This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task.
Dalwhinnie 12, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022 (53.6%; re-charred sherry cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Baked apples, pastry crust, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla: basically apple crumble in a glass. As it sits there’s toffee and brown butter mixed in with the baked apples and pastry crust; a bit of orange peel in there too. Oak emerges as it sits, polished at first, a bit perfumed after (reminiscent of Amrut’s rosewood notes). A bit of apricot in with the baked apples too now. A few drops of water push the oak back and pull out more apricot and pastry crust.
Palate: Comes in with more pronounced oak—toasted and polished, not tannic. The softer, baked notes bring up the rear and then the orange peel emerges as I swallow. Very approachable at full strength with a full texture. Some salt emerges as it sites and the oak gets just a bit sharper; but there’s also some of the apricot that showed up on the nose. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. Pretty much what it does on the nose but it gets a lot sweeter here.
Finish: Long. The orange peel and the oak (spicier now) intermingle as it fades. Develops as on the palate with time and water.
Comments: Well, I was wary about this but it turned out to be very nice indeed. The re-charred oak is not too aggressive and there’s plenty of fruit and baked notes to compensate. I don’t know that I’d want to pay £120 for a bottle, but if someone were to gift me one, I’d be very happy.
Rating: 87 points.