Tradition. It’s a strong word. It also has lots of implications. It can divide opinion too. “Why not move with the times?” vs “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” Campaigning for the stance of sticking with tradition is Tamdhu distillery. Tucked away in Knockando, Speyside, the distillery has been producing whisky since 1898 and has only ever aged its whisky in sherry casks. Despite this being an expensive way of doing things, the Tamdhu team have stood by their ‘Spain to Speyside‘ method since day one. In recent times, the 10 year old expression has been the distillery’s youngest age statement single malt, and, as is tradition, has been solely matured in Olorosso sherry barrels. Whilst the methods shall remain the same, Tamdhu are however “retiring” this release and are replacing it with an older entry release with its new 12 year old single malt [ed: seemingly contrary to what others distilleries appear to be doing by going younger or NAS – albeit at a £10-15 price hike from the 10yo to 12yo]. As with all Tamdhu releases, this whisky is available (while stocks last!) in a rather elegant bottle and packaging, which the distillery holds as testament to the quality of its product and is captured at 40% ABV.
Um… someone better not have put any Coca Cola into my whisky when I wasn’t looking because the initial impression that I get here is what I imagine an oak-aged cola would smell like!! Its got a full and rich round smell of dark fruits (oranges, cherries and raisins) that have been steeped in brandy or, more likely, sherry. The sweet and juicy fruits are complemented by the traditional Christmas cake spice mix of cinnamon and clove. This is a very Christmassy drink, come to think of it. The whole mix has an underlying and reassuring scent of age old whisky barrels, which presumably means that they [the barrels] have done their job well.
Sherry notes aplenty drift across the palate here. The stronger orange peel type flavours from the nose seem to sweeten on arrival and taste more like sweeter orange juice or even a blackcurrant or cranberry juice. The warming winter spices are all at play here too, making this seem like the perfect candidate for a hot toddy. The juicy fruit flavours are all swirled around with a cinnamon stick and the alcohol’s heat only really shows towards the end of the sip.
Oooh… and there’s the oak. The liquid now has a good amount of heart-warming spice and heat appearing, which coat your tongue and throat on its way down. We’re talking black pepper and cayenne pepper here by the way, rather than chilli heat, but it is still quite the fiery kick that you’d hope for from a single malt as this.
Delicious. I find myself thinking: Should I just drink more sherry instead? Maybe start up Sherry Unplugged? Like most people, I tend to only ever see sherry around at Christmas time, and those are the traditional seasonal flavours that both sherry and this whisky invoke. And there’s that word again: tradition. If anything, the strong fruit and spice flavours are what I’ve always traditionally thought a whisky should have and this 10yo is a good all-rounder in that sense. Lots of rich flavours that you should take time and mull over. Not too overpowering either (particularly at 40%) so you’d probably be inclined to pour another. And maybe another. That packaging just screams ‘good gift’ to me too. In summary: A lovely super-sherried sipper and a good benchmark for the 12yo to now build upon. Grab some whilst you can!