)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Definitely a less full on nose. Less powerful, dryer and somewhat more floral than cask #347. Again nice woody notes, but less prominent. Still a lot of pencil shavings though. This one needs a little breather. I just opened the bottle. Good balance and again a very likeable smell. Appealing. Somewhat cleaner this one is (thanks Yoda). When smelling these two H2H, is think this younger example is even more complex, since the 8yo is all wood.

Taste: Sweet and creamy and delayed pepper, but overall a weaker body than the 8yo. Now you all are going to think that I’ve lost it, but this 6yo Tamdhu is more complex than the 8yo I reviewed before Christmas. On the taste lots of nice aromas have lined up and come through one after the other instead of all at once. Black and white powder, vanilla pudding, elegant wood, licorice, and some yellow fruits even. What a treat. The finish isn’t longer, but has some more aroma’s and this one is heavy on cask toast and a little bit of sulphur, but again not dominant, so adding to the character. A nanosecond of sweet on the entry, than quickly into wood and then the workings of layers when the Whisky is swallowed. These young Tamdhu’s are hidden treasures!

The whole is more toned down compared to cask #347, but this one has some more going for it. It is a bit sweeter (as I hoped), but the sweetness is a bit funky, so I’m glad is isn’t sweeter than it is. The Whisky is only 6yo, but still it seems to be more complex than it’s older sister. I like the finish better too, although it has some sulphur, but that gives it even more character. As I said, more going on in this one. Time will tell what extra air will do for this Tamdhu. For the time being, a well urned:

Points: 88

Tamdhu 8yo 2005/2013 (59.6%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #347, 724 bottles)

The people who choose the casks really aren’t crazy. They obviously taste a lot, as they have released already some 500+ different bottlings, and many more probably have been rejected. Looking at the history of The Ultimate, most bottlings up untill 2005 were bottled at 43% ABV, and after that at 46% ABV. Sometimes however, a cask strength Whisky is released. Sometimes as a ‘Rare Reserve’ release, sometimes because a Whisky just doesn’t respond well to water and sometimes, being the Whisky lovers they are, they leave a Whisky be. It’s already good and it would be a shame to reduce it, let’s just bottle it.

In the recent past this was true for a lot of Islay Whiskies, like Bowmore, Laphroaig and some others, but more recently, a couple of bottlings of “other” Whiskies have surfaced at cask strength, which for me fall in the category of being a stunner in their own right, let’s not fiddle with it. One of those are the sherried Longmorn’s (17yo) of which, up untill now, six casks have been released, two of those I already reviewed: cask #72315 (the first) and cask #72319 (the third). It turns out there is another series that flew under my radar for a while: very young sherried Tamdhu’s. There are six of those as well. Five from 2004 (6yo, 7yo and 8yo) and one from 2005 (another 8yo), that was released last. Let’s review the latter one: the 2005, 8yo, from cask #347.

Tamdhu 8yo 20052013 (59.6%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #347, 724 bottles)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Very full, buttery and spicy. lots of wood aroma’s, sawdust, pencil shavings with a little bit of cask toast, and quite alcoholic. What a stunning nose for such a young Whisky. Wild vanilla in peppered pudding. Musty and some deep licorice from the Sherry and toasted wood. Maybe not the most complex nose, but hey, it isn’t even ten years old, but it is very appealing. I can’t stop smelling this. The sweetish, toffee and butter notes leave the glass and the wood remains. The spicy and peppery wood is omnipresent in this bottling, so if this would have been bottled some years later, it probably “wood” have been too much. Now the wood gives a lot of character to the nose, without dominating. Good call.

Taste: Nice full body full on wood and caramel, toffee. Pepper and spice. Butter and salt. It’s in utter balance since the nose and the taste are a complete match. The taste itself is a bit unbalanced (huh?) because the wood gives off some sour oak which makes the body a bit less sweet than expected and this type of Whisky does need some sugars in the mix. Because of the same reasons, the finish isn’t as long as expected, nor does it leave a specific taste in your mouth (but it does leave a little bit of woody bitterness and butter). It should have been more cloying. All the wood that can be smelled and tasted predicted a lot of dryness even though some sweetness is present. Maybe this should have been bottled even sooner? Who would imagine that! Quite hot at nearly 60% ABV.

So it’s lacking some sugars, there is a lot of wood, so isn’t it any good? On the contrary. What remains is a very good young Tamdhu, that isn’t super complex, but does have a lot of character and I most definitely like this very much. I’m lucky to have stumbled on this, and could still buy it. Recommended!

Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 87