Recently, Taylor talked about sleeper distilleries citing a Samaroli Braeval as a perfect instance of something remarkable bubbling underneath the radar. An unforeseen culmination of whisky forces; combining to give us a moment to remember. Or the single cask format as it’s known. The glorious rollercoaster of highs and lows that keeps me entertained within the whisky realm.
It’s already common knowledge that Mark and I disagree over the single cask format. A man of Tweed, it seems he prefers to combine casks and create layers of detail. This approach is always fraught with danger as such marriages can clash, or even eradicate features of delight. The subtle differences between single cask oddities versus a more orchestrated approach will be an ongoing debate alongside what is wrong with Jura and why is Glenlivet so dull? Questions that never receive a suitable answer during our lifetime.
Then there are the things we agree upon. For instance, whiskies that are bottled at 40% with a special opt-out clause for the cheapest of blends. Part of me also wants to extend this to 43%, which seems a halfway house when most should actually man or woman-up and give us the acceptable 46% strength. Then further common ground is the use of artificial colouring and this brings us nicely to the Dailuaine 16-year-old, which is the official representative from Diageo that forms part of the Flora and Fauna range.
Dailuaine is a distillery that I have a great deal of time for. I predict we’ll see more interest around it in the coming years. After all, it was chosen to fill the Clynelish void whilst that distillery was rebuilt internally. While we wait with bated breath for Clynelish to rediscover its waxy core characteristic, we at least have this overlooked Speyside producer doing an admirable substitution role.
I’m a fan of Dailuaine and will always consider a single cask release much like those from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Affordable and generally overlooked, I do find that these grow in stature the more time you spend with a bottle. Given the opportunity to review the Flora and Fauna release (thanks Matteo) highlights the difference between this iconic range and the general day to day Dailuaine we see from the independent sector. I’ve always felt the Flora and Fauna range to be elevated in stature with rose tinted glasses and fond memories twisting the reality of the product. The whiskies themselves, on the whole, tend to be over-engineered and not truly representative of the distillery.
Pouring a sample of this release for review, looking at the bottle, the eye-catching aspect is the sheer vivid colour. It’s frankly ridiculous and atrocious that we’re still seeing releases laced with colouring like this. I just don’t see the benefit? Memories of the now deleted and atrocious Bowmore Black Rock are revived. A creation so saturated in artificial colouring that you could taste it and the rejection from your internal organs as they were coated in a fake tan.
Of course, it is perfectly legal to add caramel colouring to a whisky, otherwise known as E150a. Water-soluble it has been used in whisky for as long as we can remember. Its application is to change the natural colour. There are voices that highlight that caramel itself is derived from sugar and that this must influence the whisky at hand. For the majority of the time, the answer is no, even for the most ardent of Columbo palates when used sparingly. When the excessive application is pursued then I believe the flavours are influenced.
For blenders, it is an important tool to foster consistency of appearance. It’s also a marketing trick. The richer the colour, then onlookers will assume a whisky is sherry matured and potentially of greater age. An immediate correlation is made by the onlooker with quality in mind. We’re also seeing distilleries becoming wiser to the accepted core rules around the presentation of a whisky. Natural colour is a popular preference nowadays and often reflective of the cask. The use of more 1st fill sherry casks and smaller cask types all bring that colour emphasis back into the hands of the distillery. Rather than letting time do its work and produce the rich seam of virtual detail that shines like a beacon on the shop floor.
For this Dailuaine we do have sherry casks within the make-up of this creation but not in the quantity to provide this leathery appearance. Artificial colouring is here and to many experienced onlookers, it has been applied recklessly and without abandon. Visually at least that’s my suspicion and the only way to investigate further is to step into the review itself.
Dailuaine 16 Year Old Flora and Fauna – review
Colour: A rich caramel.
On the nose: Honeycomb, brown toast and a yeasty element. Then toffee, syrup and that fake plastic leather followed by a metallic aspect. Oaty biscuits, black pepper and dried fruits.
In the mouth: Very gentle with toffee, elements of chocolate and a metallic finish. Coffee beans and a resonating bitterness midway that drifts into the finish. Walnuts provide a nutty aspect. Is this it? Ginger, brass shavings and a hint of smoke.
This is just too engineered and you can taste the colouring, which has been thickly applied. This isn’t the Dailuaine that I know and enjoy today. A bastard whisky, created in a lab for the masses. I’m left cold and disappointed.
If you’re looking to discover the charms of Dailuaine then please look to the independents and give this official offering a wide berth.