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I’ve got four drams to get through in this review, so I’ll keep my introduction relatively brief. Dràm Mòr is an independent bottler based out of Dumbarton, Scotland. They are a small family business with a history in the export and distribution of Scotch whisky.
Husband and wife team Kenny and Viktorija MacDonald launched their first batch of single cask bottlings in early 2020. A year later, they’re back with a new batch, featuring a selection of interesting drams from around Scotland.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the whisky featured in this review free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Dalmunach 5 Year Old
Dalmunach was established in 2014 by Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers. Occupying the site of the old Imperial Distillery, Dalmunach is capable of producing an impressive 10 million litres per annum.
This 5-year-old single malt was matured in a 1st fill bourbon barrel. It has been bottled at 57% and should retail for around £59.
Smell: Fruity, almost perfumed nose. Smells a bit like Jolly Rancher sweets. Rosewater. Strawberry. A bit of raw, youthful spirit. Honey. Orange and vanilla.
Taste: Lots of youthful vigour on the arrival. There’s good action from the cask but it comes with a lot of hot spice. Notes of peach and orange. Honey. Caramel. Red berries. Nice oiliness in the spirit. Water tones down the spice and smooths off the edges. As a result, the whole thing becomes a much more pleasant affair.
Thoughts: It’s a little immature but interesting with it if that makes any sense. That price doesn’t look unreasonable for such a scarce single malt, either.
To my recollection, I have never tried a Dalmunach single malt before so big thanks to Dràm Mòr for checking it off the list. The malt is young and therefore shows a little immaturity at points, but there’s a ton of flavour going on and once the sweet spot has been found with water it’s quite a pleasant dram. If nothing else, it is a relatively affordable chance to taste a new distillery that doesn’t appear all that often.
Macduff 13 Year Old
Macduff was established in the 1960s. The distillery was designed by architect William Delmé Evans, who also worked on Tullibardine and Jura. Owned by Bacardi, official bottlings are released under the Glen Deveron brand. Independently bottled expressions, however, usually retain the distillery name.
This single cask expression was matured for 13 years before being bottled at 53.5%. This one is expected to retail for around £60.
Smell: Lots of malt and honey. Vanilla and caramel too. Apple and pear, oranges and lemon zest. Nice biscuit-like backbone. Gentle baking spices.
Taste: Caramel and toffee. Peppery spice. Toffee apples. Vanilla ice cream. Malt. Muesli. Fresh oak and woody spice. A little splash of water made a big difference. It toned down the spice and allowed some fruity notes to come through. Lots of apple and orange. Honeyed oaky finish.
Thoughts: There’s good bang for your buck here. At 13 years the whisky has been allowed to find some good maturity and it’s working well with its cask. Good, solid whisky at a decent price.
There’s no flashy cask finish just good balance between spirit and oak. I personally found it a wee bit spicy at first but a dribble of water opened it up beautifully and brought some wonderful fruity citrus notes through. A dram that appears relatively simple to begin with yet reveals new layers of flavour with each sip. Very enjoyable.
Dumbarton 20 Year Old Single Grain
The Dumbarton distillery was built in 1938 and was a major contributor to the Ballantine’s blended Scotch range until it closed in 2002. Since then, the site has been completely demolished.
Limited stocks of the Dumbarton grain whisky remain. This Dràm Mòr bottling is 20 years old and bottled at 52%. It is expected to retail at £90 a bottle.
Smell: Coconut. Icing sugar. Crème brûlée. Custard creams. Honey. Vanilla. Oak.
Taste: Caramel. Toffee. Vanilla. Biscuit and butter pastries. Citrus notes, particularly orange. Little bit of oak spice.
Thoughts: £90 isn’t cheap but it stands up pretty well against single cask single malts of a similar age. When you also consider that this distillery is no more, and realise you’re dealing with a little drop of liquid history, the price starts to look more reasonable.
I’m very fortunate to be sent so many samples and I’m aware that I speak from a privileged position but I’ve got a little bit bored of single grain whisky recently. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that there isn’t enough variety to warrant tasting several different versions. I think every cabinet should have a single grain but maybe keep it to one or two bottles if you want a bit of variety in your life.
Having said that, Dràm Mòr has managed the impressive feat of including a second distillery I haven’t tried before. Two in the same batch is exciting! This one certainly isn’t new, though. Instead, it’s the old Dumbarton distillery, which, ironically, stood about 8 miles away from where I grew up in Erskine. As for the whisky itself, it offers everything you’d expect from a single grain of this sort of age. Nothing revolutionary, but a good example of its kind and as good an option as any, if you’re looking for that old grain flavour profile.
Ben Nevis 9 Year Old
The Ben Nevis distillery was originally established in 1825 by Angus McDonnell. Today, however, the distillery is owned and operated by Japanese distilling giant, Nikka. So much of the spirit is transported east, for use in Nikka products, that single malt bottlings don’t hang around long in western markets.
This single cask offering was matured for 9 years and finished in a Palo Cortado sherry cask. Bottled at 53%, it should come in around £58.
Smell: This one took a little time to settle down. It almost seemed a little disjointed at first, like the whisky and the finish didn’t quite know how to get along. After a few minutes in the glass, however, it began to make a little more sense. There are honey and barley notes with some cinnamon and toffee but there’s also some slightly funky sherry going on with notes of raisins and prunes.
Taste: Even after one sip it feels better integrated than on the nose. There’s sherry and spice and honey and malt, all mingling together before a surprisingly woody finish. Water seems to give the spice a little boost and amplifies the dryness on the finish. Chocolate and orange in there too.
Thoughts: Ben Nevis is a fascinating distillery that seems to be growing in popularity. Official bottlings have seen a bit of a price hike in recent times so this single cask seems quite reasonably priced. 9 years is a decent spell in cask, 53% is a good robust strength and that Palo Cortado finish means you’re getting something you’re unlikely to see elsewhere. This is a good buy.
I’ve only come across a Palo Cortado finish once or twice before but it seems to work really well here. It’s unusual, but what at first seems odd soon becomes intriguing. There’s been a sensibly delicate touch too. This could very easily have gone wrong, especially with a single malt as complex as Ben Nevis but I suspect the finish was kept to a relatively short time frame. Otherwise, the balance could so easily have tipped. As it is, we have a single malt with good body and a rather summery character.
For more on Dràm Mòr visit here