Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
This week I find myself in the rather enviable position of sampling a range of intriguing single cask expressions from independent bottler, Dràm Mòr.
Based out of Dumbarton, Dràm Mòr bottles Scotch whiskies from distilleries all over the country, providing whisky lovers with plenty of choice when it comes to naturally presented, single cask spirits.
Full disclosure: Below you’ll find my tasting notes and conclusions on five unique Scotch whiskies. Please note that I was given the samples free of charge but will strive, as always, to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money they represent.
Dràm Mòr Blair Athol 11-year-old Single Malt
The first dram comes from Blair Athol Distillery in Highland Perthshire. It was matured for 11 years in a refill hogshead before being bottled at 56% abv.
Smell: Fresh fruit. Apples, pears, oranges and lemons. Pineapple juice. Vanilla fudge. There’s also a nice maltiness which brings through notes of oatcakes and digestive biscuits. The gentle prickle of pepper. Honey.
Taste: Like the nose, it’s the fruits that appear first. Apple, especially. That develops into some subtle oak and soon there’s caramel coming through. Toffee and vanilla. A little bit bready and some more bitter oak on the finish.
Thoughts: A fine example that showcases the age-old technique of pairing a good spirit with a decent cask and then allowing nature to play its part. It really does feel like a good cask. In fact, it comes across more like a first fill than a refill. Overall, it does a good job of showcasing the natural character of Blair Athol, complimented by the flavour of the oak and at 11 years old, it’s been bottled at the sort of age we used to take for granted. Good, solid offering this one.
Price: £70. Reasonable given the age and scarcity of this single cask expression.
Dràm Mòr Mannochmore 13-year-old Single Cask
This 13-year-old single malt comes from Mannochmore Distillery in Speyside. The whisky was matured in a refill hogshead and bottled at 54.8% abv.
Smell: Bready. Biscuity. Malty. Runny honey. Lots of fruits. Tinned fruit cocktail. Slight solvent note. Perhaps even a little wood varnish. Sawdust too. New oak. A splash of water brought some grist and dry barley flour.
Taste: Lovely, fully-flavoured arrival with lots of honey and caramel sweetness. Slowly, some gingery spice comes through to warm up the experience before some of the refill oak makes its presence felt at the back of the palate. There’s also apple and orange peel. Black pepper.
Thoughts: On the face of it, this seems like a fairly standard Speyside, but scratch the surface and there’s a lot more going on. Once again, Dràm Mòr has been really successful in balancing spirit and cask, with neither taking too much of a lead. Beyond the sweet, fruity foreground, there’s meatiness and spice that elevate the whisky to something altogether more intriguing and make it all the more worthy of further exploration. Straight-forward but also subtly complex. Really interesting wee drop.
Price: £66. Interesting, engaging wee dram at a decent price.
Dràm Mòr Speyside 8-year-old Single Malt
Next up, is an 8-year-old malt, produced at Speyside Distillery. It’s been finished in an ex-Moscatel cask and bottled at 51.7% abv.
Smell: A bit nutty and musky. Salted peanuts. A subtle wee struck match sulphur note. Cask char. Floral honey and caramel. Marmalade with lots of peel. Dried fruits. Grape juice. Ginger. Cinnamon. Pepper.
Taste: Grapey again – both fresh and dried. Honey and orange peel. Grapefruit. Lime. Black pepper. Dry, oaky finish with currants.
Thoughts: There’s some really interesting flavours in this dram. Perhaps it’s my own relative inexperience with Moscatel but it feels like a whisky you should take your time with – a dram that isn’t instantly understood and one that shouldn’t be written off too early. The finishing cask dominates but it isn’t in such a way that you forget you’re drinking whisky. There’s enough familiarity in the underlying base flavours to give you a platform from which to figure out the rest of it. A bit unusual but ultimately rewarding.
Price: £61. Good price, just don’t give up on it too soon.
Dràm Mòr Glen Garioch 10-year-old Single Malt
The whisky was distilled at Glen Garioch Distillery in Oldmeldrum and aged for 11 years, including a period in a hogshead which previously held an Islay single malt. That should add an interesting new dimension to this usually unpeated Highland dram. The whisky is bottled at 57.1% abv.
Smell: I’m picking up lots of barley character to begin with – it’s malty and gristy with oatcakes, biscuit, baking bread, honey and vanilla. There is, however, a definite aroma of smoke and ash. More prominent than I expected. Also some lemon and lime. Fresh apples and, after water, green bananas.
Taste: Caramel, honey, vanilla. Pepper. Oak. The strong presence of ashy smoke, once again. Also apple juice. Lemon zest. Big, smoky finish. A splash of water brought some creamy malt character to the fore, particularly on the arrival but things still ended in a puff of smoke.
Thoughts: I don’t think I’ve come across another “peated cask finish” that has quite so much smoke to it. The peat feels integrated and very much part of the dram, rather than a subtle suggestion that lingers on the periphery. Crucially, though, there’s a lot of Glen Garioch here, too. The malty, honeyed characteristics are present and correct and actually work very, very well with the peated cask.
Price: £85. Seems pricey in comparison with some of the other drams in this batch but still isn’t too extreme. Good dram in any case, and offers something a bit different.
Dràm Mòr Tullibardine 8-year-old Single Malt
The final dram in the selection is a single cask, cask strength, single malt, produced at Tullibardine Distillery. It’s bottled at 53.7% abv and matured in an ex-oloroso sherry cask.
Smell: Rich and nutty. Lots of dried fruits (as you’d expect from the oloroso cask). Raisins, sultanas, figs, prunes… Orange liqueur. Walnuts and hazelnuts. Tobacco leaves. Dark chocolate. Slightly burnt caramel. Damp oak. A wee bit of cherry. Cinnamon and nutmeg.
Taste: Big, powerful arrival. Sweet raisins battle with spicy pepper for your attention. Then currants and cinnamon. Caramel and chocolate. Orange and cherry. Dark honey. Oak.
Thoughts: I find Tullibardine’s spirit to lack a little personality, sometimes. The positive aspect of that, however, is that it can pair with a variety of different casks without much of a struggle. Certainly, it’s proving to be a decent carrier for the flavours of the oloroso cask here. Even in terms of weight and mouthfeel, it has enough to support the rich sherry. Maybe the lack of spirit character coming through could be viewed as a drawback but I don’t think that’ll really matter to someone that enjoys a big sherry bomb. It certainly didn’t bother me or affect my enjoyment of the dram. An affordable dollop of warming, sherry goodness.
Price: £55.95. Great price. Great dram. A total bargain, in fact.
Dràm Mòr has been sending me samples for a while now, which means I’ve been fortunate enough to sample a good number of their releases. The quality Kenny and Viktorija have been able to achieve on a consistent basis is nothing short of exceptional and, given the difficulties faced by indie bottlers in securing good stocks at good prices, they have been able to keep their prices at a sensible level.
This latest batch had some real crackers, but of particular interest and most worthy of recommendation, in my opinion would have to be that sherried Tullibardine. It’s just so hard to beat the sherry bomb experience when you’re in the mood for it and this one delivers everything you could ask for at a brilliant price.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, however, then I’d point you in the direction of the peated Glen Garioch or the unusual Moscatel-finished Speyside. Whatever your tastes though, I reckon Dràm Mòr has got you covered here.
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For more on Dràm Mòr visit https://drammorgroup.com/