Mar 182015
 

Dalmore 12 y.o.018

40% abv

Score:  77/100

 

This is Dalmore at pretty much its most generic and uninspired.  The exact sort of whisky that sends me running for other whiskies.  It’s identifiable enough, to be fair, but in an ‘it’s so nondescript it becomes descript’ sort of way.  If that makes any sense.  I guess what I’m saying here is pretty much what I’ve said before about Dalmore: It seems like a whisky that is built to be the ‘typification’ of what the neophyte would expect Scotch whisky to be.  The biggest problem is that it’s simply hollow.  It makes me think of those old spaghetti western film sets, where the streets are lined with all of the prescribed stereotypical building fronts, but the reality is that they are nothing more than a one dimensional facade propped up for superficial effect.

Though it’s not a ‘bad’ whisky, it’s definitely uninspiring enough that I think we’ll just cut it off here.  In short: I’ll pass, thanks.

Nose:  Malt and caramel.  Apple, pear and a touch of orange.  A very dull, almost salty sherry influence.  Leather.  A rather muted creamy caramel note.  Soft flintiness (ironic, I know).

Palate:  Very translateable from nose to palate.  Decent arrival, but almost immediately falls flat.  Orange again.  Salty leather.  Barley and wet woods.  Some winey sherry influence that is somewhat juicy, but also kinda overblown for this rather light drink.  Moderate baking spice.  Maybe a touch nutty.  Flat and watery.

Thoughts:  The sort of malt that makes me question the blender’s palate.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:16 pm
Mar 042015
 

Dalmore 18 y.o.005

43% abv

Score:  86/100

 

I’m gonna play this review a little differently. The whisky practically forces my hand. Bear with me.

While Dalmore and Macallan continue play the ‘two fat guys wedged in a door’ game, each trying to come out ahead as the ultra-super-premium brand out there, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to simply pretend that this ludicrous display of idiocy is not a going concern and just focus on tasting a dram from Master Blender Richard Paterson’s stable of over-manufactured goodies. We’ll give it a go, though. This one here is the iconic Dalmore 18. I’ve had a few requests to tackle this one, so let’s shed a little light on one of the industry’s big guns.

Dalmore has for a while now been positioning itself as a leader – if not the leader – in the luxury spirits category. The whiskies look great (nice colour, nice branding), but as we all know aesthetic appeal is a tertiary consideration compared to the primary importance of the malt’s inherent qualities of aroma and flavour.   And, of course, its secondary considerations of value for outlay. Unfortunately I find Dalmore usually falls short on both of these latter differentiators. In talking to my mates, I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. Dalmore is good, but usually not much more than just ‘good’, at least until you start hitting the four figure price tag releases.

At about $160 locally, however, the Dalmore 18 hasn’t quite priced itself out of the equation relative to similarly aged malts out there.  Yes, it is at the higher end of the spectrum, but there are more expensive examples in the same league.  In terms of overall quality to price point considerations though…yeah, this one is simply a no-go for this guy. It’s just not good enough to justify its pole position. Paterson has always been guilty (in my mind, anyway) of producing whiskies that are far too hopped up on orange-y caramel notes and redolent of far too much wine influence (be it some sort of sherry, port or just wine cask play itself). They almost universally seem to lack balance, in favour of a seeming desire to create what is tantamount to a generic sherried Scotch profile. I’d bet dimes to dollars that when most non-Scotch drinkers think about what Scotch tastes like…they think of malts like Dalmore.

I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that in my mind an 18 year old $160 bottle should score higher than 86 points.  Big outlay required for a mid-sized malt.

Nose:  Orange marmalade.  Tobacco.  Vanilla.  Dried spice.  A winey/sherry note.  Some chocolate.  Creamy melted caramel and maraschino.  Cinnamon bread dough.  Stewed fruits.

Palate:  More tang and excitement here than its younger siblings.  The sherry is vibrant and emphasizes the spirit, as opposed to overwhelming it.  Ginger snaps with orange zest.  Creme brulee crust.  Leather.  Plum skins.  Caramel chocolates.  Slightly drying.

Thoughts:  Dalmore with some age can be sexy.  This is merely ‘somewhat attractive’.  A few years down the line and maybe we’ll hit ‘sexy’.  But then, of course, we won’t be able to afford it.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt 

 Posted by at 12:06 pm
May 272014
 

Dalmore Age Of Exploration Vintage 1995030

45% abv

Score:  88/100

 

Why, hello!  What have we here?  Gotta admit I didn’t expect to like this one even half as much as I did.  I’m not the biggest Dalmore fan.  In fact…I actually despise much of what they stand for:  Premiumization for the sake of itself; generic, weak and adulterated malts; countless overpriced expressions, etc.  This is one of the companies very much responsible for the rising costs of whisky today. 

Having said all of that…there is a basic truth I adhere to above all others when it comes to whisky:  Basic Aristotelian thought.  A is A.  A good whisky is a good whisky.  If my nose and palate gravitates toward something, so be it.  Much like guilty pleasures in music, why not just embrace something that appeals instead of adhering to preconceptions of what it is ok to like?  I don’t suspend my moral judgements in cases like this, but I do concede quality where it is to be found.  Distill it down to its bare essence and the approach I take is that if I enjoy it, that’s all that matters.  Chill-filtration, artificial coloring, age-statement or no, cheap or expensive, blend or single malt.  All of these, though I may still take exception, become secondary factors if the whisky is good.  This Vintage ’95 is certainly that.

Unfortunately, for both the good folk at Dalmore who may want my money, and for myself, who simply can’t afford most of them, the only Dalmore releases I’ve ever really cottoned to were the very mature ones (read: pricey).  I think that’s probably why I find so much to like in this accessable and affordable 1995 Age Of Exploration.   

The specs on this one say it spent time in three different barrels: American white oak, Madeira and Oloroso.  And, while I’m having trouble finding an age or the actual release date for this one, I’ve read a few suggestions of 15 years, but can’t seem to find any basis for that number.  So let’s say this isn’t an age-stated, nor a non-age-stated malt.  It is a Vintage release.  Limited to a mere 1800 bottles too.

This, to me, is quintessential ‘Scotch’.  Like the prototypical, Platonic ‘form’ version of what a single malt is supposed to be.  So…now that I’ve been pretentious enough to name drop two of history’s most reknowned philosophers in one post, let’s move on to tasting notes…

Nose:  Chocolate ganache.  Cinnamon.  Cherry coulis.  Great jammy fruits and smoky toffee.  Orange and some grapefruit zest.  Great, clean lumberyard oak notes.  Eucalyptus.  A lot of spice, almost like a heavy rye or bourbon cask influence.  I’ve read a few opinions that mention sulphur, but with all due respect, them folks are off their rockers.  I’m fairly sensitive to the stuff (not JM sensitive, but still fairly attuned to picking it up), but am not finding even a whiff.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Oak.  Cinnamon sticks.  Very juicy arrival before the slight tannic notes take charge.  Again…a lot of spice, almost like there’s been a bit of bourbon poured in here.  Very dark dried fruits lead into an orchard fruit mix of mealy pear and crunchy apple.  Pepper and ginger.  More oak.  Not the best of finishes, but not bad either.

Thoughts:  This is a really incredible surprise.  Not every note is perfect but the odd bit of dissonance adds character to the overall tone.  A very likeable malt from a distillery that is easy to look down upon.  One final note…this was incredibly priced.  I think it was about $85 or so locally.  

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:12 am
Nov 052013
 

Dalmore Ceti 30 y.o.Ceti

45% abv

Score:  90/100

 

Paterson really likes his malts bold and uncompromising.  Big sherries…long finishes…a lot of cask play.  All well and good, I suppose, but personally I’d love to see a few slightly more naked Dalmores.  I’m curious as hell to see whether or not this spirit would age gracefully in a simple bourbon cask.

Anyway…here’s another sassy old (read: pricey) Dalmore, served up after 30 long years of slumber.  To be a little more accurate: this whisky spent its first twenty-three years in ex-bourbon barrels before being re-racked into Oloroso sherry butts for an additional seven.  That’s a pretty thick icing on a 23 year year old cake.  Since seven years is a little too long to refer to as ‘finishing’, I’m actually ok with calling it a ‘double-matured’ whisky.

Now let’s pretend for a few moments – just as friends over drams – that this bottle wasn’t priced only for the rawk stars, athletes and CEOs of this world, and simply speak to the details, merits or faults, be they as they may. 

This is Dalmore Ceti, apparently so named for the Kappa1 Ceti star in the Cetus constellation.   Kappa1 Ceti is approximately 30 light years from earth (hence cribbing the name for this 30 year old malt), and is thought to be a candidate that may host terrestial planets.  Awesome.  That will, of course, do us a world of good when we exhaust our resources on this third stone from the sun, and migrate that wee convenient puddle jump of 30 freaking light years!  (I should note…that is also approximately the same length of time that will have to elapse before my wife lets me buy a bottle of this whisky.  Sorry…couldn’t resist.) 

Interesting (if inane and rather esoteric) naming convention aside…I quite like this one.  Dalmore with age and I…we get along alright, I guess.  Younger Dalmore?  For the most part I can take it or leave it, but when the spirit is left to mellow and hibernate for a few extra years, well…there’s no denying some great whiskies are sleeping on in the Dalmore warehouses.

A solid four-figure bottle, this, and limited to 1000.

Do note…I’m going to mention several tropical(ish) fruits in my tasting notes, but this is not what I would consider a ‘tropical fruit’ profile.  If not for the Oloroso re-racking perhaps it would be more in that range.

Nose:  Orange zest, apricot and tangerine.  Florals and mild nutmeg.  Cigar or pipe tobacco.  Furniture polish.  Rye bread and saltines.  Some wine-y grape notes.

Palate:  Spicy arrival.  Oranges in behind.  Tobacco notes and chewing on leather.  Sweet green grapes and a lot of dried tannic fruits as well.  Odd, but pleasant sour candy notes.  Some dried potpourri and grass.  Hmmm…a little dry and almost, almost over-oaked, I think.  If not over-oaked, well…a little too much oak influence.  Splitting hairs, maybe, but different enough.  Still very nice though.  Towards the back there are some lovely peach overtones.

Thanks to my mate, J Wheelock for the taster of this one.  Neato.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Dalmore

 Posted by at 7:35 am
May 222013
 

Dalmore Gran Reservayep 014

40% abv

Score:  84/100

 

So sayeth the sages: this Dalmore Gran Reserva was a replacement for the Cigar Malt.  If rumours are to be believed (and surprisingly, in the whisky industry, they often are) then the reasons for this replacement were due to a more politically aware viewpoint, forced or otherwise, suggesting that it was inappropriate to market the malt with ‘cigar’ on the label.  Really?  C’mon.  Alcohol and smokes have always been tighter than Tom Cruise and crazy.

Further refutation may lie, I would argue, in the fact that the Dalmore website still offers up a Cigar Malt Reserve.  A higher end version, yes, but obviously the naming convention is still in tact.  Hmmmm.  Can’t always trust the scuttlebutt, I suppose.

Moving on, and keeping our ears to the ground ’round the watercooler…further gossip suggests that this malt is simply a repackaging of the now obsolete standard Cigar Malt expression.  I welcome correction here from anyone ‘in the know’, but I can unequivocably state that I have put these drams head-to-head several times now and there is no comparison.  The Gran Reserva is rather balanced, spicy and pleasant, while the Cigar Malt I found pungent, malty, heavy and cloying.  I should also note this release at 40% abv and the Cigar Malt at 43%.

Anyway…unless my bottle of the CM was a dud, these are most definitely entities unto themselves.  And on record…this one kicks the piss outta the other.

Gran Reserva is a mix of Oloroso and Bourbon cask-matured malts, with the ration skewing more heavily towards the former.  Logically you’d expect sweetness, dried fruits and spice.  Check, check, check.  This is all well met by a very typical Dalmore orange note.  Component casks are between 10 and 15 years of age.  Nice whisky.  I like this one.

Nose:  Doughy.  Some cinnamon and creme caramel.  Vanilla.  Orange.  Fruity Ju-jubes…and/or maybe a hint of Wine Gums.  Nice spice profile.  Pronounced, but not loud.  More like ‘well-articulated’ spices.

Palate:  Orange again.  Very pleasant warm spices.  Chocolate (both milk and white varieties).  Wow…is this ever soft and pillowy.  An easy sipper.

This is a ‘library malt’ to me.  Armchair, Hemingway, Dalmore.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:54 pm
May 222013
 

Dalmore Vintage 2001Dalmore Vintage 2001

48% abv

Score:  84/100

 

Nifty l’il Dalmore here.  A limited edition vintage release from 2001.  Seeing as this was bottled in 2011, you’re looking at just a young’un.  10 years old actually.  The malt, while still recognizably young, behaves a little older than its years, in carrying some rather heavy dried fruit notes and lumbering vanillins.  Sherry influence meets the affects of active cask vanilla leaching meets young spirit.  Or so I’d guess anyway, but hey…that’s only a guess.

While the distillery is not in the top tiers for my personal affectations, I do like the rather consistent approach they take to producing whiskies.  Each is unique, but bears certain hallmarks.  Recognizably Dalmore, in other words.  Carving out your niche in a rather saturated whisky market is to be lauded.  And man…do I love the 12-point stag’s head adornment on each bottle.  Dalmore looks sexy sitting on the shelf.  No extra points; just sharing a personal positive bias.

As of now, I’m not 100% certain what the outturn was for this release, but I would imagine several thousand bottles would be a safe bet.  Information on this one, in my wee meanderings, has been rather sparse, but the backstory isn’t as important as the future.  And the future, for this guy, holds another dram.  So let’s get on with it.

Nose:  Big, big, big florals.  Like eating freshly churned vanilla ice cream out of freshly carved oaken bowls.  Malty.  Orange marmalade and pepper.  Some dried fruits, cinnamon and candied ginger.  Maybe some syrupy pear…maybe apple…either way, some white fruit.

Palate:  Wine-ish.  Some coffee notes and dark chocolate.  Dried fruits and figgy bits.  Moves on into tannic plum skins.  Some nuts and oak.

Enjoyable dram, of course.  In case you couldn’t tell. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Dalmore

 Posted by at 12:48 pm
May 222013
 

Dalmore 1263 King Alexander IIIyep 002

40% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

I’ve seen this referred to as a ‘luxurious aged malt’.  Not sure what that actually equates to in ‘whisky years’ (similar to human years, though the life expectancy in a cask is much lower 😉 ), but let’s just assume there is something likely approaching the two decade mark due to the creamier fluffy baking notes, balanced spices and soft fruits.  The enormity of the grape influence here is relatively obscuring however, making it difficult to venture any sort of meaningful guess as to true age.  But who cares, right?

This is built on a whole mishmash of cask wizardry.  Oloroso, Madeira, Marsala, Port, Bourbon, Wine…maybe more.   Bloody hell.  Must have been a job and a half trying to strike some sort of harmonious balance here.  Kudos to Mr. Paterson of Whyte & Mackay though, as he seems to have succeeded in his machinations.  No dissonance to be found. 

Amid all this mad Willy Wonka-like ingenuity, sits a rather quality dram.  This is the true art of blending.  Finding casks that work together and determing proportionality (is that even a word???).  Paterson has upped the ante here though and decided to show us his ‘A’ game.  Sort of a ‘look what I can do’ thing.  Fun and keeps me reaching for the glass.  And ultimately…that’s all that matters.

For those curious as to what the nomenclature of this dram is all about…here’s a little backstory for ya, from the good people at Dalmore:

“In 1263 the ancestor of Clan Mackenzie saved King Alexander III from being gored by a stag with a single arrow. The grateful King granted him the right to bear a stag’s head in his coat of arms, with the motto ‘Help the King’ (Cuidich ‘ N Righ, in the Gaelic language). The Dalmore Distillery was long owned by the Mackenzie family, and every bottle of The Dalmore is adorned with this noble emblem: a stag’s head, with twelve points to its antlers, signifying a ‘royal’.”

Nose:  Some creamy caramel.  Nice almond paste notes.  Mixed  fruits; both dark, fresh and juicy as well as the dried variety.  Lemon and orange zests.  Something like a vanilla pudding.  Raisin scones and iced sugar cookies.  Soft milk chocolate.

Palate:  An odd pithy sort of dryness.  Orange and chocolate.  Now some rather big wine notes.  Tobacco.

Thanks to my mate, J Wheelock of Authentic Wines And Spirits for the snazzy wee sample bottle you see above.  Cheers, friend. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:09 am
May 222013
 

Dalmore 15 y.o.085

40% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

I’ve yet to find one, but I’d love to try a Dalmore with a few years on it that was matured in nothing but refill hogsheads, free from any sherry or wine influence.  I think it would be brilliant to experience the naked spirit and see how it suits my palate. 

Dalmore puts out rather intriguing and complex whiskies but, in all fairness, they’re rather adulterated and there’s a lot that can be massaged with the sweet notes of sherry or wine.  I’m more than ok with this, as I do love nicely sherried drams, but it’s simply the nature of my curiosity and whisky nerdery that I’d relish the opportunity to see this malt a little more…exposed.

This is Dalmore at 15 years.  A rather decent way along the path to maturity.  The whisky here is deep and interesting already, bearing the hallmarks of nice spirit/wood integration and the great mellowing influence of time.  Aged in 100% sherry casks (matusalem, apostoles and amoroso apparently), this is sweet, as you’d expect, but sweet in a rather moderate way.  It has a great natural home preserves sort of quality about it.  Deep red macerated fruits, ‘jammy’ is the term we usually use, are front and center, but the creamy nature of notes such as chocolate, caramel and custard temper any tendency to overpower with tangy fruits.

The strength here is in the nose.  Palate is good too, but the nose definitely scores an extra point.

Nose:  Pepper and florals.  Caramel.  Quite wine-y.  Hint of raspberry coulis and other bold dark fruits; some dried and some fresh and jammy.  Coffee.  Lemon and orange.  Chocolate covered strawberry cream.  Fresh, but mellow, unlit tobacco.  Creamy custard.

Palate:  Wines are right up in front.  Rather tannic.  Bittersweet chocolate.  Orange, as expected.  Dries into woods and wine notes.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:12 am
May 222013
 

Dalmore 40 y.o.Dal40BotHR (2)

40% abv

Score:  93/100

 

Oh, thank god. 

Right up front I want to say…this whisky is freaking awesome.  Love it.  Complex, deep and incredibly well-made.  I would give my right…er…arm for a bottle of this.

Now…forgive me a few moments of self-indulgent oration.

Never a huge fan of Dalmore, I had nearly resigned myself to not laying hands on a dram from this distillery that truly lit my fire.  Their standard range of malts are, for the most part, quite decent, but not really in my wheelhouse.  Their older releases are novelties released at insultingly unjustified price points.  Not certain where Richard Paterson and team got the idea that everything they release should command a fat four figure price tag (especially in contrast to distilleries like Glenfarclas releasing brilliant 40 year old whiskies at less than $500).

Anyway…I know there are many expressions released by Dalmore that have had their praises sung from the rooftops, yet the prohibitive pricing scheme has kept those whiskies out of the hands of most of us laymen.

Here’s the rub…

Many malters I’ve spoken to feel the same way I do.  The younger expressions of Dalmore are not awesome.  Quite decent, but not reaching the highs we’d hope for.  These are, of course, the very same malts that regularly get reviewed and never really earn the raves that could possibly (in theory, anyway) justify a distillery assuming they could position themselves as I’ve mentioned above.

Dalmore is a distillery that could really benefit from the execution of a concept like the release of a high strength, low price, quality whisky.  Something for the punters to pick up…sink their teeth into…and start to create some buzz.  I’m thinking of something along the lines of Aberlour a’bunadh, Glenfarclas 105, Auchentoshan Valinch, Ardbeg Uigeadail, etc.  Richard…if you ever read this…please?

Anyway…you see where I’m at with this, right?  Ok.  Hopefully I don’t twist an ankle stepping down from my soapbox.

The whisky at hand is a 40 year old Dalmore, and holy hell is it good!  I went in with rather low expectations, simply due to previous experience with the more ‘everyday’ malts in the Dalmore range, and I had my socks knocked off.  I tacked this single malt on to the back end of a Dalmore range tasting, and it was kind of like having a game of pick-up soccer/football with your mates and having Devid Beckham join in.  This whisky is simply in another league. 

Big price tag, but this is a big whisky.  Perhaps this time it is vindicated. 

Nose:  Paint and latex and all those sexy as hell mature cask notes.  Juicy concorde grape.  Rich woody notes and some tight rings of smoke.  Pepper.  Tangerine, pineapple, papaya and deep threads of black current.  These latter tie in with eucalyptus to remind me of black currant Halls cough drops.  Chocolate.  More fruity notes in rivers of dark caramel.  Quirky, odd and great.

Palate:  Smoke, old wood and latex.  Leathery and drying.  Orange emerges with some tobacco.  Again…some black currant notes.

Thanks to J Wheelock for the sample.  Appreciate it, mate.  Wow. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Courtesy of the fine folk at Authentic Wine And Spirits

 Posted by at 9:51 am
May 222013
 

Dalmore Cigar Maltyep 020

43% abv

Score:  71/100

 

This is…not good.  At least for me.

I tend to take the approach that most single malts are decent.  In order to be bottled as single malt there is an inherent quality necessary and assumed, otherwise those funky casks would be buried away as blend fodder. 

For this reason, and I think most reviewers take the same approach, most whiskies will score relatively high marks and it is a rare occasion to cross swords with a malt that I would go so far as to say ‘I don’t like this’.  Usually the worst I’ll say will be along the lines of ‘it’s ok’.  Here and there though, we’re bound to find one or two that just don’t sit right with our particular preferred flavor profiles.  Are they bad?  Well…not necessarily, but maybe they are just unsuited to what we find appealing as individuals.  Other folk out there may swoon for ’em.  Hey…there are, after all, people who enjoy surströmming.

Anyway…back to the opening statement.  Not saying the Dalmore Cigar Reserve is bad, just that’s it’s not really good either.  The malt-heavy, overly-generic, and rather cloying nose just does not work for me.  This is the nadir of the Dalmore range though, so on the positive front…it’s all uphill from here.

Finally…novelty titling aside…how does one market a dram as specific to pairings with cigars?  While I enjoy a cigar and malt together, there is simply no two ways about it:  a cigar will deaden the receptors that make sensitivity to the nuances of the malts function.  Logical conclusion…any dram could go with a cigar so long as it was bold enough to fight back against the smoke.  Personally, I’d be leaning towards cask strength though.  Just my two cents, which are likely worth half as much.  😉

Nose:  Very malt heavy.  Dusty almond.  Almost a burnt caramel note.  Nutty and vegetal.  Old leather.  Sprinkle of pepper.  Autumnal decaying leaves.  Spice, but not in balanced proportion.  Cloying malt.  A mate suggested ‘rotting cantaloupe’.  ‘Heavy’ and vaguely unpleasant.

Palate:  A clumsy malt, really.  Cantaloupe and pepper.  Nuts, woods and grains.  Leather.  Ginger.  Dry and tannic.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:28 am