Review: Tamdhu, 1991 Cadenhead’s

Tamdhu, 21yo 1991 Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection

(Distilled 1991, bottled July 2012, bourbon hogshead, 258 bottles, 57.0%)

I have a soft spot for Tamdhu, I must admit. They’re one of those Speyside distilleries that you don’t hear much about, but their standard 10yo is one of the best value for money drams out there (far superior to the budget offerings from the bigger Speyside players), and even their slogan – they’re the “can-dhu spirit” you know – is so wonderfully naff that it’s actually magnificent.

All the official Tamdhu releases are sherried though, so for something different let’s try something bourbon-matured and see if we can get a peek at the unadorned spirit.

Nose: A nose of two halves. One side is all sharp green fruits: unripe greengages and plums, lime cordial, tart cider. The other is earthy and a touch mineral: like an autumnal forest floor with dried leaves and mossy stones. These are things you might expect to find in a musty old sherried whisky, so it’s interesting to find them here in a very clean and crisp context. With time it becomes waxier, and also sweeter with more fruit poking through, but also a bit of a beery grain side. With water it’s fruitier still – oranges! – but also much simpler and less interesting.
Taste: Starts off syrupy and waxy – like tinned mandarin segments. Then – whoosh – a big wave of tart citrus: citrons, candied grapefruit, lime cordial again. Wakes you up! There’s a bit of stem ginger in there too, maybe. Adding water brings out some grassiness – it’s really better neat.
Finish: Clean and pleasantly malty, if not terribly long. The citrus is still the dominant thing now, but a bit sweeter and more caramelly. Pomelo, maybe, and a bit of lemongrass syrup. (Nice on a fruit salad, that.)

I really like this. It’s like the whisky equivalent of a limoncello sorbet or lemon granita – invigorating and refreshing – and would make an excellent palate-cleanser at a tasting. It stays just on the right side of that line between tart and bitter too, although it does fall apart with added water.

I suppose it’s a somewhat one-dimensional whisky, but if you like that dimension it occupies – zesty, crisp, citrussy – then it’s a belter. Probably a very summer-appropriate dram too, although I live in Manchester and don’t really feel qualified to comment on that point…

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