I like Dalmore. They might not be the flavour of the day among whisky geeks (and I count myself as one); and their exclusive editions, which sell for eye-watering prices, are a little frustrating for us mere mortals. That said, the Dalmore is my guilty pleasure. The distillery is located in the Highlands, overlooking the Cromarthy Firth. Owned by Whyte and Mackay, its whisky is produced under the guidance of the legendary master distiller, Richard Paterson – a.k.a. ‘the nose’.
I’ve enjoyed The Dalmore 12 Year Old, the 15 Year Old, and those Rivers Collection whiskies that I’ve tried. Each of them is different, yet they still possess that core Dalmore texture: a thick, luscious mouth feel. And I am a man who likes nicely textured whiskies.
So I recently purchased The Dalmore 18 Year Old for a shade under £90. It’s been sitting in American oak for 14 years, then 3 more years Matusalem sherry butts. Finally it’s polished off for a year in sherry butt, before being bottled at 43% ABV. That’s actually a touch more than your usual Dalmore, which clocks in at 40%.
Colour: golden syrup. On the nose: layer upon layer of sweetness. Brown sugar, syrup, molasses all comes to the fore. Then wait a second and you find something more complex. Blood orange, leaning towards orange marmalade. Dried apricots. The crisp burnt sugar on the top of a crème brûlée. Hints of grapefruit.
In the mouth: once again a sublime texture, a fraction oily. All those notes on the nose come through, but it’s not as insanely sweet as you might expect. On top of that are some interesting spices. Bitter chocolate. Tobacco. Black pepper. Stewed apples. Buttery. Each time you take a sip there’s a little more to be found. A long, long nutty finish, which is rather mouth-watering.
Is it the best Dalmore I’ve had? The 18 is very good, but does not blow my mind. I would like to see a much stronger release – perhaps something over 50%. (I’m kicking myself for not buying an indie bottling of a cask strength Dalmore a couple of months ago.) I realise at this point that I’m getting into Very Picky Territory, where I’m starting to expect more from a favourite distillery. So far I think the 15 Year Old is the best value for money Dalmore, and I’d still be happy to recommend the 12 Year Old for people to try first if they wanted to get an idea for what Dalmore is about. If the 18 Year Old had been stronger, I can’t help but think it would have been a more intense experience – and that would have been worth the £90 entry fee.