Sherry Cask Week began at Blair Athol n the Highlands on Monday. I liked that 12 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L fine and thought it was a good value for a daily sipper. We’ll remain in the Highlands for this review, going a bit further north to Dalmore and adding six more years of age. I’ve not reviewed very many Dalmores on the blog—only two in fact before this one. I enjoyed the 12 yo and the Cigar Malt back when I first started drinking single malt whisky, which was also back when Dalmore’s whiskies were reasonably priced. But it’s been a while now since the distillery’s pricing ascended into the sphere of the very silly; and it’s also the case that there isn’t so very much indie Dalmore about, especially in the US. Not even Gordon & MacPhail have put out so very many Dalmores—though I do note that there seems to have been a slight uptick in the last few years. This 18 yo from Cadenhead also came out a couple of years ago. It’s not a full-term sherry matured, spending only the last two years in a sherry hogshead. At two years it’s really past being a finish and is squarely in double maturation territory. Well, let’s see how it compares to the Blair Athol. Continue reading
Let’s stay in the highlands but go 75 miles or so up the A9 from Dalwhinnie to Dalmore.
Dalmore sits on Cromarty Firth, hence presumably the name of this release—though why the possessive has been added to the name I do not know. I haven’t had official Dalmore in ages—not since the prices for their regular releases rose sharply, though not as sharply as the rate of release of bullshit from the distillery, whether in bottled or marketing form. Still, independently bottled Dalmore is very rare on the ground and just as rare is bourbon cask Dalmore and so this is very intriguing on the face of it. As with a number of K&L’s recent round of cask exclusives, this one is teaspooned. I assume that is the distillery’s way of making sure that no independent whisky appears with the name Dalmore on the label. My experience so far of these teaspooned K&L casks has been middling. I was not overly impressed by either the 28 yo John McCrae/Balvenie or the 23 yo Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich. Will this Dalmore set a new trend? I hope so as I have a few more of these teaspooned casks left to review. Continue reading
Dalmore is not a distillery beloved of whisky geeks. This is largely because it has come to be associated strongly with much of what has gone wrong with the Scotch industry over the last 10 years or so. They have been at the front of the charge towards premiumization for premiumization’s sake with gimmicky releases like the Trinitas (which retailed for $160,000) and the Constellation series (about $250,000 for all 21 bottles), all of which seem to be aimed at helping hedge fund managers cope with the problem of not having enough shiny things to spend their money on. They also have a worse relationship with fake tans than Donald Trump and John Boehner.
Premiumization per se doesn’t bother me so very much–there are many things I will never have enough money to own and even if I had that much money I would not spend it on showy whisky. And if whisky companies leave the stuff aimed at regular drinkers alone–as, for example, Highland Park and Glenmorangie have always done–it doesn’t really affect me. Dalmore’s problems are both tackiness and the fact that they pulled off as obvious a case of “old whisky in new bottles for new prices” as you’ll ever see. The Dalmore 12 used to be a bargain malt, available for less than $30 in most US markets, and this was also the case for their Cigar Malt. In the late 2000s the Dalmore 12 got new glitzier packaging and a 50% price increase while the Cigar Malt later turned into the Gran Reserva and more than doubled in price (confusingly a new Cigar Malt was then released at five times the price of the original). I stopped drinking both then as the new prices were no longer justified by what was in the bottle.
This sample is from a bottle released in 2005, which is when I bought my first bottle, I think. What relationship it bears to the current Dalmore 12, I do not know.
Dalmore 12 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)
As with some other entry-level malts this is bottled at a lower strength in Europe.
Nose: Nice sherried notes with first caramel and then citrus (orange peel) coming through. The citrus expands quite quickly and there’s some milk chocolate too. The orange switches to lemon after a while and there’s some honey too now. Quite nice, I have to say. A drop of water wakes it back up 45 minutes later and mixes the citrus with some melon and some malt.
Palate: Watery but then the flavours intensify with roasted malt, citrus and something a little leafy on the back end. Texture remains a little too thin though. On the second sip there’s other, muskier fruit as well, but I’m having a bit of trouble picking it. Water’s not great for the palate–thins it out further.
Finish: Longer than expected from the texture, with the roasted malt transitioning to something bitter and metallic (I have some suspicions about what that might be). Water does make the finish more interesting though, bringing out citrus that mutes the bitterness.
Comments: I wish I could say that with far greater experience my 2014 self repudiates my 2005 self for having bought and drunk more than one bottle of this but it’s hard to imagine very many better values even back then at $25 for a sherried malt. At the current price though–between $40 and $50–it’s in a more competitive space and it’s hard to recommend it. Also, I have no idea if the current version is very similar to this. It does make me kind of curious about the 15 yo though which only arrived on my radar after I had become iffy about the distillery. I finished this with some 80% chocolate and it paired very well.
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample!