Tamdhu Dalbeallie Dram

Last week I was very fortunate to be part of another Tweet Tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire, featuring Tamdhu. We were treated to the classic Tamdhu 10 year old, as well as 3 new releases. The Batch Strength 003 (you can see my thoughts on the Batch Strength 002 here), the new Distillery Team Single Cask, and the special release for this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, the Dalbeallie Dram. It was an amazing tasting with some of the best drams I have tried this year! But my close favourite of the four was the Dalbeallie Dram.

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The Dalbeallie Dram (pronounced Dal-bee-alley) is a limited release by Tamdhu for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2018. Limited to only 1,000 bottles, this comes in at £90, which, for me, is very reasonable considering how few of them there are. It has been created to pay homage to the nearby Dalbeallie train station. The Victorian railway lines throughout the area were once vital to the distilleries of Speyside for access and transportation, and this was the same for Tamdhu. Their Oloroso sherry casks, imported from Spain, would be taken by rail to this station before being filled with the new make spirit and left to rest in their warehouses.

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The Dalbeallie dram, like all of Tamdhu’s whiskies, has been matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks and is presented at a whopping 62.1%ABV! If you like the Batch Strength editions then you are sure to like this; it’s like the Batch Strength on steroids!!

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Nose

Upfront on the nose it is surprisingly meaty, though this fades quickly as aromas of old leather, tobacco leaf and pencil shavings come to the fore, there isn’t an official age related to this dram but it does feel quite old initially. Rich toasted malt and an array of sweet and savoury spice take over as does a lovely toffee/fudge sweetness. It gets increasingly rich as this sits in the glass opening up with baked figs, treacle pudding and fruity dark chocolate. Being presented at 62.1%ABV a dash of water does release more of the subtler flavours, and brings out more of the classic red apple notes you get with Tamdhu, as well as some orange peel. This dram just keeps on giving, you could sit with this all day and just keep reeling off tasting notes.

Palate

This has a very dry and fairly bitter arrival, perhaps due to the strength of it, though there isn’t much alcohol prickle considering. There is a lot going on here, the first thing for me was sticky and sweet maraschino cherries, joined by baked apples and sherry soaked raisins. It is just an assault of fruity richness! Like with the nose, a few drops of water really change this whisky, and for the better, it explodes out of the glass. Notes of muscavado sugar, cinnamon stewed apples and fresh espresso coffee. The toasted malt from the nose returns and is joined by some intense wood tannins. As sherried as this is, there is still a nice showing of distillery character here, it’s a great balance.

Finish

The finish is sweet and sherried with tannic wood spice, it is super chocolatey too. There is a slight metallic note, though this disappears with a drop of water. It’s lovely and warming with a good heat of spice. Fairly long in length and a nice ending to a great dram.

Well, there we have it, the Dalbeallie Dram. This is a really great whisky. Out of the four that we tried on the night I think this was my favourite as, although it is a sherry monster, there is still that beautiful character of Tamdhu’s make coming through. If you are a fan of the Batch Strength releases, or similar products like Aberlour A’bunadh or Glenfarclas 105, then this will be right up your street. For £90 it might be a little bit more expensive than them, but this is a very unique and interesting dram, and I’d say worth paying that bit more.

Sláinte

Gary

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SMWS 4.228 – 15yo Highland Park

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the fourth and final of those delightful drops. Click here to find out what the first, second and third whiskies were.

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The last dram was a bit different to the others, it was exclusive to the SMWS’s Queen Street venue, it was cask 4.228, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Highland Park distillery, on Orkney. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 4.228 – Highland Park
Bottle Name Catch of the day
Age 15yo
Cask Type Refill Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 58.1% ABV.
Number of Bottles 300
Tasting Notes N/A

Exclusive to the SMWS, 28 Queen Street.

The final dram of the day, unfortunately we had a train to catch, came from the Highland Park distillery, the 12 year old of which was the first dram I ever reviewed on the blog so long ago! I wasn’t too sure what to expect of this, generally I love my Highland Parks, though I’ve had a few from the society that I haven’t been hugely impressed by. Aged 15 years in a refill barrel, with that touch of smoke, I was expecting a lot of similarities to the third dram, a 9yo Bunnahabhain.

Nose

Lots of toffee jumps out of the glass before you even get your nose close to it, which is joined by a slight briny, coastal note – salted caramel? – As well as a light wisp of smoke. It’s more coastal than most Highland Parks that I’ve had before but in a really good way. The smoke aroma is also slightly different from what you might expect from this distillery, it is more like smoked meats or fish. Toasted almonds and creamy vanilla custard push through, carrying a slight black pepper spice. Before sweet fruits begin to appear in the form of gooseberries and perfumed orange peel. At the last we are left with strong black tea and fresh coffee beans.

Palate

Really sweet butterscotch on arrival which dominates completely. The smoke starts to gradually build as the sweetness starts to move towards flavours of white chocolate and golden syrup. Burning heather and wood smoke drifts in in waves but this is almost too sweet to pick anything else up from. With a drop of water the sweetness does die down a bit, allowing more tropical flavours to come through, with pineapple and papaya, as well as a chilli heat. I think this one is just a touch on the sweet side for me.

Finish

The finish leads on from the palate; it is intensely sweet and packed with honey. It’s quite a cloying dram, though the addition of water doesn’t lighten the honey assault. The finish is long but fairly one dimensional.

Well, the last of four tasty single cask drams. I enjoyed this Highland Park, especially on the nose, though it was just slightly too sweet for me on the palate and finish. Drams like this, and the Third we tried, are the reason I love the societies bottlings so much. It is great to try these casks that are so different to what you can usually try and offer a truly unique experience. I will have to make sure that I don’t wait as long before I spend an afternoon in their again, it’s a great way to sample a wide range of what casks and distilleries can offer.

Sláinte

Gary

SMWS 10.134 – 9yo Bunnahabhain

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the third of those delightful drops (the first and second dram).

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Dram number three of the day, was 10.134, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Bunnahabhain distillery, on Islay. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 10.134 – Bunnahabhain
Bottle Name Cleaner than a ship’s whistle
Age 9yo
Cask Type Refill Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60% ABV.
Number of Bottles 240
Tasting Notes The mineralic and salty sparkle of sea breeze through an apple orchard joins a creamy palate of smoked peaches and herbal overtones.

For the third dram of the afternoon – still going strong – we had a peated expression from one of my favourite distilleries, Bunnahabhain. Distilled on the 7th of February in 2008 this dram was part of the societies November outrun in 2017, making this a 9 year old. Unlike the first two drams, which both had finishes done to them, this was a straight up, refill barrel matured whisky. After the confusion of dram number two I was looking forward to something a bit more relaxing with a nice smoky backbone so I was excited to try this one.

Nose

Well, this is a very medicinal Bunnahabhain indeed! Upfront on the nose we are met by a slight antiseptic-like aroma, as well as iodine and Elastoplast. There is smokyness; it comes through as a very dry and earthy smoke, though this comes in second place to the medicinal notes which dominate. Lots of American oak influence also with the classic vanilla sweetness, citrus fruits and coconut. Fresh fruits come through in the development of the nose, with time in the glass, with green apples and a massive amount of pear drops. Gentle maritime spice wraps up what seems to be a fairly subdued nose, though water does open it up slightly.

Palate

A lovely rich and very sweet arrival with golden syrup and lashings of honey and then whack! There is the peat smoke that was almost missing from the nose, like a massive punch to the face. Big, earthy hits of coastal peat with an intense spice heat coming with it. The palate drys out significantly through the development and get increasingly savoury. BBQ meats, with ash and cooking spices, it’s like having a BBQ on the beach. Then finally, green bananas as it heads towards the finish.

Finish

Long lasting smoke, with baked orange – if that’s a thing! – and savoury spice. A nice honeyed sweetness carries over vanilla and a slightly green grassy note.

Of the three we had tried so far this was definitely my favourite. The nose is a bit subdued but does open up with some water, its brings burnt popcorn and more cured meats, though, water completely destroys the palate for me. I could sit with a glass of this all day, very enjoyable and a very different side to any peated ‘Bunna’s’ I’ve had in the past.

Sláinte

Gary

SMWS 72.51 – 12yo Miltonduff

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the second of those delightful drops. – the first dram, a 19yo Linkwood, can be found here.

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Dram number two of the afternoon was 72.51, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Miltonduff distillery, in Speyside. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 72.51 – Miltonduff
Bottle Name Pepper-crusted charred roast beef
Age 12yo
Cask Type 1st Fill White Wine/Virgin Oak Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 60% ABV.
Number of Bottles 252
Tasting Notes The whisky, previously in a 1st fill white wine hogshead, reminded us of an ‘unmovable force’ only swaying a little when adding some water.

 

For the second whisky of the day we had another one of the societies resent soirees  into finishing and secondary maturation. This 12 year old Miltonduff was distilled on the 23rd of September in 2004, from here it was filled into a 1st fill white wine hogshead. After an undisclosed amount of time it was then transferred into a virgin oak hogshead where it sat until bottling. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this sort of casking, or the title given to this whisky, but it certainly wasn’t what I got!

Nose

Upfront it was bitter, with a tannic grapeyness, and incredibly earthy. It was quite sour also and sulphury. As you could have expected from the labelling it was going to have savouriness to it, which came through initially as roast meats. Was this even whisky? Sticking with it we got overripe pears, white grapes and smoked cashew nuts, backed up by an array of different spice from vanilla to garam masala to cracked black pepper. Some sweet caramel and brown sugar battle through the bitter, sulphury edge with a dash of water. The water also brought out under ripe conference pears and more wood character. It was an intriguing nose and different to anything I had nosed before so I was looking to see how this came through on the palate.

Palate

Fizzy and strong arrival, the 60% ABV really smacks you in the mouth. It is also hugely sweet and not as winey as the nose, it is immediately clear from tasting that the virgin oak has had quite a strong impact on the flavour profile of this. It’s rich with vanilla, nutmeg and toasted coconut, as well as walnuts. The wineyness comes back through in the development which also brings tannic wood, bitter green cooking apples, milk chocolate and golden syrup. At the last there is a slight wisp of wood smoke. I must say that I hugely preferred the palate to the nose, this is a very odd dram!

Finish

The finish is again all about the virgin oak, with subtle suggestions from the white wine cask. Loads of vanilla and coconut shavings lead the way into the finish, which is joined by soft wine tannins. A nice sweet note of mixed peel comes through, as does dried thyme but the finish is fairly short and very drying.

Well, I still don’t know how I felt about this one, there were parts which I really enjoyed but certain aspects which I really wasn’t sure on. I would highly recommend this dram to anyone who can get the chance, not because it’s amazing and everyone will love it (I think this is the type of whisky you will love or hate), but because this is an experience of a dram. It is so different to anything that I have tried before and found it very interesting. We were both unsure of dram 2, so with over an hour still to go before our train we opted to go for a third.

Sláinte

Gary

SMWS 39.151 – 19yo Linkwood

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the first of those delightful drops.

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Dram number one was 39.151, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Linkwood distillery, in Speyside. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 39.151 – Linkwood
Bottle Name A Blue Lady and a Seraph’s Smile
Age 19yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Butt/ex PX
Alcoholic Strength 58.4% ABV.
Number of Bottles 592
Tasting Notes Blue lady tea and After Eights, plus fruits and flowers. The palate is as sweet as a Seraph’s smile. Previously in an ex-Oloroso butt.

Firstly, let’s discuss the cask maturation of this one. It’s not 100% clear from the cask information provided on the label. This Linkwood was distilled on the 27th of October 1997. It was then matured in a refill Oloroso sherry butt for a number of years, before being finished in a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry butt. The finishing period isn’t stated and the bartender at Queen Street wasn’t sure but as it is a fairly recent practice for the society I can’t imagine it would be hugely long. Either way, I think we are in for a sherry monster here so let’s get started!

Nose

Very earthy to start with but packed with dried fruits, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel. It’s incredibly rich and almost like a ruby port on the nose, with a slight soapyness to it. The soapy note is very odd but at the same time really nice, it’s floral and grassy with lots of ‘green’ aromas and lemon rind. As the soapiness subsides a punch of dark and sweet flavours come through, with sticky toffee pudding (baked dates, brown sugar, caramel sauce, rich spiced sponge etc.) melted dark chocolate and freshly roast coffee beans. This is followed by a big whack of spice at the back of the nose with cloves, cardamom and bay leaf.

Palate

Soft and gentle arrival with a wave of stewed dried fruits, sticky dates and figs. There is warming spice with cloves and again cardamom and again there is a lot of sweetness with this dram. Its thick and rich with flavours of black treacle and muscovado sugar. The alcohol brings a fizzy feel to the palate through the development as the spice powers through once more with hot pepper and anise. Despite the fizzy alcohol prickle and high ABV it does feel fairly subdued, compared to the nose, but water opens it up hugely. It takes away some of the sharper spice notes and brings blackberry jam, stewed plums and some milk chocolate. The palate is very tasty, though it doesn’t quite live up to the nose.

Finish

The finish is quite intense in flavour with big fat juicy Maryland raisins, mixed peel and stewed fruits. The finish feel a bit generic sherry cask if I’m honest but it is impressively rich, likely the result of the PX finish. The finish is short though, it dies off quite fast but the intensity of it makes up for it to me.

For the first dram of the afternoon we were certainly off to a flyer. A very intense and rich sherry monster, it would be a hard act to follow so possibly not the best dram to start with but when we saw the label of the bottle we just had to get a try of it. If you get the chance I would recommend trying this one, I would definitely have got myself a bottle at the time had the finish been slightly longer – and if I didn’t already have an obscene number of bottles at home, I’m running out of hiding places!

Sláinte

Gary

Benromach Triple Distilled

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be selected for another tweet tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. It was a Benromach new release tasting, which, as soon as I learnt this, I had to apply for. I’ve always had a love of Benromach so being able to try these new releases was a real treat. In the tasting we were given the chance to try two new expressions. One was a triple distilled edition, while the second was the latest in their wood finish series, finished in Chateau Cissac cask (which you can check out here). In this review I will be taking a look at the new triple distilled release.

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I must say that I was really looking forward to this. I love Benromach and have tried many of their variations, mostly based on maturation, so trying a release that has been created using a change to the process will be interesting to see what difference this has made. The new triple distilled edition of Benromach has been matured in first fill bourbon barrels for its whole life. It is a NAS edition, though it does have a vintage marked on it as being distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2017, so around 7/8 years in age. It is a limited release of around 1,300 cases and presented at 50% ABV, all for around the £45 price mark.

Nose

There is a note that I have always associated with Benromach’s on the nose, other than the classic dry peat smoke, I find they always have this acetone/pear drop like character which I couldn’t get with is dram. I found it to be surprisingly heavy feeling on the nose to start with, with a fatty almond butter note, as well as toasted coconut and soft nutmeg. There is also plenty of fruitiness, though it isn’t fresh fruit, more like fruit jams, apricot and cherry. The almonds and the jams mingle together giving an almost Battenburg cake aroma which is just gorgeous! It gets sweeter with time with icing sugar and sweet American oak spice. Poached pear served up with a creamy vanilla custard emerges and then at the last we are left eating after eight mints with strong milky tea.

Palate

The classic dry smoke of Benromach is far more prominent on the palate, likely softened on the nose with the third distillation process, though the pear drop character I usually get still seems to be absent. Hugely sweet on the palate for me which masks the strength of this dram, I cannot believe it is 50% ABV! I think this is a great strength for this dram, the higher ABV carries a lot of the flavour through the glass. Lots of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon coming through to start with as well as dried apple rings and citrus peel. Quite a strong presence of tannins but more delicate notes of lemon grass and milky porridge manage to push through.

Finish

Many of the flavours from the palate continue on here, especially the more fruit lead tastes. The finish is quite short, but is fresh and light, making you want to have another sip.

Another fantastic addition to the Benromach portfolio in my opinion, and I hope this is a style that we will see more of in the future. Generally, I am not a huge fan of triple distilled whisky; I prefer a more robust showing of distillery character which can often be lost with further distillations. This, however, is very enjoyable. It is a more refined and ‘crisp’ presentation of Benromach, and the peat smoke comes across as very fresh and clean. Definitely a dram worth looking out for.

Sláinte

Gary

Tamdhu Batch Strength II

Today I will be reviewing a dram from what has become one of my, and many others, favourite distilleries, Tamdhu. Tamdhu has grown to great fame in the last few years since it came under the control of Ian Macleod Distillers. The distillery was mothballed in 2010 and Ian Macleod Distillers brought it back to life in 2012 by recommencing production, and launching their first bottling, a 10 year old, the following year.

What we are looking at today is their Batch strength version, a non age-stated dram presented at natural cask strength and colour. This batch, batch 2, comes in at an impressive 58.5% and is incredibly drinkable even at that strength. Matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks this is a powerful dram with a huge amount of flavour and character, and was the winner of the 2017 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festivals NAS category. If you like your cask strength sherry bombs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh’s, Glendronach CS or Glenfarclas 105 then look no further than this!

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I have enjoyed a few of these over the festive period and thought it was past time that I wrote a review on this one before the bottle is completely empty!

Nose

This is a hugely sweet and fruity dram. You can smell fudge, red apple and pears before your nose even gets near the glass! Once you stick your nose in the high alcohol makes itself known, a whopping 58.5%, though, as strong as it is, the massive sweetness easily counteracts this. Once you get past the intense sweetness and power of this it just screams complexity, it’s very interesting and changeable. There’s floral sweetness with honeysuckle and heather one minute with dried apple rings and citrus peel. Then the next, vanilla ice cream, syrup sponge pudding and cinnamon. Then builders’ tea, coffee and dark chocolate, incredible. With time the apples become more stewed and are joined by raisins and red berries. More savoury notes start to emerge with pecans and toasted soda bread. If I had to sum the nose up with two things, cinnamon and toffee baked apples and pecan pie. What a nose!

Palate

The first thing you will get when you try this dram is how silky it is on the palate. I had to take a second look at the label when I first tried it as I couldn’t believe it was 58.5%! It is nowhere near as sweet and fruity as the nose but it is rich and creamy. The palate begins with an intense wood and spice assault, with nutmeg, garam masala and pepper. The alcohol begins to build through the development, overpowering the spice, and is joined by fizzy wood tannins. Water opens up the palate severely and drives more sweet and fruity notes forward with the stewed apples from the nose and dried currants. As well as a creamy butterscotch and earthy manuka honey-like character.

Finish

Long, warming, and packed with spice. This dram is like central heating, you can just feel the warmth in you from the spice and alcohol. Heavily toasted malt, red apple peel and golden syrup compete against a plethora of savoury and woody spices. Again, garam masala but nutmeg and black pepper also.

This dram is simply a knock out and it has made this a very good festive period indeed. My bottle is now almost done but hopefully I can get a second ordered before the batch is fully sold out. For £55-60 you can’t go wrong with this, and I am really struggling to find any faults. If I get a second bottle of this it will be an investment bottle. By that I don’t mean buy it and sell it on later, that’s not what whisky is about. I mean buy it, keep it safe, and invest in a very enjoyable experience with good friends in the years to come when I crack it open – you’ve got to treat your future self. Gorgeous!

Sláinte

Gary