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