Getting started – Royal Brackla vs Tamdhu

It felt a bit like putting on ‘training wheels’… getting back into the spirit of tasting spirits with a small selection from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar.

We chose our first ‘double header’ with two single casks from independent bottlers:

  • Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask)
  • Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants)

Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask) 285 bottles

  • Nose – Apple core, pear, loads of orchard fruits, Johannisbeer (red currents) or sour cherries… then it started to evolve from fresh fruits to dry fruits with raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite a shock to the system – hot and quite a punch of alcohol! Then we started to adjust… with the spice comes some of the fruit promises on the nose, however still masked by the cask strength
  • Finish – Nice! A bit bitter, some tobacco leaf with a lovely teasing spice

This was my 1st pick of the evening. In retrospect, we perhaps should have ‘eased’ into tasting with a ‘palate calibrating’ lighter 43 – 46% whisky. However, instead, we plunged into the ‘deep end’ going straight to full cask strength at 60.9%!

This is why we quickly switched to adding a few drops of water – transformative!

  • Nose – So delightfully aromatic! From fruits to toffee, a hint of wood then a green leaf, fresh and fabulous! Then back to fruity desserts with a generous dollop of rich cream
  • Palate – Delicious! So much fuller, bursting with fruits and cream, indulgent and just a wee bit voluptuous, sweeter, brighter

Definitely have this one with water – it opens it up beautifully! With a splash, the whisky revealed its classic character, well constructed with all elements in harmony. We concluded this is a lovely summer dram

What more do we know? It is an ex-bourbon American oak single cask bottle by The Single Cask. I’m not sure if you can still snag a bottle however once upon a time, it was available for  GBP 85 and here is what they have to say:

  • Nose: Fruit and barley springs from your glass, followed by musty oak green ferns dusted with white pepper.
  • Palate: A soothing balm of oak and spice that’s both rich and sweet with rock sugar, green tea and white wine.
  • Finish: A mellow and long finish where that rock sugar and white wine lingers alongside some dusky oak. 

We then shifted gears to something completely different with the Tamdhu.

Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants) 60 bottles

  • Nose – Oh my! Very metallic, stainless steel, wet granite, then quite vegetal, cabbage, then began to open up more – with some sweetness seeming into the mix. Primary notes remained metallic and mineral joined also by light saline… as it continued to air, became chocolaty with salted pralines, some nuts
  • Palate– Quite thick, wood and leather, tobacco leaf, mild sweetness, solid character of chocolaty toffee
  • Finish – Very mild, a hint of bitter
  • Water – DON’T! We found it needs the full cask strength to better show off its character, particularly loses out on the palate with water – just became harsh with spice and little else

What a contrast to the Royal Brackla! While our first was a summer dram, the Tamdhu was pure autumn. We found it very smooth and not at all sharp – deceptive at such a high cask strength. There is also an almost marine quality –  unexpected for a landlocked distillery like Knockando.

Along with it being more of a fall dram, we also thought it better suited to ‘bad weather’ dram – something to enjoy coming in from miserable wet, cool conditions. While not something exceptional, it was a whisky we put in the category of: ‘interesting to try once, not one to run out and buy’.

What more do we know? The folks at Lady of the Glen kindly keep an archive of older bottles here and have this to say:

This single malt whisky was distilled on the 24th of September 2007 and bottled on the 10th of April 2019. 50 litres were taken from Bourbon Hogshead cask #6833 to be finished in an intense Pedro Ximenez sherry octave #6833A for 3 months. This is the second and final batch of this particular release. A unique whisky, as only 60 bottles were yielded from this octave.

Our Pedro Ximenez octaves are sourced from a family-owned bodgega near Porto in Portugal. Pedro Ximenez is a very intense sweet, dark sherry. Octaves are small 50 litre oak casks that provide great levels of oak to spirit contact.

On the palate, expect flavours of hazelnut, dark toffee and butterscotch.

What an interesting start to our tasting evening. We took a break for a terrific dinner at Estragon… and returned to check out two pairs of grains and Islay drams.

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