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Dalmore distillery was founded in 1839 near Alness, some 20 miles north of Inverness on the banks of the Cromarty Firth. Founder Alexander Matheson spent 28 years at the distillery before deciding to sell to Mackenzie brothers Andrew and Charles. The new owners brought the Mackenzie family crest with them, complete with Royal 12-pointed stag granted to the clan by King Alexander III in 1263, after Colin of Kintail saved him from the charging beast. Even today each bottle of the Dalmore malt carries the emblem.
Dalmore remained in production consistently until the First World War when the Government requisitioned the premises to be used by the US Navy for the assembly of deep sea mines. By the time the property was handed back on the 1st of June 2020 however, much of the site was in ruins, devastated by fire after an explosion in one of the warehouses. The Mackenzie’s were enraged and the ensuing legal battle lasted for half a decade, reaching the House of Lords before it was decided in 1825 to award them compensation for damages and loss of profits for the period of time between the incident and the completion of restoration work in late 1921.
Dalmore was back in production by 1922 and the distillery carried on under the ownership of the Mackenzie family until Whyte & Mackay acquired the distillery in 1960. The famous Glasgow-based blender remains at the helm today, albeit as part of Emperador of the Phillipines.
The Dalmore single malt is often known for its association with sherry maturation, a style championed by renowned Master Blender Richard Patterson. A somewhat larger-than-life character, Patterson has been the creative force behind the brand for an incredible 50 years, developing countless expressions and pioneering cask experimentation on a scale few, if any, can match.
For his latest creation, Patterson worked with three cask partners from Andalucia in Spain: Tevasa, Vasyma and Paez. Together they created a bespoke sherry blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez that was used to season an array of American and European oak casks. This unique set of casks were then filled with Dalmore spirit that had spent the last ten years in ex-bourbon barrels. After a finishing period of 2 years, the casks were drained and the resultant liquid used to create the “Sherry Cask Select” a new single malt, available in the UK from the Whisky Shop with additional stocks across major Asian markets including Taiwan and China. A full US release is expected in 2021.
Dalmore is a brand that rarely appeals to me. I think, generally speaking, I find anything that markets itself as a luxury item a tad disconcerting (exclusivity is a total turn-off!). There’s always a nagging suspicion that it isn’t about the craft, or the quality, or the history of the brand for those that buy them; it’s about status, about flaunting wealth and being seen drinking, or worse, hoarding the posh stuff. My family came from a very working class background, and my parents were among the masses who abandoned the tenements of Glasgow for a better life in the new towns. By no means did I lead a deprived life growing up but at the same time, airs and graces were in short supply and any pretensions were punctually punctured. Even today words like “premium” provoke an involuntary internal spasm in me. Having said all that, any reviewer will tell you that one’s preconceived notions must be left at the door and so I put all that marketing guff to the back of my mind and set out to judge the dram on its own merits. As it happens, it turned out to be rather brilliant.
The Sherry Cask Select is bottled at 43% abv and retails for £69.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: The sherry is there straight away. Raisins & sultanas, cherries and Chinese five spice! Prunes. Maple syrup. Under the blanket of sherry there’s almond and hazelnut along with a bit of vanilla and a touch of oak – somehow both fresh and charred.
Taste: Big sumptuous sherry arrival with all those classic Christmas Cake notes, right down to the marzipan. Caramel and chocolate. Gláce cherries. Nutty towards the finish which is slightly drying with warm woody spice. This is really good.
Value for Money: I’ve spoken many times in the past about my preference for un-chill-filtered single malts, so much so I can’t be bothered going over it all again here. Suffice to say I was sceptical of this dram when I saw the price, which is by no means cheap for a 43% 12 year old malt. I still think it’s a bit on the steep side but my unexpected enjoyment of it has made me view it in a much more positive light. I still don’t know that I would pay the money, but a couple of drams have made it a far more tempting prospect.
Rich, warming, complex and layered, it takes up residence on the palate, leaving you in two minds whether to have another sip or to simply enjoy the lingering finish. I would never have the audacity to question the great Richard Patterson but over the years I have perhaps slipped into a mindset that the style of whisky he creates just isn’t to my taste. On the showing of the Dalmore Sherry Cask Select, this is a fallacy that I must endeavour to challenge more often. The price remains on the silly side of course, but the exceptional quality of the liquid inside should leave few disappointed in their purchase.
For more on Dalmore visit here