Another casualty of the unforgiving early ’80s. 1983, to be precise. The same year we lost Port Ellen, Brora, St. Magdalene, Glen Albyn and others. Some of these martyred distilleries have gone on to posthumous recognition far beyond what they ever earned while still in production, while others have, for the most part, slid under the radar.
Dallas Dhu is one of the latter. There will always be collectors out there who hoard bottles from closed distilleries, of course, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a Dallas Dhu collection. Scarcity, a perceived mediocrity and a lack of releases (tough to find independents, let alone non-existent distillery releases) are likely the primary factor here. This Speysider was primarily blend fodder, unfortunately. Now here’s where it gets hazy for me (and I’d love more info if anyone has at hand): In the early part of the 20th century Dallas Dhu was unceremoniously dumped into a blend called Roderick Dhu, but in the years subsequent…? I’m guessing, seeing as the distillery was a part of the DCL (read: Diageo) empire, that perhaps this whisky landed in Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bells, etc.
This release though, from Gordon & MacPhail, is a 33 y.o. malt from 1979, a few years before the distillery was silenced. In what is a frustratingly consistent trend with G&M, we have another rather special old dram that has been grossly reduced in strength. You will never convince me that this is in any way for the good of the whisky once the malt reaches an age such as this. The argument that often gets put forth is that trial and error found this to be optimum bottling strength. That’s absolute tripe. The reduced abv is simply a way of stretching the whisky a little further and reaping more profit. I should note…G&M are NOT the only guilty parties for this.
Yes, I know they have a business to run and all that, but seriously, industry people…work the math out until you reach a ‘wash’. What I mean is…sell it at natural cask strength, but make the price point a tick or two higher so you still make your target profit margin on the barrel. I’d rather pay a little more for the inherent quality, than see a reduced sticker value and have a less spectacular dram in return. This holds especially true for these old and rare whiskies. F*ck it up and it’s gone for good.
Nose: Sugar cookies. Soft florals and maybe some light tropical notes. A touch of spiced poached pear. Lemon meringue pie. A touch of key lime too. Vague smokiness (just from inner cask charring?). Some wax and a faint latex note hints at age. Allspice. Some grassy notes (or maybe hay).
Palate: A touch of smoke right off. Some orange. Rather more tart than the nose hints at, but pleasantly so, like the effects of eating pineapple. Fruits in bread, maybe like hot cross buns. A little oily. Dry and oaky. Dries up and leaves a finish of grain, apple and oddly enough…a very mild fishiness. Reminds a little of a Rosebank or an anCnoc at the back end. The arrival is almost faultless, but it careens downhill fast. Easily salvagable through another sip, I suppose. 🙂
Thoughts: Much more complexity on the nose than the palate. We’re just inches short of a great malt with this one. A little more cohesion on the palate and a slightly higher abv would have had this one rocketing into the lower mid 90s for a score. Even so…decent dram and a treat to taste a piece of history like this.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt