What was the occasion: I’m able to walk short distances again! Thus I brought my wife out for a steak dinner for Valentine’s day (not on that day, I’m not crazy) at a restaurant known for their steak festival. My wife loves beef, and they happen to have a decent whisky list with a handful of whiskies I haven’t reviewed yet.
For those of you who don’t hunt down my reviews and stalk me while deifying me in that disturbing fucked up way that we treat certain humans, I broke my leg and am healing.
Jump Jack-Flash, I gotta pick a lane: Either I expect you to have read all of these or I hate the idea of celebrity as a human creation because it goes directly against a belief we’re all just humans and fame is a poison that ruins any chance for an egalitarian society.
Maybe I should add a penis joke here to get some of you back into the whisky review. Or not, let’s jump to the whisky.
What whisky did we review? Tamdhu 34 1966 Old Malt Cask Douglas Laing is an older single cask release from Douglas Laing Sr. Yeah, we’re going to dusty town for this one. This was bottled over two decades ago.
For all of you who just wondered if that was the 90s or the 80s, it’s actually the 00s (the aughts, if you will). Now fall over and feel old.
This was aged in a sole sherry cask from the year Reagan entered politics and the beginning of the end for sensible government in the US kicked off.
What’s the distillery? Tamdhu is a Speyside distillery located near Knockando, which doesn’t narrow it down. See any of my earlier rants about how I feel the town should have to change its name because I’m bad with similar sounding names. Also the months of June and July. I hope whoever was behind that got stabbed.
The Tamdhu distillery mostly stayed with Highland Distillers through most of its existence. The company had lengthy periods of closing it down and then bringing it back, as well as using it as a blending whisky as well as releasing original bottlings.
It was sold to Ian MacLeod in 2011 and came back in 2013, and hasn’t been closed down since… should I knock wood there?
Suffice to say, this particular offering was made during the Edrington Group ownership, but when that group was a subsidiary of Highland Distilleries, before 1999 when that group acquired Highland Distilleries.
I’m just happy I didn’t have to do the accounting for a subsidiary acquiring their parent in a partnership with Willy Grant & Kiddos.
What’s my bias? On Tamdhu? Kinda non-existent, if I’m being honest. I had this conversation with someone the other day; there are distilleries that either don’t share releases with my country (The Proud People’s Republic of Canuckistan) or don’t release a lot of things. So my bias on the distillery is informed on very few releases that are typically not cask strength, and I am willing to drink more but don’t have the chances to do so.
I did have a chance to buy a legendary Tamdhu years ago though, so there’s some glimmer of hope. Or rather “bias” instead of hope, as I’m now comparing it to all other Tamdhu whiskies (see also: Macallan and Macallan Cask Strength).
As for Old Malt Cask, that really depends on which person is in charge of it. Hunter? I’m sceptical. No offence Hunter, but your releases aren’t as nice as your father’s. Also your name sounds like the type of kid I assume had his mom fight all of his battles and was a brat (that’s all a joke, I don’t judge you on your name, just your whisky releases).
But this isn’t Hunter’s release, it’s big daddy Dougie’s. And those? Those were some of my favourite whiskies ever. Literally one of them is my highest whisky ever reviewed (it’s an Ardbeg, feel free to go hunting).
So I’m biassed because it’s the boss hog of whiskies (for me), and a bit tempered by a distillery that wowed me once.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: €399 (I paid $46.00 CAD for 1 oz)
Vintage: October 1966
Bottled: October 2000
Cask type: Sherry Cask
Number of bottles: 198
Colour: 10YR 4/6
Nose: Passion fruit, currant, grapefruit, caramel sauce, English pudding
Holy Fruits Batman! It’s tart, sweet, rich, and a bit funky. Opens into some mix of an English pudding and a caramel sauce, which is close to the bread pudding I had for dessert but that had a cream sauce to take that haters.
At first I’m a bit dubious of it; There’s no leather, it feels heavily sherried but not in the same way some older drams take on better sherry casks. On the other hand, after pondering it for an hour or two, I have to say it’s growing on me, and not just because it includes a type of dessert I love. It reminds me more of big sherry whiskies from 10 years ago, rather than 20 years ago.
Go cry in the corner grampa/ma/person.
Taste: Raisins, brine, spiced plum cake, umami, caramel rum sauce
Again, at first you get a ton of plums and decide “oh, yeah, this is heavily sherried, oh well”. Then you realise a few things:
Normally when I review whisky, I do so without having anything to eat. This time, though, I reviewed a whisky prior to the food arriving and then had some whisky leftover after I was done eating.
Suffice to say, the flavour is so intense that it wipes any trace of the amazing steak I ate. The only thing that came close to the strength of this was when I (after reviewing) accidentally ate a raw anchovy by itself. And even that poor tiny fishie couldn’t compete after two sips.
It keeps growing, which you don’t require food or a tiny fish to find out. Yes, at first it’s all plums, raisin and brine, and then that evolves out into that odd mix of umami and sweets. This works for you to love it like a male protagonist in a romance movie. Creepy and unyielding.
Finish: Plum, ginger, dry pear, apricot, tannins, heather
Had enough plums yet? No? Well I got good news for you! The third truck of plums just showed up in the form of this old whisky.
Tannic and dry as a right wing pundit’s partner on Valentines (that means very dry). Tart, acidic, floral, and fruity, with enough spice to give someone colour in Pleasantville (depending on their character arc).
Conclusion: Do you like plums? Because we got plums for days. However I think to just sum this up as a plum heavy, overly sherried whisky is to not give it the respect it deserves.
No, it grows with spice, tannins, acidity, and a general unique flavour combinations going on. There’s umami and sweets going on here, rich salt and you want more. Also I dare you to find a food to wipe this out. Wait, no, I take that back, I remember the time I brought a spicy vindaloo to a tasting and wiped out the room just by taking it out. I’m dumb, let’s move on.
It’s strong, it’s interesting, and I’ll be surprised if I ever have a Tamdhu that’s better. I’ll try, sure, but I’ll be surprised if something like this ever comes along again. Try this if you can.
Scotch review #1623, Speyside review #466, Whisky Network review #2351