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You don’t often come across independently released versions of Dalmore but Elgin-based bottler Gordon & MacPhail are one of the few companies with the stocks to make it happen. Despite its (self-manufactured) reputation as a luxury malt, Dalmore is a dram that left me underwhelmed on occasion but this dram stood out at the Falkirk Whisky Social event in August and I decided to pick a bottle up.
Dalmore was built in 1839 by Alexander Matheson of Jardine Matheson, a firm best known for succeeding the East India Company and for their significant role in the Opium trade from Asia.
The distillery is located at Alness, 20 miles north of Inverness on the shore of the Cromarty Firth. Official bottlings are instantly recognisable by the embossed Stag’s head that adorns each one. The emblem became associated with the distillery when it was taken over by the Mackenzie family took in 1860. The royal 12-pointed stag had been incorporated into the Mackenzie family crest since 1263, when Colin of Kintail rescued King Alexander III from a charging Stag. Despite this family ownership having long since ended in the 1960s, the emblem remains, helping to set the Dalmore single malt apart from the rest of the bottles on the shelf.
Today, Dalmore is part of Whyte & Mackay and is overseen by their flamboyant and eccentric master blender, Richard Patterson, a man for whom 2017 marked 50 years in the whisky industry. This particular dram, however, escaped the Whyte & Mackay warehouses at some point, making its way to Elgin and Gordon & MacPhail. It has been bottled as part of their Connoisseur’s Choice range at 46% abv.
Smell: Malt and Vanilla predominantly… freshly Baked Bread, Shortbread, Lemon and Pineapple, Cherry and Blueberry.
Taste: Honey and Lemon, Berries, Vanilla Fudge, Caramel and a touch of Oak Spice. Malty right at the finish.
Thoughts: Official bottlings of Dalmore can be expensive so an asking price of £50 for this 15-year-old, bottled at 46% seemed like a good deal. Don’t expect the typical Dalmore experience though. For one thing, it’s naturally coloured so there’s none of the orange-tinted mahogany of regular bottlings. Whyte & MacKay tend to favour sherry maturation but this would appear to be a refill hogshead. That means you get something of a cleaner take on the distillery character, less oak-dominant. Some people claim that 80% of a whiskies flavour comes from the cask that matured it, well not here. Here we see Dalmore in a fairly natural form and it’s not half bad. A very drinkable dram with plenty of subtle complexity and a good example of the benefits of independent bottlers – sometimes you get to see a completely different side to whiskies you thought you knew well.