Dràm Mòr Single Casks (Jan ‘22)

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Dràm Mòr is an independent bottler based out of Dumbarton in the west of Scotland. Launched in 2020, they have already released some excellent single cask bottlings of Scotch whisky. It’s been a privilege getting to know this bottler and watching things develop over a variety of releases. Initial bottlings seemed to adopt a fairly traditional approach, with single cask spirits bottled at cask strength with minimum fuss. Gradually, however, they have introduced some interesting cask finishes. At first, they were subtle, as though Dràm Mòr was only dipping its toe in the water. With each release, it seems like the finishes have become bolder. The last release of 2021 may have been their best yet with some truly wonderful finishing casks paired beautifully with exceptional spirits. It feels like Dràm Mòr have really found their feet and it wouldn’t surprise me to see their reputation grow even further in 2022.

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Macduff 14-year-old

The Macduff distillery produces a Highland single malt, often bottled as the Glen Deveron brand. Part of the Bacardi-owned Dewar’s stable, the distillery is known for its malty, nutty spirit.

This 14-year-old Macduff has been finished in a Moscatel cask and bottled at 51.7%. Retails for £69.

Smell: A perfumed, floral nose with some grassy cereals and toasted almonds. Lots of honey. Solvent. Pears. Raisins and currants. Milk chocolate and a wee touch of burnt toast.

Taste: Rich caramel and toffee arrival. Raisin leads into some peppery spice around the edges of the tongue before the experience finishes with some honey and new oak notes. Well into the finish some dried fruits return. Not the weightiest dram but a pleasant oiliness to it.

Thoughts: This one looks to be another winning finish from Dràm Mòr. The Moscatel has integrated well and comes through on both smell and taste. Macduff’s highland spirit is still in evidence though. In fact, this is very much a case of whisky, wine and woodworking in harmony. A promising start to this trio of single casks.

Value for money: £70 for a 14-year-old single malt at cask strength is fair. Good quality dram too.

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Balblair 10-year-old

Another Highland distillery, Balblair stands around 30 miles north of Inverness. Since 1996, the distillery has been owned by Inver House Distillers. The single malt brand became known for its vintage bottlings but in 2019, this practice was scrapped in favour of a more traditional, age-stated range.

A 10-year-old single malt finished in Oloroso sherry and bottled at 52%. Retails at £85.50.

Smell: Big sherry nose. Raisins, sultanas, figs, prunes… Even some maple syrup. New leather. Old leather. Polished oak furniture. Brown sugar. Sweet tea. Barbecue sauce. Paprika.

Taste: A big oaky arrival turns into juicy raisins as it slides back over the palate. Some heat develops before dark chocolate and caramelised walnuts. Nice chewy quality. Woody finish with the return of the Maple Syrup.

Thoughts: We’re in full-on sherry bomb territory here and that’s absolutely fine with me. Not much in the way of spirit character coming through but the sherry is rich enough and complex enough that it really doesn’t matter. It seems to swing back and forward between the flavour of damp old oak and juicy raisins with some spice adding a pleasant warmth to the whole affair. A proper mouth-coater this one. You’ll feel the sherry on your teeth for days.

Value for money: This one comes in at a bit of a higher price but that’s sherry casks for you. Anyway, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed having paid £85 for a bottle.

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Williamson 6-year-old Blended Malt

This blended malt is likely what’s often referred to as tea-spooned. In other words, the vast majority of it was produced at one distillery, with a very small amount of a second malt being added. This seemingly unusual practice prevents any would-be bottler from naming the distillery that produced the bulk of the spirit. Of course, most people find a way around that. The name Williamson is often associated with one particularly famous Islay distillery, known for its incredibly distinctive peat reek.

Bottled at 56.4% after six years of maturation. Retails for £75.00.

Smell: As you’d expect from a young Islay there’s ash, burnt oak, coal tar and thick, oily smoke with a touch of the trademark antiseptic note. However, there’s also some citrusy oak and vanilla. Savoury butter pastry. Grist. Black pepper and paprika.

Taste: Big, fiery arrival. Lots of pepper. Black pepper. Cayenne pepper. Sea Salt. Charred meats. Hot, spicy smoke. Liquorice. Also, some vanilla and honey and some cereal notes come through on the finish with smoke and paprika. A splash of water smoothed off some of the rough edges, toning down the peppery heat and bringing out more of the honeyed, malty character.

Thoughts: This one pretty much delivers everything you’d expect from such a young Islay malt. It’s fiery and aggressive but also has a softer side where the vanilla and honey come to the fore.

Laphroaig isn’t usually the heaviest of spirits but there’s a nice weight on the palate and in any case, the intensity of flavour will have you feeling like you’re chewing on coal.

Value for money: It’s sad that a 6-year-old whisky should cost £75 but that’s where we are with Islay whisky these days. Certainly, I’ve paid more for younger and this one ticks all the boxes for a peat-head like me.

Nothing surprising, just Islay doing what it does best.

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For more on Dràm Mòr please visit here

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