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Dràm Mòr are part of a new generation of independent bottlers that has appeared over the last couple of years in Scotland. Husband and wife team, Kenny and Viktorija have already produced an array of excellent single cask whiskies in their short time in business. With their latest batch, however, they have unveiled a set of intriguing cask finishes from some interesting distilleries.
I’ll be reviewing a selection of their releases this week. In part 1, the whiskies have been produced at Deanston, Ben Nevis and Speyside Distillery.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the samples featured in this article free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.
Deanston 9-year-old (Malvasia Madeira Finish)
Deanston distillery resides within an old cotton mill near the Perthshire town of Doune. The distillery is owned by Distell, forming a trio with Bunnahabhain and Tobermory. Official bottlings are of a remarkably high standard but independent bottlings don’t come along all that often.
Aged 9 years and finished in a Malvasia Madeira cask (Malvasia is a grape variety used to make the sweetest Madeira variety). Bottled at 51.4%.
Smell: Honey and hobnob biscuits followed by white grapes and pineapple. Almond. Lemon and lime. White pepper. Vanilla butter cream.
Taste: Apple cider. Pineapple juice. Hazelnut and almond. Sweet pears. Apricot. Honeyed malt. Caramel. A little touch of peppery heat.
Thoughts: I tend to think of Deanston as being relatively robust but this one seems quite light. Perhaps the acidity from the Madeira has contributed to that effect. Sometimes I find such lightness of touch off-putting in a whisky but this works really well. I think, crucially, the flavours are bold enough to prevent it from becoming too delicate. A dessert whisky, if such a thing exists.
Value for money: I see no issue with an asking price of £62. I’d be happy to pay it.
Speyside 6-year-old (Tawny Port Finish)
The Speyside Distillery is situated near Kingussie in the north-east of Scotland. It is home to the Spey and Beinn Dubh single malt brands. Last year news broke that the company would soon be moving to a new, larger premises. What that will mean for the character of their spirit, going forward, is anyone’s guess but for now, there are some good bottlings out there. Finished in tawny port, this single cask offering looks particularly enticing.
Finished in a first-fill Tawny Port cask and bottled at 53.5%.
Smell: Caramel. Furniture polish. Strawberries and cream. Grape juice. Cherry. Barley malt. Digestive biscuits. Walnut. Water seemed to bring out some of the spirit’s youth along with some light, estery fruits.
Taste: Quite an intense spicy arrival. You can feel the youth of the thing with lots of malty new make character and fiery spirit heat but there’s also a layer of dried fruits and blackcurrant. A splash of water loosened the texture a little but also toned down the heat. Flavours of pineapple, melon and shortbread.
Thoughts: At first it felt like the spirit was working against the finish. Like the two weren’t integrating well. In fairness, once water was added and the dram given a little time to settle, the experience improved significantly. The fire of youth calmed down and the port found some balance with the fresh young Speyside spirit.
Credit to Dràm Mòr, I’ve seen Tawny Port finishes overwhelm a whisky in the past. They’ve done well to hold it back here, especially with such an impressionable young whisky.
Value for money: It’s not a classic but it’s interesting and, at £50, affordable. It’s also quite different to anything featured in the official range of bottlings from this distillery.
Ben Nevis 8-year-old (Palo Cortado Finish)
Ben Nevis Distillery is located in Fort William, at the foot of the mountain that shares its name. The distillery is under Japanese ownership and Scottish whisky lovers have long lamented the frequency with which the spirit heads east. Without enjoying the reputation of some other brands, Ben Nevis produces a malt as good as anything in this country.
Aged for 8 years and finished in a Palo Cortado cask (Palo Cortado is a sherry that sits somewhere between Amotillado and Oloroso). Bottled at 56.7%.
Smell: Caramel and toffee. Orange zest. Dark chocolate. Sultanas and currants. Brown sugar. Cinnamon. Cherry. Honey. Oak.
Taste: Rich arrival. Lots of caramels and toffees. Honey. Apple and orange. Deep oak notes and a touch of peppery heat.
Thoughts: On paper this one looked rather special and I’m pleased to say that the reality has met that expectation admirably. Nevis is a malt of good character anyway but throw in an interesting finishing cask and your chance of making something special are going to be pretty good.
The Palo Cortado works well here. It’s not overly sweet and the finishing cask hasn’t dominated but it has combined well with the young, boisterous Highland malt to create something new and unique. The pick of the batch, so far.
Value for money: At £79.50 it’s the most expensive so far and at 8-years-old that price may seem a little steep. When I think of other similarly priced drams, however, this one matches up pretty well, where quality is concerned.
For more on Dràm Mòr visit here.