Meet the Maker: Sandy McIntyre, Distillery Manager, Tamdhu Distillery, Knockando, Speyside

Q: Where do you work?

A: Tamdhu Distillery at Knockando near Aberlour, which is a distillery and maturation site with three filling stores and currently 20 warehouses, with another eight to be built this year.

Q: How long have you worked with Tamdhu?

A: I started with Ian Macleod Distillers at Tamdhu in November 2014 after leaving Diageo, where I was also based in Speyside. I have a degree in chemistry, so I’ve not always been in the spirits industry. I started my career in environmental chemistry with SEPA in Dingwall after moving from my home city of Glasgow back in the early 1990s.

Q: Describe the production process.

A: At Tamdhu we use malted barley, water sourced from the spring under the distillery (since 1897) and distiller’s yeast. The malt is mashed in our mash tun and then fermented in one of our nine traditional wooden wash-backs, before being distilled through the wash then spirit stills. The new-make spirit is then filled in one of our filling stores into either American oak sherry casks or European oak sherry casks for maturation in our warehouses at Tamdhu. All of our Tamdhu malt casks have been seasoned with Oloroso sherry before being shipped from Jerez in Spain to Tamdhu prior to filling. Casks are key to our brand and we work extremely hard with our three suppliers in Jerez to maintain high standards and inspect each shipment as they are unloaded at the site.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: There is no such thing as a typical day at Tamdhu as our days range from arranging nosing and tastings for guests, preparing for a new release, or dealing with production issues in the distillery and warehouses. Site development and expansion is important to us, too – we have built 15 warehouses in six years at Tamdhu! Compliance with regulations is very important for HMRC and health and safety. I am lucky to have a fantastic assistant manager, Iain Whitecross, who is invaluable to me.

Q: Please provide brief tasting notes.

A: Tamdhu is a classic, traditional Speyside malt:

Nose – soft vanilla with hints of cinnamon and fruit berries.

Palate – dried fruits going into a light fudge, with citrus background and a wee hit of spiciness.

Finish – exceptionally smooth, with fruitcake and orange peel.

Q: What would you say sets your product apart?

A: Our whisky is all natural in colour and 100% matured in sherry casks that have been seasoned with Oloroso sherry for over two years. We take real pride in those aspects of our product.

Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your product?

A: It is only and 100% exclusively matured in the finest sherry casks. If people take only that one point away and realise the impact of that then I would be delighted.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?

A: Working with my team and having fun whilst at work. We love a laugh and the team at Tamdhu are delighted to celebrate our brand and people’s successes. We all have site nicknames, and no one is immune to site ‘banter’! It is also a great job to meet people from all over the world and create friendships.

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your product?

A: Pour a glass of Tamdhu 10 year old, and then simply enjoy it as it is. To me it’s a session whisky – smooth and very easy to drink!

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: Recently winning Distillery Manager of the Year for 2019 – I was stunned to be awarded the accolade. It is up there with launching Tamdhu 50 year old whisky – something that doesn’t happen often in a manager’s career. Also seeing your own name on a bottle for the first time out on a shelf or gantry in a bar and knowing that it is a part of you that is being shared with others who enjoy whisky. My dad used to have bars in the Gallowgate of Glasgow in the ‘60s – Rob Roys and McIntyres – and I wish he still was around to have been able to stock Tamdhu. Had that been possible, that would have been immense.

Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?

A: Alan Winchester, formerly of The Glenlivet, is a true gent who loves his brand. He is very proud of his local heritage and is an icon from whom there is lots to be learnt about our industry. A true ambassador for whisky globally.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: I spend time enjoying the local area – The Spey itself is gorgeous. I also drive HGV lorries as a way to relax!

Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

A: I would love to sit out early in the morning with David Attenborough down at the Pooches, a local fishing pool and hut near Tamdhu on the banks of the Spey, listening to the wildlife and watching the sunrise. He could tell me what the noises were and where to look for the otters, heron and osprey, while we enjoyed a warming Tamdhu Dalbeallie single malt.