A Tale of Two Distilleries

Ian Macleod Tasting – Friday 19th May 2017

Ian MacLeod Distillers are an independent family company, which owns Glengoyne and Tamdhu Distilleries. The Managing Director, Leonard Russell, is the third generation in the whisky industry, his father Peter Russell is Chairman.  As well as the distilleries, they do some independent bottlings and supply own brand whiskies all over the world making Macleod’s the 10th largest distilling company in the world. At The Wee Dram we have a soft spot for Independent and family businesses, so we were very happy to welcome Alec Morgan, to take us thorough some of their expressions.


Tamdhu Distillery     

Tamdhu distillery overlooks the Spey, it was founded in 1897, by a consortium of business men. The distillery was very modern for that time, costing the equivalent of £20 million in today’s money. It was closed by its then owners, Edrington Group in 2009, and was brought by Ian MacLeod in 2011. They have 3 pairs of stills, producing 4.5 million litres of spirit a year, half of which goes for single malt bottlings. Their malt is peated to 5 parts per million, which gives a hardly noticeable hint of smoke.

Tamdhu 10 y/o – 40% abv– for this expression they only use ex Oloroso sherry cask matured whisky, 50% first fill, 50% re-fill casks. It is a really good quality sherry cask matured whisky, fruit cakey flavours, dried fruits.

Tamdhu Batch Strenth – 58.5% abv – we had the batch 2, which uses 10 – 12 years old whisky, again half 1st fill, half refill Oloroso sherry casks, bottled at Cask Strength. This is dark rich fruits and Creme Brulee. Very dangerous, the cask influence is big so a dram slides down very nicely, which means despite its high strength, it can be drunk without water, perilous.

 Glengoyne Distillery

Glengoyne Distillery

Situated on the edge of the Campsie Fells, in the southern highlands. Actually it sits right on the Highland line, the distillery is in the Highlands, but the warehouses, the opposite side of the road, are in the lowlands. It was founded in 1833, and is fairly close to  Glasgow. The style of the whisky is delicate and soft, the malt is air dried, no peat being used. It was once described to me as being “a soft, delicate, sophisticated whisky, for the soft, delicate, sophisticated palates of nearby Glasgow.”

Glengoyne 10 y/o – 40% – As well as not being peated the whisky has a long fermentation period and is distilled slowly, thus getting more copper contact (reflux) which results in soft delicate flavours. The fermentation also gives more fruity flavours, and the use of all sherry casks gives heavy rich flavour. I’m always struck by how weighty the body of this whisky is considering the delicate flavours.

Glengoyne 15 y/o – 43% – This is Alec’s favourite, as well as mine and Alec’s boss Alan’s. I’ve often said that 15 is the best age for whisky, it has lost all the sharp youthful flavours, but still has plenty of bite. This expression is 30% matured in 1st Fill ex-bourbon, American Oak casks, 20% 1st Fill sherry, 50% re-fill sherry casks. Has more vanilla notes, as well as leather and more wood. Well balanced.

 Glengoyne 18 y/o – 43% – 50% 1st fill sherry, 50% re-fill sherry casks. Rich fruits, apple, marmalade and brown sugar.

Glengoyne 21 y/o – 43% – This is getting some serious age. Christmas Cake, with honey, butterscotch and almonds.

Glengoyne Cask Strength – 58.8%  – No age statement on this, 30% 1stfill Sherry, 70% re-fill sherry casks, and left at it’s natural cask strength. Again fruit cake springs to mind, with raisins, dark chocolate packs a punch.