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A late 19th century extension to the Strathspey Railway which connected Dufftown to Nethybridge sparked something of a whisky boom in the village of Knockando. In a short space of time, three new distilleries had sprung up around what was little more than a small farming community; they were Knockando, Imperial and Tamdhu.
Tamdhu was a joint venture between some of the biggest names in the blending industry with Robertson & Baxter, John Walker & Sons, William Sanderson & Co, John Dewar & Sons and Bulloch Lade & Co all involved in its creation. Under the leadership of one William Grant, building work began in 1896 and the spirit ran for the first time the following year.
Within months however, Grant had taken sole ownership of the site, relying heavily on his position on the board at the Elgin bank for funding. By 1899 though, he had used up all of his resources (and then some) and was forced to sell to Highland Distillers.
Like many businesses, Tamdhu encountered several difficulties in the early part of the 20th century. The infamous ‘Pattison Crash’ brought a loss of confidence in the industry whilst the Great Depression and Prohibition in the US destroyed significant portions of the export market. Tamdhu was forced to close in 1927 and remained silent for two decades.
When the distillery reopened in 1947, the traditional floor maltings had been replaced by 10 Saladin boxes, each capable of holding 22 tons of malt. These rectangular containers were invented by Frenchman Charles Saladin in the late 1800s and allowed for a dramatic increase in the amount of barley that could be malted in one location. As a result of the upgrade, Tamdhu was able to malt not only its own requirement, but that of Highland Park and Glenrothes too.
Alas, by the turn of the next century, demand for the Tamdhu spirit had waned once more and owner Edrington ceased operations in 2010. Within the year however, Ian MacLeod Distillers, owner of Glengoyne and the Isle of Skye blend, purchased the business and fired up the stills once more. Placing new emphasis on Tamdhu as a single malt brand, a Ten year old expression was launched in an ornate glass bottle. This was later followed by an annually released ‘Batch Strength’ version and even more recently with a 15 year old, bottled at the reassuring strength of 46% abv.
*My thanks to Jonny Allan of the Tamdhu Appreciation Society on Facebook for the sample.
Smell: lots of Sherry with Raisins and Sultanas, Prunes, Figs, Dates, Maple Syrup, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Honeycomb and Chocolate.
Taste: Good weight on the palate, attack of Sherry to begin with… Maple Syrup and Prune Juice, Raisins, Chocolate Orange, Cinnamon Spice, Dry Oak, Coffee and a little touch of Malt right at the finish.
Value for Money: A bit of a sticking point unfortunately. Beyond any doubt it is a delicious malt but a price of £80 – £85 seems a little excessive.
On taste alone I would be scoring this dram 89 or maybe even 90. As value for money has always been central to my reviews however, I’ve had to knock a couple of points off for the price. Fans of Tamdhu, or indeed any sherry-forward single malt will not be disappointed but I struggle to justify the high price. A bit of a shame, as there is a dram of undoubted quality on offer.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.
Click here for more about Tamdhu.