Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
The Doig Ventilator
Tamdhu Distillery was founded in 1897 by a consortium of merchants and whisky blenders. The group employed local architect, Charles Doig, to design the project. Doig would go on to become linked with Scotch whisky distilleries in a manner unseen before or since…
Charles Doig was born on a farm in Angus in 1855 and studied the trade of an architect after leaving school aged 15. In 1882, he moved to Elgin to work for a Land Surveyor and this placed him in the eye of the storm when it came to the rapidly expanding whisky boom. By 1890, he had established his own practice which specialised in building distilleries. Doig didn’t just design the structure, however, he often designed the equipment therein, Pot Stills included.
Pagoda at Aberfeldy distillery…
Doig’s most famous design, and that which he is remembered for, was the ventilator system – recognisable as the Pagoda-like structure on the roof of distilleries. His design allowed for greater air flow as the oxygen drew smoke upwards from the kiln. The pagoda became so synonymous with the look of Scotch whisky distilleries, that some newer distilleries, like the one on Arran, have Pagodas on the roof despite never having had a kiln.
In total, Doig was involved with the development of 56 distilleries. Among them were Dailuaine, where he pioneered his ventilator, Tamdhu, Speyburn, Aberlour and Dufftown. Even Pulteney in Wick, Highland Park in Orkney, Talisker in Skye and Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Caol Ila on Islay felt his influence. When Alfred Barnard visited Speyside’s Tamdhu he described it as ‘perhaps the most efficient of its era‘ a credit, surely, to the man who designed it.
By 1899, Tamdhu was in the hands of Highland Distillers (who would later become Edrington). Its spirit was made predominantly for blending purposes and the distillery was eventually mothballed in 2010. It remained in that state until Ian Macleod Distillers of Glengoyne bought it in 2013 and began releasing a single malt. So far, the range has consisted of 10 year old and ‘Batch Strength’ expressions.
The expression I’ll be reviewing doesn’t come from the distillery, however. This cask found its way to the warehouses of independent bottler, Wm. Cadenhead. It’s 22 years old with some of that time spent slumbering in a Port Cask.
Smell: There’s lots of berry fruits on the nose with blueberries and raspberries. There’s also dried fruits like raisins and prunes and a touch of apples. There’s also some honey and toffee and a touch of furniture polish.
Taste: Nice orange citrus with raspberry and blackcurrant. Walnuts and silky caramel. Honeycomb and old oak.
Thoughts: I paid £70 for this bottle. You can’t exactly call that cheap but when you consider that this is a 22 year old single cask, the price starts to look a lot more appealing. All too often, whisky carries an unjustifiable price tag. This, at least, feels justifiable. The quality is certainly high enough and the port cask maturation gives you something a little different from the standard Tamdhu bottlings currently available. It is, of course, also bottled at cask strength, non-chill-filtered and natural colour – and what a colour. Great distillery + excellent bottler = rewarding purchase.