The official Dalwhinnie line up has been and still is quite compact – an NAS (Winter’s Gold), a 15 year old and an annual Distiller’s Edition (also invariable bottled at 15 years of age). There reasons for this limited offering are perhaps not as complicated as one might expect - the 15 year old expression is on the of the biggest selling single malts in the world, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Likewise, new make Dalwhinnie is surprisingly heavy and sulphurous (long fermentation and minimal copper reflux within the stills) so its felt that at least 15 years of maturation is required for the natural, sweet and honeyed profile to properly develop.
Nose: Light in style, but still with plenty of definition. Toasted malts and roasted cereals come together with stone fruits (apricots and peaches), honey, and slightly smoky toffee. There’s an underlying floralness here – a touch heathery, a touch grassy. Whilst surprisingly deep and malty, there’s sharpness from citrus and orange peels that lift the nose from becoming overly cloying. The addition of water further reinforces sweetness with additional heathery honey, whilst reducing the sense of wood smoke to the point where it’s hard to perceive.
Taste: Slightly viscous and packed full of maltiness. The arrival emphasises the sweeter flavours – toffee and honey, before heatheriness and somewhat bitter dried grass take over. Again, smoke is perceptible – wispy, almost cask char-like. In the mid palate, things get tarter – lemons and orange juice – fresh, but a touch acerbic all the same. Water unleashes the cask influence here – vanilla certainly, but also some bitter wood – Personally, I’d stick to this at 43%.
Finish: Medium in length, herbal, grassy and now quite bitter.
Dalwhinnie 15 year old has remained a classic malt, and a bar staple for many years. It’s easy to see why – it’s crisp, clean and well-structured without being in any way challenging. The composition is straight-forward and easy-going, but there’s still plenty of highland character. Available for less than £40 (and at that price, it’s certainly value for money), it’s a dram that all enthusiasts should try at some point on their whisky journey. No fireworks, just solid everyday drinking.