A Dram With :: Sandy McIntyre

October 19, 2018

On The Blog

What is your name and what do you do?

I’m Sandy McIntyre and I’m the Distillery Manager at Tamdhu Distillery in Speyside. I’ve worked in the industry since around 2006 and been at Tamdhu now for 4 years. I stay on site at Tamdhu as do another 5 of our team of 17 staff.

What is a typical day at the distillery for you?

I wish there was a typical day!!! It always starts with a cup of tea with my Assistant Manager, Iain Whitecross where we put the world to rights before discussing any problems on site the day/night before and what the plans are for that day. There is always a walk round the distillery and warehouses to see how the process looks and how the team are getting on with filling. Lately we have been working on a number of projects – expansion of our warehousing capacity, demolition of the old maltings, planning for a new office and brand facility, installation of a fish pass and building a new cooperage as well as new staff and the continued production of Tamdhu!! The team at Tamdhu are exceptional and provide enthusiasm and support and actually we have fun at work. As well as the above I am involved with HR, H&S, HMR&C and compliance with environmental aspects. It’s quite a hands-on job and yesterday (16/10) I was filling and pushing casks to assist the guys in warehousing. Financial control of costs for production are becoming increasingly important too but at Tamdhu quality is still the number one factor.

Has there been a personal favourite dram over the years and why?

Obviously Tamdhu 50 was a stand-out last year. It’s not every day (unless you work at Tamdhu) that you get a chance to have something that special -rich butterscotch like a toffee apple. It was 100 decanters of 50 year old at £16k per decanter. We have two left!!! Tamdhu BS2 is a favourite too. Away from Tamdhu I stick with sherried whisky I’m afraid – Glenfarclas is my fall back. Prior to working in the industry I was a Bowmore fan, primarily when I worked near Oxford away back in the early 90’s. I often took bottles back South with me to share with friends.

What is your opinion on the current topic of terroir in whisky and the impact of barley types on the overall product?

My journey in the industry started in maltings with Diageo at Burghead and Roseisle Maltings. In my opinion barley variety has little to no impact on spirit character. At the time in the maltings Optic a High GN variety was at the forefront of the barley we used. We trialled Appaloosa and a few others during the late 2000’s all of which never really made it to full release but gradually Oxbridge and then Concerto has taken over as Low GN varieties and this year we have been trialling Laureate. Laureate made no difference to our character at all. At Tamdhu we use a very lightly peated malt but if I’m honest I don’t pick it up in the nose or taste of the malt and certainly not in the NMS.

Why are sherry casks so important to Tamdhu? Do you use 100% Oloroso casks and might you use other sherry types in the future?

We only use ex Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez – a mix of American and European oak casks. All of our whisky is natural colour which I think is important to emphasise. The fruity new make spirit from Tamdhu works exceptionally well with the fruit from the sherry casks. Never say never but at the moment we work exclusively with Oloroso and there are no intentions to change that. The relationships we have built with our three suppliers in Jerez is important. Like minded family companies with quality at the forefront of their output. These partnerships work extremely well for all parties. The first casks received at Tamdhu in our records are ex Sherry casks in 1898 so why change what we know works well!!!

My personal opinion of Tamdhu is that it’s a bit of a hidden gem of a whisky but once people have tried it once they tend to be surprised they’ve not tried it before. Why do you think people are so surprised by it?

Two things spring to mind – 1) they generally have not heard of it as we are not on the supermarket shelf so are a bit wary if they see a bottle. 2) in the past they have seen a 10year old and think that is a bit young for a single malt and even look at the price point too and think expensive for a 10 year old they know very little about. When people nose and taste it their perception changes completely – a very smooth whisky that is incredibly easy to drink (too easy sometimes!!). Add to that the use of sherry casks only and natural colour and then people realise they are buying into a high quality product.

If someone was beginning with the range, which expression would you recommend?

Very easy – the 10 year old is such an enjoyable dram. At 40% in the UK I think it needs a wee bit more and the 43% release for Europe is by far my favourite of the range at the moment. This is being replaced out with the UK with a 12 year old we released recently at 43%.

Lastly, can you tell us something exciting we can look forward to from Tamdhu over the next few years.

We are working on other expressions with the range – 15 year old and 18 year old are on the cards. I like working on the Batch Strength releases but more exciting is the new journey series being released under the Dalbeallie name for the Speyside Whisky Festival each year in May. These are limited to 1000 bottles and last year we saw collectors buying bottles for the first time. Locals and those from further afield now see Tamdhu as an emerging brand and are keen to buy in to some of our special bottlings early on – I find that quite satisfying that others are in agreement with our strategy and the quality of our product as it is something truly special. Beyond that at a site level we are building a cooperage at the moment and that is something new tat not many other distilleries are doing these days – something different.