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The Dràm Mòr Group is a family-owned bottler of single cask Scotch whisky based in the historic town of Dumbarton, one time home of the Ballantine’s distillery and current base of operations for Chivas Brothers. The driving force behind the creation of the business is husband and wife team Kenny and Viktorija Macdonald.
Viktorija is a Lithuanian national currently residing in Scotland, a recipient of the Prince Phillip award for entrepreneurship and a speaker of 7 languages. Kenny meanwhile started his career in the Food Standards Agency but whisky ran in the family – his Grandfather was a foreman at Ballantine’s – and he now focuses on the export and distribution of quality spirits. He is a founder of the Mòr whisky club in Glasgow’s west end and has hosted tastings for customers like Rolls Royce, Glasgow University and the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The couple founded the bottling arm of their business in 2019 and launched their first batch early this year. Three of which I have reviewed below…
*Full disclosure: I was sent samples by Viktorija at Dràm Mòr so that I might share my thoughts with you the readers. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the product and the value for money it represents.
Glenrothes 2009 10 Year Old
Glenrothes was founded in the village of Rothes in the heart of Speyside in 1878, with the first spirit run taking place on the 28th December the following year. The same day, around 120 miles away, 70 people lost their lives when the Tay Bridge collapsed under them, a tragic coincidence that some interpreted as a bad omen for the distillery. This theory was given some weight when Glenrothes suffered severe damage from fire on no less than four occasions during its first 100 years. Miraculously, the distillery still stands today, churning out spirit for Edrington, a company it helped create when its owners merged with Bunnahabhain in 1887 to become Highland Distillers.
This Dràm Mòr bottling started life in a bourbon barrel before being transferred to an ex-Oloroso sherry cask. It comes bottled at 58% and retails for £60.
Smell: Chocolate covered marzipan. Raisins. Oranges and lemons. Cinnamon and oak. Becomes a little malty given time… Digestive biscuits and milky tea with honey.
Taste: Orange creams. Caramel. Honey. More raisins. Dark chocolate. Woody cinnamon and spicy pepper. Touch of oak on the finish.
Thoughts: A satisfyingly silky dram that’s perfectly drinkable at full strength despite a wee bit of warmth on the palate.
The sherry finish seems to come and go albeit in rather a nice way. With one sip you get a rich, warming sherry experience, while the next brings forth a fresher, maltier character. It’s a nice to-ing and fro-ing that lasts throughout the dram and keeps things interesting.
Glen Garioch 2011 8 Year Old
Glen Garioch distillery was founded back in 1797 in Oldmeldrum. An area known as “the granary of Aberdeenshire”, the surrounding lands were renowned for producing the finest barley in Scotland. Despite its already impressive foundation date, there are suggestions that whisky was produced here far earlier, proof of which would place Glen Garioch among the oldest distilleries in the country. Historically the spirit produced there was peated but after being closed by owner Morrison Bowmore in 1995 it relaunched two years later, minus the smoke.
Bottled at 58.4% from a refill bourbon hogshead, it retails at £50.
Smell: Lemon sponge cake. Heather honey. Straw. Barley extract. Pencil shavings. Dark chocolate. Touch of pepper. Water brings out a little vanilla.
Taste: Honey and a bit of toffee. Oatcakes. Breakfast cereal. Butterscotch. Almond. Chocolate – milk this time – as it evolves into a wee bit of peppery heat and a touch of citrus on the finish.
Thoughts: There’s nothing fancy going on here but the gentle complexities of the spirit mingle well with what little the cask has been able to give. Glen Garioch is a dram I rarely seek out but I often enjoy it when it crosses my path. This is the same and I suspect I’d be rather satisfied with it at £50 a bottle.
A young(ish) malt from a refill barrel was always going to be spirit-led but I really enjoy the way the malt character is showing through here. It wears its relative youth with pride and offers no excuses for the lack of a dominant oak influence. A fine example of a well made, subtly matured highland malt.
BenRiach 2008 11 Year Old
John Duff was the founder of Longmorn Distillery and in 1897 he tried to expand his empire with the construction of BenRiach on neighbouring land. Sadly his timing couldn’t have been any worse however, as an industry wide crash led to the sites closure after just two years. Fortunately, Longmorn was able to remain in operation and their continued use of the malt floor at BenRiach saved it from demolition. The distillery would return to production in the 1960’s but found a new lease of life in 2003 when it was purchased by the Billy Walker-led BenRiach Distilling Company. In 2016 the distillery was sold again, this time to Brown Forman, the American corporation behind the Famous Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Matured for 9 years in Bourbon before transferring to ex-Oloroso for another 2 years, it is bottled at 58.7% and retails at £80.
Smell: A bit of heat on the nose. Wee touch of sulphur too – struck matches, burnt toast etc. Also toffee and caramel. Raisins. Sultanas. Underneath all that there’s marzipan, green apples and a touch of flour – plain scones even.
Taste: Big arrival… Honey. Raisins and sultanas. Currants. Salted caramel. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Spicy oak finish.
Thoughts: Arguably the most divisive of the trio. Some will love, some will not. I think I land somewhere in between. At £80 it is the most expensive though and I suspect I’d be choosing one of the other two were it my money. This will no doubt be a winner with those who enjoy the dominance of a sherry cask though.
BenRiach is a distillery I often get along with and I expected good things here. For whatever reason the sparks didn’t quite fly in the way I hoped but it was still an enjoyable dram. We’re not quite in full-on sherry bomb territory but the 2 year Oloroso finish certainly plays the lead.
In conclusion; three interesting and very distinct drams that suggest good things are to come from this new independent bottler. At time of publishing all three remain available online though like all single cask releases, they won’t be around for long.
Visit the Dràm Mòr Group website here.
For information on where to buy visit here.