You wait ages to find a single cask Dalmore from an independent bottler, and two come a long at once. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a brilliant Cadenhead’s Dalmore, which was finished in a rum cask. This week, whilst browsing my local whisky specialist, Gauntleys, I picked up one of the Hunter Laing & Co ‘Old Malt Cask’ range. There aren’t too many indie Dalmore whiskies around, and I’m super keen to explore them. Sure, Richard Paterson, Lord High Blender at The Dalmore, puts together some exquisite vattings from this distillery, using all sorts of exotic casks from the finest vineyards and bodegas, but it’s nice to see the building blocks of a whisky sometimes. I wanted to know: what’s Dalmore like without much fuss and cask wizardry?
And also I’m quietly impressed with the Old Malt Cask whiskies, from Hunter Laing. They seem superbly priced and those that I’ve tried have always been good. (I remember being gutted that a particular Mortlach I tried at one festival had sold out by the time I was ready to throw my cash at the festival shop.) The range has been around for a while – about 15 years or so, which makes it pretty well established in the single cask world. There’s something very pleasing about the old-fashioned nature of their packaging. There’s just no fuss – almost no marketing, no spin; and in this day and age I like that approach. You often see their stalls at whisky festivals, so you should definitely check out what they’ve got to offer if you see them.
Anyway. The bottle I bought is very much a Dalmore that plays with a straight bat. No fancy finishes, no wine casks. Just a decent amount of time in old-fashioned Bourbon. It’s very conservative. It’s a silver-topped, Daily Telegraph-reading, church on a Sunday morning and bed by 9pm sort of Dalmore – and I’m fine with that. I suppose in some ways it makes for interesting analysis of the spirit, particularly as a fan of the distillery’s output.
The Old Malt Cask Dalmore was distilled in 1996, bottled in 2013 at 50% ABV. It’s one of 371 bottles, and came in at £65.
In the mouth: that is a gorgeous texture, lovely and oily. Many of those aromas come through in the taste: honey again, barley sugar, toffee, and citrus. There’s a huge warmth here, such as you’d get from the ginger topping for an apple pie. It’s a wonderful late-summer feeling: spiced crab apples, a little earthiness; with ever so slight touches of floral, grassy notes in the background. The flavours are not those I’d commonly associate with Dalmore, but that texture is certainly there. Vanilla towards the finish, with just a touch of spice from the wood (though not much at all).
It’s really very good. At £65, it’s bloody good. Seriously. 50% ABV just feels perfect. And the age is spot on – much longer in the wood and it might have started to take the edge off the whisky. This is one of those perfect everyday, feel-good drams. If you don’t like Dalmore, then I think this will surprise you.
There may be a bottle of this left at Gaunteys, which does have an online store. I’m sure there are others squirreled away in various places if you look hard enough. If you can’t be bothered, then I guess you can say this is as much an endorsement of the Old Malt Cask range – which really, honestly, I should have been championing ages ago.