Tamdhu Dalbeallie Dram No.3 (60.7%, OB, Sherry Oak Casks, 1.000 bottles, 2020)

Well, since I already have one of these lying around, why not make it two official Tamdhu’s in a row. After the (initially) slightly disappointing 15yo, I just expected more of a Sherry monster I guess, I gather this special release should have no trouble eclipsing the 15yo. First of all, it has more oomph (higher ABV), more color (A lot darker) and with a mere 1.000 bottles produced, they probably did something special, don’t you think? So I expect a proper Sherry monster again! I’m only human, and I don’t seem to really learn from my mistakes, or so it seems, nevertheless I still do expect a Sherry monster this time.

The first edition of Dalbeallie was released in 2018 at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, and gets its name from the Dalbeallie station. Tamdhu itself opened in 1897 and the station just two years later in 1899. The railway played a key role in the supply of barley and Sherry casks for Tamdhu. The station closed in 1965, but has since been fully restored. Dalbeallie is an annual release, so editon II was released at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2019 and our number III was released this year (2020) on-line, due to Covid-19. Every edition up ’till now, counts only 1.000 bottles.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Thick Sherry, with licorice, lots of wonderful fresh oak, crushed dried autumn leaves, nuts and dust (and sometimes some cardboard). Very aromatic and fresh. Old, worn down leather and also meaty. However, like the 15yo, this has a rather large fresh ‘n’ fruity acidity to it. Citrus acidity, more of the lemon and lime kind than oranges, or is it… Floral perfume and some cloves (and some oranges now?). Sometimes whiffs of ozone (like you get from ozone cleaned pools). Initially a bit closed but this is quickly “resolved” with some breathing. Thick, slightly tarry, hints of petrol and brooding, yet not syrupy. Hints of paint and gravy. Seems odd, but odd combinations work well in Whisky. Cardboard and some candied red fruit sugar gello, (or jam for short), deep down below in the nose. Nice wood notes to balance it out, fresh wood and sawdust. The wood notes emerge more and more, the longer this stands in your glass and breathes. Cigar-box sandal wood is linked to the old style perfume. Extremely balanced and a truly wonderful nose. Yes it really does smell like a Sherry monster, 2.0-style.

Taste: Big Sherry. Hot and woody. Fresh dried wood, again remembering cigar boxes. Red fruits with a shadow of sweetness (as in, you know it’s there but you can’t touch it), and definitely some cigar aromas. Cigar box, cigar a cru (the smell of an unlit cigar) and cigar ashes. Powerful wood (bitter). Full of wonderful aroma’s and tastes, yet also lightly unforgiving. Starts out fresh, (new) wood and hot, but picks up caramel and some velvety softness whilst going down. For a millisecond, this is syrupy and sweet and then the dry wood kicks in, and it kicks in good. The wood sticks to the palate. Nice wood, powerful, yet not the overpowering (mouth drying) wood you get from very old Malts. It disperses eventually, making room for cookie dough and letting through a tiny bit of the sweetness I’m sure more is in here somewhere. Extremely tasty. Wow! Just like the 15yo, this is quite fresh and somewhat acidic on top. The aforementioned wood has some cloves and a sharpish edge to it. Freshly sawn oak. A truly wonderful Malt. This is essentially a Sherry monster, but with these fresh characteristics and these more than appropriate wood notes, works very well together. Big, yes, cloying, no. Hints of menthol also pop up. In a way it is almost Christmassy.

It also reminds me a bit of the high powered 2007 Glenlivet’s from Signatory Vintage. First fill Sherry, with extremely high ABV. These Glenlivets are flooding the market since 2017. I really have to open one of those soon, to see if I remember those well. This Dalbeallie seems a wee bit softer. However, it’s really not a soft Malt, the wood is too present for that. It is still a Sherry monster though, but as I said before, in a more modern 2.0-style. Even more wood in the finish than in the body. Not drying, but somewhat soapy. Through the soapy bit (which isn’t a problem by the way) comes the first sign of some real woody bitterness. This bitterness remains for the aftertaste as well as some, almost hidden before, red fruit hard candy. Nevertheless, this is a magnificent dram.

I love it! Definitely worth the price of admittance. I got half a bottle in a bottle share with Nico. I should have gone for the whole thing. Oh well…

Points: 89.

The wood influence is quite big and this takes away a bit from the underlying red fruits and if these fruits would have had a chance to exert themselves some more, this would have been a Dram scoring in the 90’s. Still a very good Whisky!

Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003 “Special Edition” (52.5%, OB, 6000 bottles)

Cragganmore, and an old Cragganmore it is. Last year Diageo released a 25yo Special Release from 1988. That one costs a pretty penny, and is almost sold out by now. Nevertheless these days people throw themselves at anything that looks or feels like a super-duper premium bottling. However, the short row of special editions of Cragganmore was started back in 2003, by this 29yo from 1973. Yes a distillate from the seventies, and distillates from the seventies are usually even harder to come by. Nevertheless, this 1973 Cragganmore is still not very hard to get ánd even at a lower price than the aforementioned 1988 special release. What is happening here? Is the 1988 way better or has everybody simply forgotten about the 1973?

Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003 Special Edition (52.5%, OB, 6000 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Waxy and floral but rather closed. Quite light, delicate and vibrant. Old smoke and toast. Distant yellow fruits with a hint of tar. Nice combination. Steam age Whisky. Hints of barley and (floral) soap, but also hints of wood (old furniture) and even a tiny hint of pencil shavings. Hints of soft white pepper and some discernible sweetness. Dusty, fruity and slightly waxy, but I have to say it again, very closed.

Taste: Tropical fruits and quite sweet, like other bottlings from the seventies. Just remember Caperdonich and Tomatin. Cannabis and dish-water. Old papers and slightly cardboardy, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. Nice combination of cream and tired oak. It definitely tastes better than it smells. Don’t get me wrong, it smells good (albeit closed), but it tastes better. The finish is announced by some oaky bitterness, which fits the fruity waxiness perfectly. And old gent of a dram. Old and brittle but lots of stories to tell. You never know with old stuff like this, but to me, this seems to be exclusively from old Bourbon casks.

I am not Mr. Water. I hardly use water when tasting Malt prefer movement. Just let it move around in my glass, airing, oxidizing of you prefer, maybe warming it up in my hand a bit. That does the trick for me. However, if I encounter a closed Malt, then, and only then, water can be a nice experiment. I’m such an anorak, that I don’t even use a pipette, but I use a syringe. (Smaller droplets giving me more control). I know it’s sad, but I do have a life, so don’t worry about me. Well after some droplets and some more droplets, water didn’t open up the nose a lot. I did get more floral and toasty. It did do wonders for the taste. It got better, with more cannabis, more pencil shavings and more yellow sugared fruits. The toasty bit crept in here too. Lovely stuff, a bit brittle (apart from the body), so be carefull. So in this case, do try some water. Yes it needs some work, but it’s also quite an experience.

I haven’t tried all of the other special releases of Cragganmore but I can’t imagine them to be better than this one. Sure, age doesn’t matter (or so they say) and distillates of the seventies don’t have to be better than more recent distillates. However, this 1973 does come across as a very old Whisky, meaning it does smell and taste like something that can’t be made like this anymore. To “prove” or “un-prove” my point here is a review of a more modern Cragganmore, that did manage to fetch a higher score…

Points: 87