Sometimes you unearth a whisky that’s so intense, so complex, that it takes many nights to get to understand it properly. I suppose it’s like inviting some mad French philosopher into your home for a chat about the situation in the Middle East. Things can be a bit intense at times, but it’s a rewarding experience in the end.
That’s a bit what this Dalmore whisky from Cadenhead’s is like – rewarding and intense. I’ve said plenty about Cadenhead’s in the past, including this in-depth interview with Mark Watt. One of Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers, they always release some fascinating and affordable single cask whiskies.
And long-time readers of Malt will note my soft spot for Dalmore. Yes, some of their whiskies are luxury items that will probably sit on a shelf or pass hands at auction rather than being drunk, which is one of life’s great sadness, because I believe the whisky to be generally very put together in a way that always tickles my tastebuds.
So it’s safe to say that it’s not often you get a 24 year old Dalmore for under £600 these days, let alone £90. But that’s what Cadenhead’s have just released. This was distilled at Dalmore distillery in 1990, shifted to an ex-rum cask in February 2006, and bottled as a 24 year old at 54.9& ABV.
Colour: tawny, and a little rust-coloured iron in there too. On the nose: maple syrup and molasses; generally quite a sweet first note, but once that settles there’s tons going on. The aromas move from blood oranges to game meat to liqueur chocolates. Ever so slight menthol streak to this, then black tea, and with a return to luscious sweetness I’m reminded more of a single cask bourbon from earlier in the year.
In the mouth: not an obvious match up with the nose, but surprising mixture of flavours. It’s big and bold. Blood oranges come through. Herbal: sage and thyme. Then for me it gets meaty in the manner that proper old Mortlach and Craigellachie get meaty. Very chewy stuff. Really warming spices. Muscovado sugar. The rum finish is lending it again that single cask bourbon edge – a deep, ingrained sweetness, with a lot of warmth from the cask. Slightly interesting cloying feeling in the mouth. The wood is doing something again here: tannins, perhaps. Intense, complex, delicious.
If you’ve been out in the field, in miserable weather, I can think of no better non-peated whisky right now to stoke your inner fires than this. It is glorious in any season.
Sadly, I bought this bottle when there were only 9 left, and now it looks as if they’re mostly gone. So if this is going to be anywhere it will be at auction. I think the thing to conclude is to keep checking out what’s going on with independent bottlers like Cadenhead’s, as you’ll find some absolute gems and properly good prices.