Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

We celebrate the start of Spirit of Speyside with Tamdhu

Whisky regions are – to me at least – still very much alive as a relevant method to divide certain distilleries and styles into categories. Today is the First of May and marks the start of the Spirit of Speyside Festival 2024. Forgive us for skipping Campbeltown Wednesday for once and let us indulge you with samples from a distillery so deep in the heart of Speyside, it might well be the quintessential one. Today we produce tasting notes from Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Whisky.

Tamdhu is indeed a household name for many when they think of Speyside, but is has become more than that. The focus is so much on good sherry casks, that the distillery has really edged itself among the greats in sherry whisky (then and now), like Aberlour, The Macallan, Glenfarclas and a little outside Speyside, GlenDronach. It has fierce competition from GlenAllachie and the sheer power and charm of Billy Walker behind that, but Tamdhu is doing just fine.

While I have been to Speyside quite a few times, I only visited the festival once, back in 2019. A visit to Tamdhu was part of the program we made, and to me it was an incredible highlight. Such a delightful distillery, with engaging staff, manager and ambassador, and most importantly: a great deal of tasty sherried whisky. In the little old Dalbeallie train station we kicked off with a little tasting at the unholy hour of 9.30 in the am. Not a bad time to guzzle a  60+ % abv whisky. The drink in the glass turned out to be the second edition of The Dalbeallie Dram. A yearly celebratory bottle for this same train station near the distillery. I am not really a collector, but I do pride myself with the fact I own all six editions that came out, and hope to score the seventh this year as well. That second edition went home with me straight from the distillery, the bottle signed by manager Sandy McIntyre. Something to cherish.

So, happy Spirit of Speyside for everyone organising and attending. Besides collecting, I like drinking good Scotch too, and all these Dalbeallie Drams were indeed cracked open, and occasionally some drops were saved for a later moment. This blog for instance. We taste editions 3 and 6 for you, and we also throw in an independently bottled monster Tamdhu for the Dutch market. All aboard!

Tamdhu Dalbeallie Dram III, bottled in 2020 at 60,7 % abv 

Makeup: Matured in Sherry Oak Casks, an annual batch of 1000 bottles. (see picture above)

General impressions: Beautiful dark colour as sherry whisky should have. It is a powerhouse from the start, strong on raisins, wood, and pencil shavings. There are hints of coconut and caramel, but all rather tamed by the high abv, which makes nosing this Tamdhu a little challenging. Taking a sip undiluted is an attack on the senses, with a good deal of wood and deep, dark chocolate. Usually, with NAS whisky, we might assume this is a young whisky. I am guessing this edition of the Dalbeallie Dram is around 8 years old, and the youth is not mellowed out yet, no matter how dominant the sherry casks were.

I am never a fan of adding water to sherried whisky, but surprisingly, this Tamdhu is an excellent swimmer. Lots more caramel to smell, some nice woodsmoke, mahogany furniture, all that jazz. On the tongue, the dram remains a bit bitter but feels a lot softer and pleasant. The finish, however, stays alcohol hot. This will take off some points.

Conclusion: Having tasted all six Dalbeallie Dram editions, I can say there were a few dryer, hotter ones. Edition 3 is certainly among them. If you like your whisky muscled and fierce, pick this one.

Score: 85 points


Tamdhu Dalbeallie Dram VI, bottled in 2023 at 60 % abv

Makeup: Matured in Sherry Oak Casks, an annual batch of 1000 bottles.

General impressions: Another hard-hitter at 60 %, but this one is definitely a more juicy expression compared to the previous glass. More on red fruits, but also cigar leaves. The taste is where the difference is made  Really a mouthful of spices and Turkish delight. With water, it turns into an array of milk chocolate and café-au-lait. Yes, more layers and complexity to make this a much more interesting dram. Nice to see there is batch variation. After a while the VI even releases some Speyside fruitiness like apricot, peaches, and overripe pears.

Conclusion: One of the better editions of the Dalbeallie Dram, this one is reminiscent of the fantastic first edition. More juicy after some drier expressions. Of course, there is no information on the casks used, but one does get the impression that this contains some European oak. Takes water very well, and I do recommend it, to break open the high abv just a little bit.

Score: 89 points
Disclaimer: taken from self-owned bottles.

Tamdhu 2006, bottled at 9 years old at 64,3 % abv by The Ultimate / Van Wees

Makeup: Filled from one single sherry butt with the number 918, producing 643 bottles, which means there was practically no angel’s share to speak of. Distilled on 16 February 2006, bottled on 6 May 2015.

General impressions: Seeing this is 9 years old, I actually expect this to be very much of the pedigree that the Dalbeallie Dram bottlings are made of. Insanely high abv and pitch dark in colour. Let’s find out. Obviously, it is difficult to nose such a high alcohol volume, but I do catch some distinct scents, like red berries, shoe polish and a hint of vinegar. I will quickly sip undiluted before going on to play with water. 

It is doable, I must say, but I can visualize my tongue smouldering and the smoke is what I taste in my mouth.

Woody flavours indeed, but there certainly is more, that I need to bring out with a dash of water. Caramel fudge now on the nose, and still lots of wood smoke rising from the glass. It remains fierce but releases the fudge now also on the tongue. This Tamdhu requires a lot of patience, but you can see it as a Lego kit you get for Christmas. You can keep on building and playing for hours.

Conclusion: A liquid caramel fudge that changes with every drop of water you add. Not complex but very interesting. It does however need so much tinkering that it drops a few points.

Score: 84 points
Disclaimer: from a sample share with my whisky friend, the Dram Delivery Man Daantje.

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