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I can't profess to be the biggest fan of sherried whiskies, but I have to acknowledge that, when they work, they can be exquisite. So, with that in mind, I always approach buying such whiskies with hesitation and a sense of scepticism.
It seems that, currently, Tamdhu has developed somewhat of a positive reputation and, along with Glendronach (current #chillfiltergate notwithstanding) and perhaps Glengoyne, are the distilleries that might well be giving THE Macallan some sleepless nights. Do soulless, ghouls sleep? Hmm ...
So after lots of positive feedback, I decided to take the plunge and acquire a bottle of the 15. I have also been sipping this alongside the Glendronach 15 in an attempt to decide which of the current sherry market I should be stocking up on (although that plan is now having to be reassessed thanks to the marketing department at GD). More on that below.
Review is with a tiny splash of water and sat for 15 mins. Bottle about three quarters full and opened about two months.
Nose - spicy and sweet. Dark chocolate, oranges, a little heat, creamy sherry and creamy, charred vanilla, and some fresh red fruits. A sense of musty, damp earth sits under it. A tiny hint of menthol. It's a gentle yet spicy nose with quite some complexity and a nice balance between the sweet and spice. Nothing dominates.
I have to point out the gorgeous colour of this whisky - a luscious golden, amber with hints of pinky, red tones. Very appealing.
Taste - Very spicy on the tongue and you get the sense that there was a lot of European oak at play here. So quite bitter tannins with mixed peppercorns and some fresh ginger. The sweetness comes more as it develops, with some strawberries, cherries, orange peel and dark, tawny marmalade. A little more of the creaminess and vanilla. Elegant and silky mouth-feel.
Finish - med. Again, lots of bitterness from the oak, to the point where I would say it begins to dominate proceedings. Some residual sweetness remains.
There is a lot to like about this whisky, really. It has a lovely mouth-feel, I like the gently sherried nature of this - it tastes well-matured and not 'finished'. In other words, I don't feel like I am drinking sherry syrup. And I really like the subtleties and quiet complexity it offers. The 'but' here is the way that the spices begin to take hold of the experience and knock it a bit off-balance for my tastes. It's a shame as I get the impression that the base spirit is very, very good (and perhaps this is a batch issue) but it is suppressed in the late development and finish by the heavy tannins. Some may like this, but it's a bit too much for me.
I have to say, head to head, the Glendronach 15 slightly edges it. Yes, it has more spice, and is what one might call a 'rougher' whisky, but it works for me. If the balance between cask and spirit were better here, I may well have formed a different opinion. I'm curious to try the 12 now to see if that is any better.