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Support The Small Independent Bottlers!
Being able to support small independent bottlers is one of the best things about doing this blog. These small, often family-owned, businesses seem to share the same passion for whisky as the customers who buy their bottles. They take pride in the quality of the liquid they release and that builds trust with their clientele.
Dràm Mòr are one such bottler. They’re still relatively new to the market but have been absolutely smashing it with their last few releases. Let’s see what their latest batch has to offer…
*Full disclosure: The whiskies featured in this article were sent to me 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.
10-year-old Blair Athol Single Cask
Blair Athol is a Diageo-owned distillery in the Perthshire town of Pitlochry, near the geographical centre of Scotland. This 10-year-old single malt was matured in a bourbon cask before being bottled at 54.7%. Retails for £73.00
Smell: Lots of grains to begin with. Malt. Muesli. Loads of honey, as well. Straw. Butter. Vanilla. Caramel and butterscotch. Also some lemon citrus notes and apple and pear.
Taste: Werther’s Originals caramel candy. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Toffee. Some gentle, comforting warmth from an array of baking spices. A bit of a bourbon bomb! After some time in the mouth a blast of fruits come through – apple, pear, orange… A slight brown sugar note.
Thoughts: I don’t come across Blair Athol single casks very often. On this evidence, that’s a bit of a shame because this is really rather good. The dominance of the bourbon cask has created a really wholesome, comforting dram. It’s like a liquid hug. I like that the fruitiness of the spirit cuts through though. It creates a more balanced experience and shows that the dram has more to offer than bourbony sweetness.
Value for money: It isn’t the cheapest 10-year-old you’ll ever buy but it’s not too extreme for an outturn of a mere 200(ish) bottles. I liked it enough to pay £73 for it.
11-year-old Ben Nevis Single Cask (finished in PX sherry)
Ben Nevis distillery lies at the foot of the mountain that shares its name in Fort William in the western Highlands of Scotland. This single malt has been matured for a total of 11 years, including a finishing period in a first fill Pedro Ximenez sherry cask. Bottled at 54% it should retail around £76
Smell: Fragrant, almost floral. Grassy. Malty. Straw. Grist and barley flour. Honey, apple, lemon. Subtle PX finish with a raisiny note and some spices – cayenne pepper – adds a little depth.
Taste: Toffee. Chocolate and caramel bars. Dried fruits. Woody spices. Oak tannins. The sherry influence is more noticeable on the palate than on the nose. There’s a nice natural oily texture. Nutty. Almond marzipan. Turns fruity towards the finish. Apple cider with cinnamon. Malty, fresh oak finish.
Thoughts: There’s a sort of graceful elegance and poise to this whisky. Everything exists in precise balance. PX can so easily become the dominant character when not kept in check but this has been done beautifully. Nice length on the finish.
Value for money: It’ll cost you close to £80 for a bottle but it’s a fine whisky from a distillery that seems to get better with each passing year. I’m not totally convinced at that price but it’s good enough to be tempting.
8-year-old Craigellachie Single Cask
The Craigellachie Distillery lies at the heart of the famous Speyside region. This expression was matured for eight years in a bourbon cask before being bottled at 56.8%. Should be available for around £59
Smell: Fudgy. A bit of aggressive spirit heat. Straw. Malt. Dry grass. Almost floral – makes me think of the summer. Heather honey. Caramel and brown sugar. Agave syrup. Solvent. Typical Craigellachie meaty note is present and correct – reminds me of Pork chops! Water shifts the meatiness front and centre but also reveals some lemon and orange citrus notes.
Taste: Sweet caramel and toffee arrival. Turning malty. Biscuits and honey. Lovely chewy mouthfeel. Citrus oak. Big helping of pepper. Spicy oak finish. There’s almost a suggestion of smoke at the end – possibly the result of some oak char. A splash of water increases the oiliness and tones down the pepper. Better as a result.
Thoughts: My favourite of the batch so far. Craigellachie is such a character malt. It stands out among so many Speyside whiskies. It is different. Unique and wonderful. The spirit tends to turn tropical the older it gets but at 8 years there’s still enough of that sulphury meatiness to create something really interesting. Almost like Speyside’s answer to Laphroaig. Some will love it, some will hate it. Count me in the former group.
Value for money: Also the most reasonably priced thus far. I’d have no qualms about snapping it up for £60. Bargain.
9-year-old Glenrothes Single Cask (Amontillado sherry finish)
Another Speyside distillery, Glenrothes distillery lies approximately 3 miles from Craigellachie, where the previous sample was distilled. This one was matured for a total of 9 years, including a finish in a first fill Amontillado sherry cask. Bottled at 57%, it retails at £68.50
Smell: Aromatic sherry. Prunes and figs. Honey. Apple juice. Walnut and almonds. New oak. Sawdust. Caramel. A little bit herbal. Tobacco leaves. Water releases a touch of citrus.
Taste: Caramel on arrival. Quickly develops into sherry with a touch of acid. Currants. Balsamic. Oak tannins. Varnish. Pepper and ginger. Woody finish with a touch of malt and more peppery spice.
Value for money: I’ve never been totally convinced by Glenrothes. I’ve had some good ones, particularly independent bottlings, but often I find it falls a little flat. It’s like someone decided it should go into sherry casks at some point but I’m not actually convinced it’s completely suited to it.
That said, I like the Amontillado here. The finish has integrated well and added some interesting notes but I think maybe the spirit underneath isn’t quite hitting the spot for me. It’s a bit spirity. A bit plain. Not for me this one but the finish almost saved it.
Thoughts: Quite reasonably priced for a single cask bottling but unfortunately it’s a pass for me on this one.
8-year-old Deanston Single Cask (Palo Cortado sherry finish)
Deanston distillery stands near Doune in Stirlingshire. Though considered a Highland distillery, it lies south of the fault line that creates the mountain ranges of Scotland’s north. This single malt has been aged for 8 years. This time the finish comes from a Palo Cortado seasoned cask. It’s bottled at 55.3% and should retail for £71.50
Smell: Like a bakery. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Bread fresh out the oven. Sultana cake with marmalade. Lemon curd and honey. Orange juice. Oak and barley malt.
Taste: Nice oily texture with good weight on the palate. More of those baking spices. Sherry – raisins and sultanas. Currants. Chocolate orange. Orange liqueur. Dry, prickly oak spice on the finish. With water the arrival leaned towards caramel and toffee with a buttery note. More marmalade and cocoa powder.
Thoughts: The Palo Cortado has worked beautifully with the Deanston spirit to create something robust and complex. It’s weighty, fully flavoured and warming without ever burning the palate. More the suggestion of spice, rather than any actual heat. It all makes for a rather indulgent, luxurious experience that is very, very moreish. Great stuff.
Value for money: I would have no issues whatsoever paying £70 for a bottle. It’s well worth it.
Conclusions: Another fine selection from Dràm Mòr. Only the Glenrothes failed to do it for me but 4 out of 5 certainly isn’t bad. Narrowing things down a little, the Deanston is probably the standout of the batch, in my opinion, though the Craigellachie is a real character and a close second. The Blair Athol pips the Ben Nevis into third place as a solid if unspectacular offering and the Glenrothes brings up the rear as a dram that will no doubt satisfy some but sadly didn’t do it for me.
A delight to sample all five. They should be available at specialist retailers soon, if they’re not already, so be sure to look out for them.
Thanks to all at Dràm Mòr.
For more on Dram Mor visit here.