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 describes the King Alexander as ‘… the only single malt in the world to unite a unique six cask finish…’, (perhaps Jura have just surpassed this number with the release of their new Seven Wood expression?). The cask list is certainly coming from a broad palette <deep breath>
Ex-bourbon casks - standard American white oak
Matusalem oloroso - an enriched sherry (oloroso with 25% PX added)
Port pipes - not an actual pipe, still a barrel – but usually an exceptionally big one – 350 to over 600 litres sometimes
Marsala - fortified wine (from the Marsala area of Sicily) – produced with white grapes and classified by the sweetness, colour and age
Madeira - fortified wine (from Madeira in Portugal) – mainly produced with the red grape varietal Negra Mole
Cabernet Sauvignon barriques - not traditionally used in whisky maturation, but producers are starting to experiment more and more
Whilst the whisky is an NAS, a little searching on the Interwebs suggests that the youngest whisky at play within this complex mixture is around 14 years of age. The bottling sits within Dalmore’s ‘Principal Collection’ (read Core Range) and was originally released as ‘1263 King Alexander III’ – the date harking back to a story of how the chief of Clan Mackenzie (the family who would inherit the distillery in 1867) saved the king from being eviscerated by a rampant stag – and hence the use of the stag’s head on all Dalmore bottlings. The 1263 has been dropped and the packaging has been updated, but the whisky and the story remain the same. King Alexander is bottled at 40% ABV and can be purchased for £155 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Terry’s Chocolate Orange! Make no mistake, this is an exquisite nose – opening with oranges, tangerines alongside raisins, figs and toffee, this moves quickly into milky chocolate, buttery biscuit (base) and hazelnuts. There’s tangy citrus running right through this – not just orange, also some limes – with some gentle florals in the background it reminds me of a well stepped herbal tea.
Taste: A glorious arrival of booze-soaked orange segments, foamy latte (not flat white though) and hot chocolate. Toffee, golden syrup and honey. On the mid palate, raspberries come out to play and are joined by creamy trifle and salted almonds. Bakery notes – flans and tarts, along with spices (cloves in particular) add some bitterness that balances excellently with the sweeter fruits and more sugar-driven flavours. But then…
Finish: Disappointingly short. The riot of delicious flavours don’t gentle fade away – they fall off a cliff – some chocolate and dry spicing here, but sadly it all feels slightly empty when compared to the wonderful palate.
King Alexander III is so nearly a triumph. The nose is delightful and welcoming, the arrival (especially for 40% ABV) is an explosion of wonderful flavours, the mid-palate a well-balanced melange of complex fruits and spices. But, the lack of any substantive finish at all means that as soon as your taste buds have got to the party, your mother turns up and drags you away from it. This hollowness is a real shame as everything else about this whisky screams both quality. Nevertheless, don’t let this criticism put you off entirely, this whisky is still a masterclass of cask selection and blending skill.
But don't take our word for it..
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