Cadenhead’s Dalmore 16 year old

Dalmore 16 review

Recently I’ve been accused of being a Dalmore fanboy having completed my Custodians Millennium Collection. That’s as a result of starting the whole series dynamic and being a stubborn fool and seeing it through to the bitter end.

Dalmore isn’t a whisky that I particularly enjoy or seek the company of. The branding of the official range is rather splendid and having frequented the Alness area for many years now, I can confirm the odd stag does indeed pose a problem when driving through the countryside. It’s an encounter you don’t seek or wish on anyone. Funnily enough, this is partially how I feel about the whisky.

Richard Paterson is mainly responsible for reviving the Dalmore. For this, he deserves great credit, but then you have the negatives with the layering of wine casks – or another fancy proclaimed cask – before lacing the final product with enough artificial colouring to make Kraft’s Cheesy Pasta complain. Then, the added demons of chill filtration and the minimum alcohol strength of 40% turn up to join the party. For a time Dalmore almost disappeared off the single malt consciousness until the upward trend of recent times, where it’s firmly established itself as a luxurious, blue-chip distillery, or prime tumbler and ice territory depending on your point of view.

Let’s talk about one of the mistruths peddled by the industry, or in particular Glenfiddich. There seems to be this misconception that the Speyside distillery was the first exponent of the single malt worldwide. In reality, there were several distilleries proudly bottling under their own name long before such a claim. These may or may not have had success internationally, instead content to distribute locally or south of the border. An exception to the rule is the Dalmore exporting its single malt during the 1870’s as far abroad as Australia and the Far East. A remarkable achievement and underling the quality of the distillery.

Of course, the whisky back then compared to its modern counterpart will be totally different. We won’t venture into the efficiencies and changes across the industry that have stacked up and changed the whisky forever. The point being that Dalmore has always been able to stand on its own 2 feet and offer a satisfying experience. It’s resurrection and subsequent summit assault is admirable, but the official whiskies today are mainly trophy bottles or easy sipping that just don’t do enough. The intriguing aspect looking ahead is what the Dalmore will become. It seems unlikely that it’ll deviate from its current formula or price range. We have several Dalmore reviews on Malt confirming that Mark is a closet fan of the distillery.

Moving on, recently I was hosting an around the world tasting in London. Just 5-10 years ago this would have been a perilous expedition yet as a regular visitor to Malt, you’ll know there are some fine whiskies being made across the hemisphere. The most difficult aspect of putting together the 6 bottles for the evening was selecting a Scottish representative. I always enjoy doing the exact opposite of what’s expected. Dalmore is a distillery that isn’t widely available as an independent bottling and when a cask does appear, it tends to sell rather well. I’ve always firmly believed this is because many enthusiasts want to experience a naked Dalmore. A whisky that lacks the heavy hand of the master blender. When Cadenhead’s released this 16 year old it promptly vanished. However, stumbling across a bottle at a later date, I felt it would offer something memorable and stimulating for the evening.

The single cask only produced 180 bottles at an inviting 48.9% strength. Finished for just under 3 years in a sherry hogshead – remember a smaller cask means more interaction – this was priced at around £70. We were fortunate that on the day of our tasting the London Cadenhead’s shop found a couple of bottles that attendees promptly snapped up. The power of modern technology combined with the benefit of a tasting. The best form of marketing remains word of mouth and trying before you buy. Speaking of which, let’s spend a little more time naked…

Cadenhead’s Dalmore 16 year old – review

Colour: honeycomb

On the nose: a pleasing assortment of roasted coffee beans and Jaffa cakes – that’s orange peel and dark chocolate. There’s a sponge element from the wood, caramel and cardamom. There’s a little rustiness which I enjoy, that slight metallic decay followed by fudge and black pepper. Water, as expected, brings more lightness and oils. Marzipan springs to mind alongside cracked walnuts.

In the mouth: more of the orange but the dark chocolate come through more so. Also very drinkable at cask strength. Digestives, apricot, almonds and on the finish a leathery quality that almost verges upon a rubber band. There are also wood chips, spent tobacco and tannins on the finish. Water ups the nuttiness, caramel and tablet.


A fortunate choice for the tasting and a whisky that was well received on the night. We often dismiss the importance of a setting and environment within the whisky experience. Yes, for some this bottling will lack a fruity dynamic and features a strong influence from the sherry hogshead, but on the evening amongst friends and whisky discoveries it went down rather well. Stay classy London.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Jens says:

    I’m one of those that really enjoy Dalmore, but I’ll also gladly admit I’ve never bought an official bottling, I stick to the independent bottlers instead.
    The spirit itself can be utterly stunning, one of the best in my opinion, but it needs to be unsullied, so to speak, by colouring and chillfiltration.
    And importantly, it needs time in the cask, preferably +20 years, but that’s a subjective opinion, as with most things relating to whisky.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Jens, thanks for dropping in and giving your thoughts on Dalmore. I agree, it could do better and nowadays is best served by the independent bottlers. It’s such a shame as I do think there is greatness but its been hammered into something else for the official range. A style of whisky that doesn’t feel comfortable in the glass and is more representative of the wood or blender than the essence of Dalmore. Cheers.

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