I find whisky pairings challenging. In my experiences to date I’ve found that whisky errs towards being complementary rather than providing a true augmentation of either the liquid or the pairing itself. Aromas and flavours meld or offset, rather than fundamentally alter in composition in the manner which you find with wine. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy experimenting with accompaniments to my whisky - on rare occasion I’ve experienced some great combinations, but these seem hard to sustain throughout a paired meal or specific flight. Producers are constantly trying to persuade me otherwise. Often in a manner which feels entirely forced - there’s only so many artisan chocolates I can take.
Dalmore Dominium sits at the top of the distillery’s Fortuna Meritas Collection. It is comprised of white that’s been matured in American white oak and finished in Matusalem sherry casks. What’s a matusalem you ask? It’s a sherry cask that’s been enriched (read sweetened) with 25% Pedro Ximenez. It’s a VORS sherry meaning that the casks used must be at least 30 years or older. The expression is bottled at a ABV of 43% as opposed to the other Fortuna Meritas Collection entries which all come in at 40%. It’s delivered in a standard 70cl bottle and is available from Master of Malt for £97.36 as of writing.
Dalmore’s larger than life Master Blender Richard Patterson has a reputation for experimenting with wide arrays of cask types. Take the Quintessence, released to celebrate Patterson’s 50 years in the industry, for example – there you have five different Californian red wines (all unique varietals) combined together for five years of finishing on top of an initial (probably quite lengthy) ex-bourbon maturation. Skilful stuff to achieve an overall balance – and an expensive resulting whisky. But, there’s another example of Patterson’s blending craft that is in some ways even more impressive, and certainly a lot cheaper – King Alexander III.
Dalmore Luceo, translated as ‘I shine’ from Latin is the 3rd part of the distillery’s Fortuna Meritas Collection. Again, like many Dalmore expressions, its origins lie in American white oak, but this has been enriched through the use of Apostoles sherry casks. Apostoles is a type of sherry from Gonzales Byass that is designated at VORS: Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum – or Very Old Rare Sherry. Only sherry casks 30 years or older can bear this designation. Luceo comes in a standard 70cl bottle (despite being a travel retail expression), and is bottled at 40%. You can pick a bottle up from Master of Malt for £78.30.
The Internet has had a profound impact on the whisky industry. Its speed and reach have introduced swathes of new enthusiasts. Its breadth has greatly increased consumer knowledge. And its pervasiveness has, at least to a certain degree, democratised the accessibility and availability of an ever growing number of bottlings. But, at its heart, it is a sea of bias, disparagement and sometimes outright meanness. Much of this stems from human nature – people are biased, judgmental and mean – the Internet merely provides a platform to vocalise these inner tendencies without penalty. Whisky appreciation is far from impervious to this – indeed, there are times when it feels like it’s becoming as polarised as our society.
Dalmore Regalis is part of the Fortuna Meritas Collection originally released in 2017 for travel retail, but now commonly available. Drawing its name from the Latin for ‘regal’ or ‘royal’, the bottling is a combination of American white and first fill amoroso sherry casks. Amoroso is a type of oloroso sherry that has been enriched (sweetened). It comes in a litre bottle at 40% ABV and is available from Master of Malt for £67.
Dalmore’s Valour was first released in 2015 as a global travel retail exclusive – it was added in to the Fortuna Meritas Collection subsequent to the initial announcement of the new range. It’s therefore the only bottle in the Collection without a proper Latin name. I’m somewhat surprised that once Valour joined the other Fortuna Meritas bottlings that it didn’t have its name updated to match the other expressions – ‘Virtus’ as the Latin version of valour would work perfectly to my mind. But, I’m sure that having established the bottling as Valour and once sales figures were tallied, commercially there was no need to mess with the branding.
Dalmore 12 year old is matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks. Then half of the liquid is re-racked into ex-oloroso (Matusalem style – an aged solera, where PX has been added to sweeten) sherry casks for a further 3 years of finishing, whilst the remainder continues to slumber in ex-bourbon. This latest edition was first released in 2008 replacing the previous 12 year old Dalmore and is quite dark in colour – certainly much darker than one might expect for a single malt where only 50% of the liquid has been matured in sherry casks for just three years. So, it is highly likely that E150a caramel colourant is in play here. The bottling is delivered at 40% and costs around £40 here in the UK.
Located in Alness, a few miles north of Inverness is Dalmore distillery. In the early part of the 20th Century the site was repurposed by the Royal Navy to produce munitions and sea mines – one of which detonated and destroyed much of the site in an accidental explosion in 1920. Nowadays, the distillery and much of its whisky is positioned by owners Whyte and Mackay as a ultra-premium and luxuriant – and bottles with 4 and 5 figure price tags are far from uncommon. But, things were quite different in the decades before, and in the 1970’s, not long after control of the distillery had been wrested back from the Royal Navy, most of the production was destined for blends, with only the 12 year old available in single malt form.
Following the recent trend of bloggers/vbloggers/Instagrammers getting in on the indy bottling act, Vin PF who hosts the always very watchable No Nonsense Whisky YouTube Channel has gone and released some whisky of his own. And this Dalmore is one of two first releases from his new bottling label.
Up to the Highlands for a 9 year old Dalmore that was distilled on 29th May 2008 and matured in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel for 9 years. One of 168 bottles. Spicy & Sweet flavour profile.
Dalmore time – no Paterson wine cask messing here – just a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel and 10 years of maturation. Spicy & Dry profile.
I do love a Dalmore delivered without all the pomp of sherry-maturation – the distillery's spirit shines just as brightly in ex-bourbon to my mind. This bottling - 10 years in a refill barrel.
No Paterson influence here – straight up refill ex-bourbon (that personally I’d love to see the distillery put out themselves once in a while). Spicy & dry profile.
Always happy to see ex-bourbon wood 13 – this example has spent 11 years in a refill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
A welcome ex-bourbon barrel Dalmore (at least by me). This example comes from a first-fill and has been matured for 12 years.
Neatly following on from yesterday’s Fettercairn, door number 11 delivers another from Whyte & Mackay’s stable in the form of Dalmore 14 year old Batch 3. I’ve always felt of Dalmore as rather the marmite brand – but always found that I've had a lot of time for expressions from independent bottlers. Under Richard Paterson’s rein as Master Distiller Dalmore has become focussed on both sherry, and also multi-cask whiskies, that, regardless of their tastiness hide behind a near wall of different wood types and precursor liquids. To my mind, that’s a shame as I find Dalmore’s underlying spirit to be particularly characterful, and most expressive when offered humbly in ex-bourbon.