I’m not a big fan of The Dalmore with their excessive pricing of E150-laced, chill-filtered, low ABV, shamelessly over-hyped whiskies. I’ve met and spoken with Richard Paterson – quite a personality, both a hoot and a scholar, and unquestionably one of the most talented blenders alive – and I do like, but don’t like paying the price for, the Castle Leod, the Mackenzie and the Alexander III.
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a line of whiskies out there that is as consistently stunningly good as the line of single cask bottlings from The Exclusive Malts, which are un-colored, un-chill-filtered, cask strength and, considering what you get for your money, fairly priced. I’ve liked every Exclusive Malts dram I’ve drunk and a few of them are among my favorite whiskies of all time.
So, this should be interesting…
Fun Fact 1: “Alexander Matheson, who founded Dalmore in 1839, was a partner in the famous Far East trading company, Jardine Matheson, established by the ‘shogun’ Willam Matheson, who made a vast fortune out of trading opium from China” (Charles MacLean, Whyskypedia, page 125). We can assume, therefore, that Dalmore was founded by folks with a deep and abiding concern for the pleasures of their fellow men.
Fun Fact 2: ‘Dalmore’ is not, like the names of most Scottish distilleries, derived from a Gaelic place name, word or phrase; rather, the word is Norse, meaning ‘big meadowland’.
The whisky under review here is, as suggested above, non-chill-filtered, untainted by E150, drawn from a single cask and bottled at cask strength. The ABV is 53.5 percent. Its color is hay or straw like and its slightly oily consistency makes for rather quick but alluring rivulets running down the sides of the glass.
The nose on this spreads like a big soft blanket over all the nasal concha at once. It’s like eating – with your nose – a banana-butterscotch sundae (whipped heavy cream, but no maraschino cherry) in a restaurant where the kitchen had a fire quenched the night before. Immediately, as distinct as the colors on a color chart, you get doused camp fire, butterscotch, banana and cream. A truly luscious nose. Go in a bit deeper and you get some caramel, orange blossom, dense, clean malt and salted nuts – salted almonds. So far, this nose is presenting like a royal flush. However – why does there always have to be a However? – there is something not quite right. I believe I know what it is, but, at first, I doubt myself: I smell my fingers, wash my hands and think back over the last week’s meals to be sure this aroma isn’t coming from something on or in or around me. Nope, it ain’t me or my surroundings – and it isn’t powerful or overwhelming in any way, not a deal-breaker in the least, but I swear I smell – shallots. Mild shallots. It’s not ruinous to the nose of this fine whisky, but it is just, just prominent enough to be palpably out of place. As you’ll see, this gets confirmed further into this savoring session, so the score will suffer a bit. However, add a wee bit of water and it is much diminished, with oak and a warm sugar cookie aroma coming to the fore. (20/25)
Powerful, pungent, slightly oily, the doused camp fire is de-emphasized here in favor of the butterscotch and savory almonds. The old smoke is there still, but on the palate it is more complimentary. There is a strong, delightful suggestion of vanilla cream wafer cookies. What I at first think is an odd, utter absence of fruit turns out to be dates, a handful of dates with maybe one dried cherry, all surely present but underlying the sweeter and more pungent aspects. There’s a bit of almond paste at cask strength, but add a bit of water and you also get the distinct taste of the Bit-O-Honey candy bar. Farther down in the taste profile, less prominent even than in the nose, taking the form of a very slight bitterness, those shallots again. It doesn’t ruin anything – it just doesn’t fit. (21/25)
Here, finally, even the remotest innuendo of shallots – diced, thriced or otherwise – has been banished. In fact, this is a long, warm, drying, softly spicy finish – a wonderful finish that leaves you with an almond candy wave goodbye! The spice is of the warming kind, sort of an allspice or rich mix of clove with a little cinnamon and maybe just a slight trace of ginger. Water makes it all a bit milder, but equally pleasurable to swallow. Yum. (23/25)
If that slight trace of ‘shallotry’ in the nose and palate were a bothersome frequency I could eliminate with some exacting multi-band equalizer, this whisky would score in the low- to mid-90s. Adding a very distinct smoke to the inherent richness and complex sweetness of character of the Dalmore juice is brilliant – and probably a telling look back at the profile of Dalmores from many decades past. And the move of the almond element from salted nut to almond paste to almond candy going from nose to palate to finish, respectively – well, that’s a beautiful thing. I wish I had another sample of this one, a bottle of my own or a generous friend with an open bottle so I could spend more time with it, just to be sure. If and when that happens – and I’m sure it will – I’ll write a little addendum to this review. (22/25)
Total points for this whisky: 86
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Thanks to ImpEx Beverages and to Katia for the sample.