Ian MacLeod Distillers have big plans for Speysider Tamdhu – though you’d not know this from the distillery’s current core range lineup, which can be counted on a single hand. Following Tamdhu’s closure in 2010 (by then owners Edrington), MacLeod have nurtured the distillery since 2012, installing new washbacks, warehousing and a visitors centre. As well as introducing a new range of young sherry-forward expressions over the last few years, they have sought to supplement the distillery’s existing aged-stocks with casks of their own spirit, which have been producing since May production commenced in 2013.
The current offering from Tamdhu looks a bit lean compared to days gone by, with a core range 10 year old, batch strength (three editions so far) and limited edition 46% 10 year old (oh and a single cask 50 year old, which we know you’ve all gone out and bought already). However, MacLeod are clearly wary of the need to carefully manage Tamdhu’s reintroduction into the market place – there’s no doubt that the warehouses still have some depth of casks to them, but with distilling only up to speed for the past 5 years (meaning that the 10 year old, Tamdhu first released in 2013 is all drawn from pre-MacLeod casks), medium to long-term stock planning is obviously essential.
But, don’t let Tamdhu’s gradual re-emergence fool you into thinking that there’s not some exciting whisky to try from the distillery right now – there is – in the form of the Tamdhu Batch Strength releases.
First introduced in 2015, Batch Strength is aged exclusively in sherry casks – both European and American oak – and with a high proportion of first fill casks. As an NAS bottling, it’s reasonable to assume that it contains a combination of both older pre-MacLeod casks, as well as some of the newer spirit produced at the distillery over the last five years. There has been three batches of Batch Strength released to date. We’ll be taking a look at Batch 002 (the numbering convention allowing for quite a few more of these in the future), which is bottled at 58.5% ABV.
Nose: Richly sherried, but quite fresh and crisp. Starting with chocolate, coffee ground grounds, raisins and both dried and stewed fruits, this also presents some earthiness in the form of moist soils and cracked walnuts, as well as some lively garden fresh greenness. The addition of water helps express some both citrus, and some underlying bakery notes – both spices, but also newly made loaves of bread.
Taste: Very viscous and mouthcoating. Sticky toffee pudding, treacle sponge, dark chocolate and cocoa beans leave no doubt as to the deeply sherried nature of this whisky. These rich flavours are supported by reduced and dried fruits – plums and berries. Again, there’s some yeastiness here – pastries and freshly made dough, as well as more interesting nuances – cola cubes and balsamic. In the back palate, things get earthy, nutty and spicy – soils, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg – as well as a gradual slightly mineral flavour – part orange peels, part sea salt. Worryingly drinkable at 58.5%, lets add a little water – soft, syrupy fruits (a bit more stone fruit now – apricots and peaches) as well as heightened nuttiness and some buttery biscuit (base).
Finish: Quite long, with a pleasant fade and mixing berries and biscuits with dark sugars and tingly spice.
On the one-hand, this is a straight-forward heavily sherried whisky. On the other, this is a really particularly tasty straight-forward sherried whisky. I’ve always had a lot of time for older Tamdhu bottlings and Batch Strength 002 gives me high hopes that the distillery’s future releases are going to be cracking. The bottling offers deep, rich sherry flavours at high strength, but with excellent balance from the nose through to the finish. It takes water well – and indeed, you’ll get the most out of it with a little addition of water. Available from Master of Malt for £57.53.
With thanks to Jorgen for the sample.Score: 85/100