Whisky Review: Tamdhu 12 Year

, | May 10, 2023

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Nestled about 160 miles north of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the banks of the river Spey lies Tamdhu distillery. Its name means “little dark hill” in Gaelic and it has been producing Scotch whisky on and off 1897. Tamdhu has experienced a unique history of being mothballed and resurrected over its nearly 130 year history, with the longest stretch of dormancy being between 1927-1947.

The distillery as it is presently known was resurrected in 2013. Ian MacLeod Distillers currently owns the facility and it is a primary supplier of Scotch to The Famous Grouse, J&B and Cutty Sark blended Scotch brands.

Tamdhu matures their whisky in Oloroso sherry cask from Spain, either as first-fill or refill. The whisky ages anywhere from their youngest aged expression, their former flagship 10-year, through to the newer 18-year release. This 12-year old is replacing the 10-year.

Tamdhu 12 Year been matured in refill American and European Oloroso sherry casks from the cooperages of Jerez in Spain. The sherry cask is designed to provide hints of fruit, while preserving a bouquet of peat and grain flavors iconic to its style.

Tamdhu Distillery manager, Sandy McIntyre, noted of this release when it came out that “all our whisky at Tamdhu is exclusively matured in the finest Oloroso sherry oak casks. The American and European oak soaks up nearly 35 litres of Oloroso sherry during the seasoning process in Jerez, which gives our new Tamdhu 12-year-old its distinctive flavour and striking natural color.

“When you taste a dram of Tamdhu 12 year old, you can really taste the time, care and expert craftsmanship which has gone in to creating this incredible whisky. We hope Tamdhu drinkers around the world will savour it as much as we do.”

Something I discovered while researching this bottle, which I found worth sharing, is their barley malting process. Tamdhu uses a mechanical Saladin box to malt their grain. Essentially, instead of having a large open room for malting their grain, Tamdhu uses a large rectangular container with screws to rotate the grain. The Saladin process is designed to solve a problem in which the malting of barley would become entangled if it wasn’t regularly turned over by hand.

Most distilleries still use the Saladin mechanical proces – many use ribbon screws rather than closed screws, perforated floors for aeration and cooling, and circular vessels instead of rectangular box. It’s not necessarily something which makes or breaks a whisky, but I think knowing more about a distillery is interesting.

Ultimately one of the first things you learn about Tamdhu is how many times the distillery has had to close its doors. Making whisky, especially Scotch whisky, is hard business. Hopefully Tamdhu has found some staying power with the new line-up. However, only time will tell if Tamdhu can stand on its own two feet, or if it is better as part of a blend for other labels.

With that, we turn to the glass.

Tamdhu 12 Year Old review

We review Tamdhu 12 Year Old, a Speyside style Scotch single malt matured in refill American and European Oloroso sherry casks. (image via Tamdhu)

Tasting Notes: Tamdhu 12 Year

Vital Stats: Tamdhu Speyside Scotch Whisky aged in sherry casks; 43% abv; $74.99 SRP.

Appearance: Straw, with the slightest hint of copper.

Nose: Figs and fresh fruit – it is a little intoxicating. Diving a little deeper there are sweet, bread type desserts like yellow cake. There is some evident sherry influence on the back end ,with touches of red wine.

Taste: A tart puckering start with charcoal and peat smoke. It evolves into red fruit over the palate, with some residual sugar sweetness across the tongue. The body has a medium oily quality to it, almost syrupy in the mouth. As we encroach on the finish we are greeted with a nice dry oak and red wine finish. The sherry comes shining through. The whole profile is delicate, while maintaining enough structure to be complex.

Whisky Review: Tamdhu 12 Year


This is delightful and exactly where you want a 12-year expression. The flavors are easy to identify, there are plenty of them to find, and the profile evolves across each sip appropriately. I found this to be nicely balanced with each flavor while maintaining approachability.

Sometimes a young Scotch wants to be too mellow or hits with too many flavors that are softened with age. This hits a wonderful sweet spot, and there is plenty to enjoy for every level of Scotch drinker. As far as starting expressions go, this is very good.

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Charles Steele

Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...