Cadenhead’s Tamdhu 22 Year Old Port Cask

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Tamdhu Distillery and Charles Doig

Tamdhu distillery was founded in 1897 by a consortium of merchants and whisky blenders. They sought out the services of local architect, Charles Doig, in order to design the project. Doig would go on to become inextricably linked with Scotch whisky and the distilleries that produce it.

Charles Doig was born on a farm in Angus in 1855. After leaving school at age 15 he studied as an architect with a local firm. In 1882 he moved to Elgin to work for a Land Surveyor. This placed him in a prime location to capitalise on a boom in the Speyside whisky industry. By 1890 he had set up his own practice, specialising in building distilleries. However, Doig didn’t just design the structure, he also designed the equipment therein, Pot Stills included.

Perhaps Doig’s most famous design and that which he is most remembered for is his ventilator system, recognisable as the Pagoda roof on distilleries. The design allowed for much better smoke extraction from the kiln and has become utterly synonymous with the look of Scotch whisky distilleries. Even newer distilleries like Arran have Pagodas on their roof despite never having had a kiln. In total, Charles Doig was involved with the development of 56 distilleries. Amongst them Dailuaine, where he pioneered his ventilator, Tamdhu, Speyburn, Aberlour and Dufftown and even up to Pulteney in Wick and Highland Park in Orkney, Talisker in Skye and Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Caol Ila on Islay. When Alfred Barnard visited 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). The spirit was made predominantly for blending purposes though single malt bottlings were available. In 2010 a change in ownership saw the distillery mothballed. It remained silent until bought by Ian Macleod Distillers, owners of Glengoyne. Soon it was being bottled as a single malt again. Thus far, the new owners have released 10-year-old and ‘Batch Strength’ expressions.

Tamdhu occasionally appears within the output of independent bottlers and it is one such release that I’ll be reviewing. It is bottled by Wm. Cadenhead, the oldest independent bottler in Scotland. It’s 22-years-old and came from a port cask.

Smell: There’s lots of fruit on the nose… Blueberry and Raspberry with Prune, Raisin and a touch of Apple. There’s also Honey and Toffee and a waft of Furniture Polish of all things.

Taste: Orange and Blackcurrant with Walnut, Silky Caramel, Honeycomb and Oak.

Thoughts: At Cadenhead’s Campbeltown store I paid around £70 for this bottle. That is quite an exceptional price for a malt of 22 years. The port cask has given a lot to the malt but it isn’t a one-trick pony. There’s balance and layers of flavour from both cask and spirit.

It’s recognisable though different from the official core bottlings. At cask strength the flavour is intense and a little spicy but water can turn it into a lovely whisky with loads of stewed fruits. A cracker of a dram at a fantastic price.

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