Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Review / Tamdhu 12 years old

This whisky is the cornerstone of the core range from the Speyside distillery of Tamdhu (pronounced tam-doo). This range also features a 15 years old expression and the annual Batch Strength release. These are joined by occasional limited editions and single casks. The brand has a commitment to just one style of cask maturation and only use those that have been previously seasoned or filled with Oloroso sherry. However, these ex-Oloroso sherry casks can be made of American or European oak and of differing sizes. These include butts, hogsheads and puncheons. In the case of this 12 years old they have used whisky matured in both first-fill and re-fill ex-Oloroso sherry casks.

The Tamdhu distillery is located in the centre of the Speyside region in Scotland, close to the hamlet of Knockando. It was founded in 1896 by the Tamdhu Distillery Company, which was formed of a consortium of whisky blenders. Throughout its history the whisky produced has largely been used in blends and it is only really under the ownership of Ian Macleod Distillers, who took control in 2011, that the full installation of Tamdhu as a single malt brand has taken place. The current production capacity is four million litres per annum.

The Tamdhu distillery. Image © Spirit of Speyside.


The Tamdhu 12 years old is bottled at 43% ABV and is of natural colour. It can be found in specialist whisky retailers worldwide especially in Tamdhu's key markets of Australia, Canada, China, France, the UK and the USA. A bottle should cost around the £40/ $55 US mark.

Our tasting notes

The colour is very deep gold with a hint of amber. The nose has an immediate rich, sweet and robust feel to it with aromas of brown sugar, sultana and oat biscuits evident. Then come further aromas of caramel and butterscotch. These are underpinned by some candied orange peel and hints of hazelnut praline and juicy tropical fruits.

On the palate this whisky feels rich and viscous. The luxurious quality makes it feels older and more expensive than it actually is. The sweet and rich elements from the nose (especially the brown sugar, butterscotch and caramel) are prominent and supported by a distinct robust cereal note and oily texture. The dried fruits and nutty characteristics begin to develop - think of raisins, sultanas and candied orange in tandom with that hazelnut praline, walnut and a hint of bitter almond. The combination is delicious. But we are not finished yet - then comes a good pinch of warming baking spices (imagine cinnamon, all-spice and a hint of mace) plus further pinches of white pepper and cocoa powder. Freshness is added late on as those juicy ripe tropical fruits, especially peach and apricot return.

The finish is long, rich and warming. The rich, sweet and fruity notes slowly fade and this gives the nutty and biscuit-like characteristics a chance to shine. The oily and robust nature of the whisky seem to accentuate these notes and encourage the finish to stretch even further.

What's the verdict?

This is a fine whisky from Tamdhu and one that represents great value and quality for the money. Remember - this sits at the beginning of the core range, is big and bold, matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks (which are expensive) and costs £40. This is cheaper than most other single malts that fit a similar set of criteria. 

Add to this that it is from a little known (well, outside of pretty serious whisky drinking circles anyway) distillery and you are on to a serious winner here. A delicious whisky that shows not only the quality of the distillery and its spirit, but also of ex-Oloroso cask maturation when done correctly. Absolutely superb.

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