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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

February 6, 2014


A Gaussian verticale of Tamdhu

We’ll try to go deep today, because Tamdhu used to be a magnificent spirit. I’m not saying it isn’t anymore, not at all, but there’s probably much inspiration to be found in the distillery’s past…

Tamdhu 8 yo 2005/2013 (59.6%, The Ultimate, Van Wees, sherry, cask #347, 724 bottles)

Tamdhu 8 yo 2005/2013 (59.6%, The Ultimate, Van Wees, sherry, cask #347, 724 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: butterscotch, butterscotch and perhaps butterscotch. Really like opening a brand new pack of butterscotch. Did I mention butterscotch? With water: it’s the barley that comes out, together with some coffee and a little melon. The whisky became completely cloudy. Mouth (neat): punchy but very pleasant. I’d dare mention butterscotch, Werther’s Originals, Ovaltine, bags of sultanas and just a wee grittiness in the background. Must be the alcohol! With water: fresher and fruitier. Oranges, vanilla, juicy pears, raisins. Finish: long, mainly on sweet malt and, again, Ovaltine and… say what? That’s right, b*********h. Comments: an excellent example of a very young malt from excellent wood that became excellent despite the fact that it’s not really complex. Excellent, I think. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Tamdhu 23 yo 1990/2013 (52.9%, Blackadder, Statement, hogshead, cask #10928, 224 bottles)

Tamdhu 23 yo 1990/2013 (52.9%, Blackadder, Statement, hogshead, cask #10928, 224 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s fruity and malty whisky but it’s also got a fatness that makes it stand out. Sunflower oil, vanilla, touches of earth, touches of toasted oak, then more caramelised beer. Who said Guinness? Also hints of antiseptic, as if it was an ex-Laphroaig cask, but it probably wasn’t. With water: it’s camphor that comes out, tiger balm, antiseptic… Mouth (neat): fat and malty again, sweet, with some sugar cane then more burnt brioche and a growing grassy earthiness. Pink grapefruits as well, that lifts it and it’s all getting very nice. With water: doesn’t change much, except that it got smoother and easier. Finish: long, malty, could be some cold-distilled malt beer. Comments: it’s probably got more body than the ‘average’ Speysider. A whisky that needs your attention but then it really delivers. Same ballpark, I’d say. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Tamdhu 24 yo 1988/2012 (57.2%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #417, 199 bottles)

Tamdhu 24 yo 1988/2012 (57.2%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #417, 199 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: similar, except that it’s got more vanilla and more maple syrup. So a more civilised version – without that medicinal side of course. Very fine. With water: some earth and some sand coming out, but I wouldn’t say it became more expressive. Mouth (neat): punchy, fruity, with orange liqueur and kirsch, then vanilla sauce and caramel. Big stuff with a fattish mouth feel, water is needed. With water: well this time water really changed it. Even thicker mouth feel, a lot of sweet vanilla, marshmallows, drops of orange soda… Finish: long, a little grassy and green. Cardamom, ginger and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: the oak had a lot to tell. Very fine stuff nonetheless. SGP:561 - 82 points.

All right, one last recent Tamdhu and then we’ll try to find a very old one. If you don’t mind, of course…

Tamdhu 25 yo 1988/2013 (50.7%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Tamdhu 25 yo 1988/2013 (50.7%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: more austere, more elegant, maybe closer to the distillate, with some fresh almonds, stone berries eau-de-vie (sorb, rowan and such), maybe even a little maraschino, all that on a bed of grass and fresh butter. With water:  more grass. I wouldn’t say water does wonders. Must be the water. Ha, Vittel! ;-). Mouth (neat): very funny feeling of tinned litchis and blood oranges, plus some earth, some gentian, other roots, apricots… Excellent! With water: superb, fruits and earth and honey and roots. Finish: quite long, fresh, clean, fruity but not sweetish at all. Comments: a surprise, not because of Whisky-Fässle of course, quite the contrary, but because of Tamdhu. SGP:651 - 89 points.

And now, a big jump, with a Tamdhu of similar age but from a much earlier vintage. And this one’s got quite a reputation I have to say…

Tamdhu 26 yo 1970/1996 (51.5%, Signatory, butt, cask #378, 390 bottles)

Tamdhu 26 yo 1970/1996 (51.5%, Signatory, butt, cask #378, 390 bottles) Five stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: get out of here! Massive fruity sherry on a bed of precious woods and rare spices. Some adjectives will be needed, it seems… No, drop that, it’s an amazing nose full of Smyrna raisins, the best cuvees of Grand-Marnier, the oldest chartreuses and the widest assortment of oriental pastries and Turkish delights. That may involve quite some rosewater and orange blossom. Amazing. With water: how is that possible that it further improved? 500 year old balsamico. Okay, 50. Mouth (neat): instant marvel. Fantabulous combination of oak-smoked salmon (serious), toasted bread, many oranges and the liqueurs made thereof, three dozen spices and the most stunning pipe tobacco ever. Really stunning. Oh, forgot my beloved tar liqueur. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade twice. Finish: is a finish an end? Then there isn’t any, this lasts for hours and leaves your palate very ‘minty’. Comments: if I may, I think Signatory should do a ‘retro’ series – retro’s the future, baby – and reuse these old dumpies. That would be a hit. As far as this Tamdhu’s concerned, I’ve got nothing to add. Except that it makes me think of the greatest old Springbanks. There. SGP:652 - 96 points.

What shall we do now? Given that it’s probably impossible to ‘climb above’ that glorious sherried Signatory, let’s just try to find an old naked one. Maybe like this…

Tamdhu-Glenlivet 29 yo 1963/1992 (49.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Tamdhu-Glenlivet 29 yo 1963/1992 (49.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars Colour: white wine. Naked indeed. Nose: it’s the chartreusy side that stands out, without all the fruitcaky aromas that we had in the fab Sig. There’s some fresh mint, some chives, probably wild carrots, tons of grass, gravel, clay and other mineral aromas, linseed oil, limestone… And lastly, a huge quantity of fresh concrete. So yeah, it’s very chalky, very interesting, and exactly the opposite of the 1970. Great. Mouth: oooh! Not exactly a duel, that would be impossible, but his baby’s far from ridiculous, it’s even high-class, full of tiny tertiary flavours revolving around smokes, oils and minerals, before more grapefruit and even more scented oils take the lead. Mandarin zests, bergamots, drops of Campari… It actually just keeps improving, on and one, for a long time. Another amazing one for sure, that reminds us yet again of the very old official 10s ‘white label’ that used to be so fabulous. Something to do with direct-firing, perhaps. Finish: long, straight, chiselled, now ultra-rieslingesque. Astounding. And the aftertaste is really peaty/smoky. Comments: ha-ha-ha. That was close! SGP:463 - 94 points.

It is totally unreasonable to go on after those two glories, but we’ve got this even older baby that’s shouting ‘try me!’…

Tamdhu 1961/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old)

Tamdhu 1961/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old) Five stars All right, old whisky, low strength, let’s take it eeeeeasy… Colour: dark amber. Nose: oh f*****g no! Another one that reminds us how great Tamdhu is/was. An utterly stunning combination of jams and flowers, artisan coconut liqueurs (no junkish supermarket brands of course) and juicy dried fruits. Indeed fruits can be both juicy and dried, just think about the dried golden muscats they have in lovely Greece. Add blood oranges, ripe blackcurrants, tamarind and just distant whiffs of old cigars and humidors (red cedar) and there, you have it. And it’s not even light at 40% vol. Mouth: good, perhaps there’s a little too much coconut now, it’s almost arranged rhum mixed with liquorice water, but other than that what a lovely, fresh, easy-drinking old malt! Cointreau or maybe curaçao, cinnamon cake, blood oranges, Muscat again… And it’s still not weak. Finish: even the finish stays the course, which is quite a miracle. More praline and chocolate this time. Comments: I don’t think this could happen at 40% and after 40 years in wood and 15 years in glass (I’m rounding up) if the spirit wasn’t absolute first class in the first place. Watch old Tamdhus… SGP:551 - 91 points.

An even older one? Are you serious? Your wish is my command… (but this will be the last one, cross my heart.)

Tamdhu 42yo 1958/2000 (40.8%, Hart Brothers)

Tamdhu 42yo 1958/2000 (40.8%, Hart Brothers) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: one notch lower down this time, which was to be expected. I suppose the low strength is natural and not the result of reduction with water, although you never know. Especially these days, distillers tend not to use round strengths anymore, to try to make us believe that their strengths are ‘natural’. Like 49.9 or 50.1% instead of 50% vol. Booh! But back to the Tamdhu, it’s quite weak and flat, I’m afraid. Around cold tea and old papers, if you see what I mean, but there’s also a little fruit, around papayas, melons and gooseberries, then a little coconut. Also a little mint, as often in these very old malts. So very fine, but a little light.  Mouth: this is completely different from all the others, although there are some resemblances with the 1961, particularly the grated coconut. Or coconut balls. A kind of soft mix of tropical juices, first mangos, then maybe avocados. I also find a little sesame oil, which is quite unusual, and maybe tinned peaches, cognac-style. The problem is that it tends to lose steam in your glass, oxygen seems to kill it. Finish: a little short, with afterglows of coconut and now passion fruits. Comments: a rather fragile old malt, to handle with much care. On the other hand, the oak remained shy and discreet, all for the better. SGP:431 - 86 points.

(with heartfelt thanks to Bert, Konstantin, Olivier, and Ulli)







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