When I was a kid and watched adults take down shots of vodka, I never really understood what they meant when they said about someone, “he doesn’t know how to drink“. Later, of course, I realised that it’s all about handling one’s alcohol [and behaving properly while intoxicated]. But I think it also can encapsulate the type of alcohol that one consumes, and then, of course, the rate of such consumption, which all contribute to the above. There are, however, times when I take a sip of whisky, and somehow I rush into it, and swallow in a hurried way, and then it burns my throat and stifles my breath, instead of slowly being welcomed by my being. I’m not sure if there is a proper way to sip a whisky, but when I manage to really screw it up [and if you do it, you will know it right away], I always remember those adults saying, “he doesn’t know how to drink.” In any case, let’s move on to this tasting. But first, we need music! Now playing: For Ukraine (Volume 2).
I start off with a [leftover] sample dram from my Octave tasting from Duncan Taylor (DT), where I have tried Benrinnes and Glen Moray. I didn’t get to finish the entire offering and had this little bottle left which I was saving for [this] right moment. It is a cask-strength, non-chill filtered and uncoloured pour of Tormore, distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2019 at 51.4% ABV (from cask #8221049), which makes this a 24-year-old whisky, and one of the first releases in the Premium Octave range from this independent bottler. I think the difference here is whether or not the single malt was finished in the octave casks [as with the Benrinnes and Glen Moray] or if it spent its entire life maturing in the smaller ex-sherry cask, as is the case with Tormore, to intensify the flavour profile. As a reminder, the octave casks are about 1/8th the size of a butt, and each one yields only around 80 to 100 bottles [this one had 87]. I take a first sip neat [this is where I think I swallowed too fast], then add some water to the dram to have it open up. The Tormore is distinctively sherried and is much better with the water. It’s less overpowering in its sweetness which I have inhaled at first, and now that the alcohol is weakened, I taste dried fruit, raisins, and boiled apples with some spice. The Tormore Distillery is from Speyside, and it is relatively new to the business, completing its construction in the 60s. It’s owned by Pernod Ricard (Chivas Brothers) and is a workhorse for their blends. However, it also releases two distillery bottlings of their 14 and 16-year-old single malts. It’s an absolutely fantastic dram, albeit just a little sweeter [due to the octave].
I move on to the Tamdhu bottling from Càrn Mòr by Morrison and MacKay (MMcK), which I have previously put up against the 12-year-old distillery’s expression. I choose to pair it with Tormore because it’s also a Speyside single malt, [mostly] following the same process, non-chill filtered and uncoloured, and bottled at an identical cask strength of 51.4% ABV. It was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2019, making it a 22-year-old whisky, only a few years younger than the Tormore. The most significant difference here is that it spent its life in an ex-sherry hogshead, not the octave. Once again, I taste it neat, then add the same amount of water to the dram. These two malts are nearly identical on the nose and colour, albeit the Tamdhu has some candied bananas and boiled sweets. It’s almost minty near the end, and the finish is less peppery. There’s honey and vanilla now with just a bit of caramel on edge, where dry sherried flavour kept its presence on the Tormore. I almost can’t decide which I like better. At first, I thought it would be an easy choice to make. I don’t even know why I was predisposed that way. One was in an octave for 24 years, while the other was in a hogshead for 22 – surely the difference would be absolutely huge, and I’d like one more than the other. I switch up the order and take one last sip of Tamdhu and one last sip of Tormore. The latter’s clearly sweeter now, but I do like it just the same.
Unfortunately, I only had a 30ml dram of the Tormore, so I will have to stop there with this taste. The Tamdhu, though, I have an entire bottle, so let’s continue tasting it some more! With only 187 bottles of the Tamdhu, which I found to be bottled exclusively for The Whisky Trail in Edinburgh, I’m not sure I’ll experience it again. One final pricing note: the Tamdhu’s at about £150, while Benrinnes goes for nearly £285. And here’s where the price begins to matter. Do I believe I’ve got about £100 “more” whisky from the octave? It’s very subjective, but so is this trip. With that, I’ll conclude and proclaim the Tamdhu to be the winner of this round, and see you next time!