Dallas Dhu 30, 1980 (Van Wees)

Dallas Dhu 30 1980
Dallas Dhu
was a Speyside distillery that closed in 1983 along with other, more fervently mourned distilleries (such as Port Ellen and Brora). I’ve made a few sceptical remarks here and there about the effect that romance/nostalgia may have on the reputations of closed distilleries. But it must be admitted that if romance and nostalgia were a major factor then more people would be trumpeting closed distilleries like Dallas Dhu and North Port/Brechin as well, but no one really is. I wonder if somewhere out there in the world there are lonely collectors of Dallas Dhu, Brechin, Glenesk et al., who are sitting resentfully among their bottles, pondering the recent rise from relative obscurity of such distilleries as Glenlochy and Glen Mhor, or the rehabilitation in process of the reputation of Littlemill, and wondering if their turn will ever come on the stage. If so, I recommend patience: in a world where the Balcones Brimstone can get good reviews anything is possible. 

Dallas Dhu 30, 1980-2011 (46%, Van Wees, Hogshead #2110; from my own bottle)

Dallas Dhu 30 1980Nose: Minerally peat–more soot than smoke; something mildly acidic/astringent as well. Medicinal in the “uncoated tablet on tongue” sense. A resinous sweetness emerges after a minute or two. I don’t know that I would call this nose pleasant but it’s certainly different–and I don’t mean that in the “Minnesota nice” sense (for those not from Minnesota, if a native Minnesotan responds to a suggestion you make with a neutral “that’s sure different” then they have basically suggested that you eat shit and die). With a lot more time, a subtle fruity note develops under the soot and it’s quite pleasant, so screw you, you passive-aggressive Minnesotans! This doesn’t really call out for water but let’s see what a drop or two may do: well, it makes it a tiny bit maltier but it doesn’t do a whole lot more.

Palate: Nice thick mouthfeel. The resinous sweetness from the nose makes the first impression. Sooty, peppery smoke follows. There’s a vague, slightly bitter fruitiness in there too. A fairly narrow profile. Gets more lemony with time, but as on the nose, the fruit is always tempered with smoke/soot. Water doesn’t do anything for the palate but make it watery–in fact, it drives the fruit away. Actually, after a bit the palate gets rather astringent. Yes, I’d stay away from water with this one.

Finish: Long’ish: smoky, peppery, resinous. No fruit here.

Comments: Quite interesting, and probably more interesting than it is pleasurable. It reminds me in some respects of the Cadenhead’s Ardmore 1977 that I reviewed some weeks ago–mostly in the nature of the light oily/minerally smoke/peat that both exhibit. As this is the only Dallas Dhu I’ve had I can’t speak to whether this is typical or atypical. I do find it interesting enough to want to try more though. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of it around in the US these days.

Rating: 86 points (84 points + 2 for its idiosyncratic qualities)

3 thoughts on “Dallas Dhu 30, 1980 (Van Wees)

  1. I find it strange too that some closed distilleries are more popular than others. Perhaps it is inventory availability, perhaps just hype, perhaps legitimate differences. Is it possible there is some Dallas Dhu collector out there sitting on an amazing collection just wondering how he picked the wrong horse? Maybe, funny to think about for sure. I seek these older bottlings because IMHO I think that in general they are superior to modern distillations. I also look for those from closed distilleries mostly because I want to have well rounded collection. I recently picked up a 1979 Dallas Dhu (G&M) I look forward to drinking.


  2. There is a huge amount of nonsense written about whisky in general but nothing like the deluge of dross written about the quality of closed distilleries and most of it is based on the slightest of evidence. An oxidised sample here, an old stale miniature there. Dallas Dhu has suffered more than most. If you look at older commentators who actually knew the distillery, they are usually big fans of the whisky.

    What is the problem with Dallas Dhu? Is it the whisky? No. There have been many cracking bottles from the likes of Duncan Taylor, Cadenhead and other indies. G&M are partly to blame, having issued some decent stuff but a lot of mediocre stuff which has often suffered from being bottled at 40%. Now, at this late stage, bottlers are probably struggling to find any good casks to sell. All the distilleries that closed in the 80s and 90s left behind a legacy of great, good, and frankly crap casks. Dallas Dhu is actually no different.

    The real problem with Dallas Dhu is that the distillery is still in pristine condition and may yet reopen. Glenglassaugh shows you the problem – this was thought to be dead and buried but it is now revived. The prices of old bottlings have fallen back to almost sensible levels. Collectors/investors don’t want to gamble on Dallas Dhu doing the same.

    By the way, there are good bottles of North Port out there, and the Loch Fyne guys are big fans. It’s just funny how a distillery’s reputation can be based on so little experience.

    Littlemill’s revival is interesting. If you get the chance to drink some of the younger bottlings I think you’ll see why it had a lower standing than other Lowlands. Some very hot spirit with odd off notes has been bottled in the past. The recent stuff is markedly better and I wonder if time in the cask is softening the negative characteristics and allowing the more pleasant notes to shine unhindered. Certainly this more mature Littlemill is much more enjoyable and has salvaged a reputation that was quite lost.

    Finally, I’m with you all the way on Balcones Brimstone. To me it tastes like someone has emptied a bucket of chemical smoke flavouring into a vat of decent but very young spirit. There are only a handful of whiskies I just won’t finish and this is one.


  3. Douglas: thanks for the long note–very interesting stuff. I’ve joked here and on WhiskyWhiskyWhisky that more distilleries should just close down to raise their profiles and profits.

    It is true, isn’t it, that so much of the received whisky wisdom on the internet is based on a glossing or parroting of the experiences and opinions of a few people. And in the case of less heralded distilleries even these more experienced people are not always looking at very significant sample sizes or a true range of what the distillery put out.

    (And, by the way, I re-tasted my bottle of the Brimstone last night. I liked it more than I did when I first opened the bottle–the review will be up tonight.)

    Cato: those of us in the US should set up an exchange to spread the risk of purchasing some of these potential diamonds (or even garnets) in the rough. There’s a Signatory CS Dallas Dhu (from 1978 or 1979) that I’ve been staring at for a long time now.


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