Tamdhu distillery was founded in 1897 by a consortium of local merchants and whisky blenders. They sought out the services of local architect, Charles Doig, in order to design the distillery for them. Doig’s name has since become forever linked with scotch whisky and the distilleries that make it.
Charles Doig was born on a farm in Angus in 1855 and learned the trade of an architect at a local firm when he left school aged 15. In 1882 he moved to Elgin to work for a Land Surveyor and this placed him in a prime position 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 what he is remembered for, is his ventilator system – recognisable as the Pagoda roof on distilleries. The design allowed for much better smoke extraction from the in-house kiln and has become utterly synonymous with the look of scotch whisky distilleries, to the point that some newer distilleries like Arran have Pagoda’s on the roof despite never having had a kiln. In total, Charles Doig was involved with the development of some 56 distilleries. Amongst them Dailuaine, where he pioneered his ventilator, Tamdhu, Speyburn, Aberlour, and Dufftown and up to Pulteney in Wick and to 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 it’s 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 exclusively for blending purposes and the distillery was eventually mothballed in 2010. Thus it remained until Ian Macleod of Glengoyne bought it in 2013 and began releasing a single malt. So far, 10 year old and ‘Batch Strength’ expressions have made it to market.
Tamdhu has also appeared as a single cask release amongst the ranges of independent bottlers and the expression I’m going to review is one such release. Bottled by Wm. Cadenhead, the oldest independent bottler in Scotland, it is 22 years old and has spent some of that time slumbering in a Port Cask.
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. On the palate meanwhile there’s Orange and Blackcurrant with Walnut, Silky Caramel, Honeycomb and Oak.
The Scores: About the Scores…
Smell: 19 / 20. Wow, there’s a lot going on here, bags of complexity as you’d expect from a well aged single cask and the Port wood adds an extra dimension.
Taste: 18.5 / 20. Unusual, distinctive and rewards each visit with something new.
Value for Money: 8.5 / 10. I paid around £70 for this Tamdhu and although that can hardly be described as cheap, this is a whisky that was 22 years in the making and packed full of character and flavour. On top of that it’s been bottled at cask strength and natural colour without chill filtration. All things considered £70 is reasonable.
Overall: 46 / 50. Perhaps not a whisky for beginners but offers something a little different for the more experienced sipper.