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!

Tamdhu 15yo (46%, OB, 24.000 bottles, 2019)

In 2011 Tamdhu was let go by the Edrington Group (The Macallan, Highland Park) and it got snapped up by Ian McLeod (Glengoyne). Since then, “Ian” came up with a new bottle design, which actually looks like something Edrington might have done. It certainly looks different from most other bottles. Its tall and very heavy, fits my hand perfectly and pours nicely. I have yet to spill a drop. I hear, not everybody likes the look of it. Personally, I rather like it. Earlier, I reviewed the first batch of the cask strength version, the rest of my reviews are solely about independent bottlings of Tamdhu. Tamdhu has always been associated with Sherry, just like The Macallan and Glendronach were, although I’m not really sure anymore about Macallan though. I don’t really know with what it’s associated with these days. Fine leather ladies’ handbags maybe? Collections of photo’s? Crystal? The bottle I’m about to review next, is also a Sherried bottling. This 15yo was first released in 2019 and the release has been matured solely in American and European oak Oloroso Sherry casks.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Nutty and dusty Sherry. Smells like something sugary. Lots of fresh oak as well. One side of this Tamdhu is nutty and thick, the other fresh (fresh air, salty ocean spray), fruity and slightly acidic. Hints of toasted wood and red fruits. Dusty and some old motor oil. Refined, and slightly tarry. Quite meaty as well. Earwax and yet also this whiff of fresh air, quite a lot of aroma emerges from my glass. There is a lot happening in this one. Quite complex. Hints of exhaust fumes, yeah, why not?. Sweetish, with enough wood and chocolate to balance the sweetness out. Chocolate chip cookies and vanilla powder. Sometimes tiny whiffs of sulphur. It carries some resemblance to some batches of Aberlour A’Bunadh, the more I smell this though, the less obvious that is. Also a fresher, more citrussy note making this Tamdhu less heavy and cloying in comparison to other Oloroso Sherry Whiskies. This acidity also makes this Whisky more fresh and youthful. Hard to believe this has been lying around for 15 years. 15 years is a loooong time. Wonderful nose, but it does need your attention. This is not one to smell casually.

Taste: Big, with light Sherry and more nuts than a squirrel can store. Thick yet not syrupy. It’s thick but not cloying. However this does seem to have some hidden sweetness to it. Just hidden away nicely by the wood that is present (enough). Mocha, milk chocolate and dusty Sherry notes. Spicy and prickly. Fresh menthol (complete with hints of toothpaste). Half sweet now and definitely some toffee notes emerge. Tarry cigarette ashes. This is nice. Instant gratification. The taste is simpler than the complex nose, and therefore doesn’t need the level of attention the nose needed. The taste is well balanced, nutty and likeable.

Even though this is in every way a decent Tamdhu, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at first. Somehow I expected something more of it. This does have a lot of Sherry influence, but in no way is it a Sherry monster. I should have known better, since this isn’t all that dark to boot. I guess other Tamdhu OB’s will fill that Monster spot soon. In comes time. Over time I shed the idea of Sherry monster expectations. Tamdhu had a reputation you know? I got used to what this 15yo actually is, which is a likeable, lighter Sherry style with a complex nose. Refined, elegant and laid back. Quite good. Recommended

Points: 86

Tamdhu 15yo 1991/2006 (60%, Adelphi, Bourbon Cask #1955, 257 bottles)

Well let’s continue with another oldie, shall we? Clear out some of the sample bottles to fill it up with something new. This is Tamdhu, and Tamdhu is not on Islay, nor will this Whisky be peated. I expect a lot of this Whisky. First of all it’s Tamdhu, which makes a lovely distillate. It’s bottled by Adelphi, a bottler so good, it almost seems as if they can pick any cask they like. This has 60% ABV and just look at the color. Yeah baby, bring it on!

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Wood and sometimes a hint of an aromatic White wine. Very spicy. This must have been a very active (toasted) cask. Although you might think this cask previously held some sort of Sherry, I hardly doubt it. Creamy vanilla. American oak, all the way. No Sherry notes whatsoever and yet pretty sweet-smelling, although the dryness of the oak, soon takes over, to never let go. Ehhhm, is this all? Hints of fresh air, but it’s mostly all aroma’s that have to do with oak. It’s definitely not overoaked, mind you, but it seems to be rather mono-dimensional. I’m actually a bit disappointed now, since this is Tamdhu, from Adelphi, which has a reputation, and it’s 60% ABV. I love cask strength. Still, nothing happens for me. Sawdust and hot oak. It smells a bit like a carpenters workshop. This definitely could have done with some blueberry notes, now it smells a bit, dull…

Taste: Initially quite sweet, and again, everything you’d expect from an ex-Bourbon cask. Vanilla, powdered vanilla, creamy pudding, instant pudding powder. Milk chocolate (powder) and a totally different green feel to it, as well. My heart skips a beat right now, because, this is more or less it. Lots of oaky notes, and a strange sweetness. Not a lot more is coming to me to be honest. Earlier I already thought my nose was failing me, but tastewise I don’t “see” a lot of evolution in my glass. WYSIWYG.

Although Adelphi claim, Tamdhu prefers ex- Bourbon casks, I always thought Tamdhu was one of those distillates that work wonders with ex-Sherry casks, in both American and European oak. This particular example has no flaws, it’s nice, but it almost has no  complexity, nor does it evolve a lot after pouring or whilst drinking. I’m pretty sure I will forget rather quickly, how this tasted like, and I hardly forget the taste of a Whisky. Go figure.

Points: 83

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