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Dailuaine distillery was built in 1851 by William MacKenzie. When he passed away the business was inherited by his sons who would later merge with Talisker on the isle of Skye to create Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd.
By the end of the 19th century, Dailuaine had prospered and grown to become the largest distillery on Speyside, with pioneering new technologies that would help to shape the character of the region’s whisky for years to come. It was the first distillery ever to be crowned by architect Charles Doig‘s famous pagoda-like ventilator. The pitch of the pagoda was steep so as to minimise the contact between barley and peat smoke. This reduced smokiness would become typical of the region and today, the vast majority of whisky produced there is completely un-peated.
The next century didn’t start quite so well however, with a particularly devastating fire breaking out in 1917. The Aberdeen Press and Journal wrote…
“The outbreak was caused by an explosion in one of the elevators of the malt mill and soon the building was a mass of flames, which quickly spread to the still-house and malt barns. The fire brigades of Aberlour and Rothes were summoned, but by the time they arrived the fire had got an extensive hold on the various buildings.
Three large kilns caught fire and were soon enveloped in flames. The still-house contained four large copper stills with their respective vessels and contents, which were either burned or seriously damaged. A shed containing several hundred loads of peats also took fire. About 10pm the fire had almost burned itself out, the roofs of the various buildings having fallen in.
The distillery belongs to the Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd and the damage was estimated at between £20,000 and £30,000 “
In 1925 the company amalgamated with the Distiller’s Company Ltd (DCL). Under their stewardship, Dailuaine was rebuilt and continues to produce whisky primarily for use in Diageo‘s blended scotch brands, though there has been an excellent 16 year old single malt available as part of their Flora & Fauna range since 1991.
From time to time you can find independently bottled versions of Dailuaine and the subject of this particular review comes from A.D. Rattray, a company originally founded in 1868. Its current incarnation was brought to life by Tim Morrison in 2002. Tim is the son of Stanley P Morrison, one-time owner of Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries. As well as founding A.D. Rattray, he is the driving force behind the Clydeside distillery in Glasgow.
The A. D. Rattray Cask Collection Dailuaine 8 Year Old is bottled at a cask strength of 57.2% and retailed at £55 – though because I tasted it as part of a Good Spirits Co event, I got 10% off my purchase.
Smell: Creamy malt and vanilla. Custard cream biscuits. Honey. Foam bananas. White chocolate. Fudge.
Taste: Caramel and toffee. Cinnamon and ginger. Vanilla pods. Honey. Sponge cake. Bit of oak on the finish. Water tones down the woody spice and lots of orchard fruits come through.
Thoughts: Not exactly the grandest of age statements but 8 years in a first fill barrel is enough to give plenty of flavour. 57.2% is also a very good starting strength. For some reason, there was only 132 bottles produced, so supplies are pretty scarce but it’s a fine affordable Speyside should it cross your path.
On the face of it, there’s nothing particularly exceptional going on here. It’s just a young whisky, matured in a bourbon barrel and bottled at natural cask strength, yet it’s for that exact reason that I bought it. It is good, honest single malt Scotch with the complexity and balance that comes when good spirit is aged in good oak. Dailuaine, alongside Benrinnes, is one of my favourite Speyside distilleries and this is a good demonstration of its qualities. The meaty weight of the spirit, achieved through old-fashioned worm-tub condensers, can often elevate even the most pedestrian of bottlings to something far more intriguing and that’s exactly what’s going on here.
If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid commission on any purchases you make. Other retailers are available.
For more on A. D. Rattray visit here.
For more on Dailuaine Distillery visit here.