There are moments when whisky feels like a Hollywood casting couch. Not the smoke and mirrors of what truly lies beneath, but rather the reality of age being a taboo subject. For some actors and actresses, mother nature and the focus on youth and beauty results in a limited shelf life. In whisky it’s the reverse with a youthful vibrancy being deemed surplus to requirements.
Age is only up for debate or even mentioned on the label when it suits the distillery. Instead as any trip to an airport duty free environment will confirm, its all about the stories. Wrap a bottle around a legend, fabrication or marketing spiel and you have a release primed and ready. With a stream of Instagram accounts easily swayed you’re good for launch. The whisky itself is placed further down the list, which is dominated by margins and profit. After all, who needs a drinkable whisky?
With all of this in mind, isn’t it utterly fabulous to see an age statement such as this bottle before us? Just 4 years old. Read it and weep. This is commercial suicide for some brands out there who like to charge you more for less by pulling the wool over your eyes or hiding behind some clandestine Scottish Whisky Association rule. You’ve probably been drinking some 4 year old whiskies or thereabouts recently without knowing it, but at least with this Càrn Mòr you know exactly what you’re purchasing.
This release forms part of the Strictly Limited offering which is their entry level single malt brand representing value. We’ve reviewed a couple of these previously on Malt with a 7 year old Dufftown, a very original 6 year old Knockdhu release and a pleasant 11 year old Inchgower. Generally these are whiskies from lesser known names and along with being young are often vattings of several casks. Depending on the age and distillery, you can pick up an entry in this series from anywhere between £35-£50 that offers decent value for a single malt. For the record this Dailuaine will set you back around £35.
Mark recently reviewed a clutch of whiskies from the Celebration of the Cask range that represents the next step up, whilst I reviewed a 20 year old Clynelish that was more cask than distillery. Since then we’ve even gone further at Malt by trying the pinnacle of the Càrn Mòr range dubbed Black Gold with a confused 20 year old Bunnahabhain. These higher-priced brackets based on my recent experiences are more cask dominated and I find myself looking back towards the Strictly Limited range. Why exactly? Well, it gives you a chance to experience the distillery character or its DNA through the new make spirit that has had a minimal courtship with the wood. Plus it’s not exactly break-the-bank material either.
Here at Malt we like to offer variety and the unexpected. Whilst Mark is rampaging across Europe, I find myself drawn towards writing about Scottish distilleries you rarely see as single malts or those that I haven’t had much opportunity to write about sometimes. A perfect example is the Speyside distillery, Dailuaine.
The distillery name is Gaelic for green valley and its situated near Aberlour and can be traced back to 1852 during the crest of another whisky boom. It’s main claim to fame is having the first pagoda roof installed in 1889 following refurbishments by Charles Doig. This design was soon to be adopted across Scotland and in doing so became the recognisable symbol for a distillery. Sadly the original example was destroyed by fire in 1917. Throughout most of its life, it has been a provider for blends with Johnnie Walker being a major recipient. Interestingly, the distillery in 2015 was selected by Diageo to fill the shoes of Clynelish that was having to close for its first major refurbishment. Internal changes were made to the normal distillation to amplify the gentle waxiness that Dailuaine can display. With Clynelish now back online, Dailuaine can return to its former role and slip back into the shadows. It’ll be interesting to try some of the Clynelish-style casks if they ever do come into the independent realm, but for now we’re jumping back 4 years to 2012.
Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited Dailuaine 2012 – review
A vatting of 2 ex-bourbon casks at 46% with no added colour and no chill filtration, resulting in an outturn of 735 bottles.
Colour: white grapes.
On the nose: a vibrant assortment of fruit with apricots, melon and Kiwi. This softens revealing more traditional orchard fruits and yes a gentle waxiness. Vanilla tablet provides the sugary element. A weathered orange resides beneath alongside a creaminess that comes through once you leave it to rest for a while.
In the mouth: interesting, it has a long-decayed finish that is probably a mix of charcoal from the cask and pepper almost verging on smokiness. Back up to the beginning, we have more traditional Speyside characteristics with pears and almonds. Then more melon and flashes of grapefruit. Flour provides a dryness with mace coming through with the addition of water.
It’s not fully formed on the palate and nor should it be at this age. However, this Dailuaine already has character – particularly on the nose – that shows 4 year old whiskies can deliver. Easy drinking for £35 from an overlooked Speyside distillery. Not a bad effort overall.
My thanks to Robert Graham for the sample