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

Highland Park 12yo 1997/2010 (56.2%, G&M, Reserve for van Wees, Refill Sherry Hogshead #5823, 271 bottles)

In this day and age of battles, battles for oil, battles in politics, and even dance battles, now there are also battles in Whisky. The guys in the picture are Jan Beek (right) and Dennis Mulder (left). They do tastings/battles to see who bottles the best Whisky, the distilleries themselves or the Independent bottlers. Jan represents the independent bottlers and Dennis the official bottlers. Time for my own battle. Well not a battle with axes and swords. Earlier I reviewed an official Highland Park 12yo and scored it a decent 85 points. Here we have a this independent 12yo Highland Park, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail and selected by Van Wees, so mostly sold in the low counties. Let’s see if this Gordon & MacPhail 12yo can beat the official 12yo, and score more than 85 points…

Color: Lively orange brown.

Nose: Extremely sweet, spirity, spicy and woody. Raisins, lots of raisins. This smells exactly like a PX-Sherry. Apart from the thickness of it all, it does smell dryer later on because of the wood and spice. Gravy and meaty, something that fits the Sherry profile too. Definitely some honey and heather in the nose. Which surprises me since the Sherry cask might be very overpowering. Tar and sulphur come late into the mix. I love the coal and tarryness of sherried single cask Highland Parks. Burnt wood. Bonfire from a distance at night. The opposite of elegant I would say. The longer it breathes in the glass the better this gets. It reminds me of some of the better early seventies good sherried Whiskies.

Taste: This is sweet PX-Whisky with a bite. It starts out sweet and quickly turns into spicy wood. Syrupy sweet. But the initial sweetness terns into dryness because of the woody attack. Again coal, tar and even some licorice. Fireworks and a cold freshly half burnt log. Demerara Rum with a lot of smoke. It’s sweet but not quite honeyed. And no heather to be tasted too. Some dark chocolate and cola. Do I really taste a hint of soap?

OK, it’s a 12yo Highland Park all right, but this version has nothing to do with the official 12yo of today or any day for that matter. It’s a beast, but a lovely beast. If you can handle heavy Sherry, than this is one for you (and me). In the end I like this one better than the official 12yo, so this battle is won by Jan Beeks axe. But the whiskies are completely different and both have their moments. One is elegant and light(er), the other a beautiful beast at high strength. Still, I like the older official bottlings of Highland Park.

Points: 87