Dalmore 12 Year: 40% abv
Background: Dalmore is the pinnacle of marketing class. The bottle design is elegant and sexy, there is a metallic-looking stag on the front, and it takes a minimalistic labeling scheme. With all of this, it is tough to walk through your single malt section of the liquor store and not let it catch your eye. Dalmore distillery is a Highland distillery in Alness, Scotland. The company is owned by Whyte and Mackay. The distillery was established in 1839 by a trader who was pretty into the whole opium trading thing, as I’ve heard. In 1886, the distillery was bought by the MacKenzie family, of which one of their predecessors allegedly saved King Alexander III from a rampaging stag. This resulted in the MacKenzie bloke to be able to bear the emblem of the 12-point stag. That brings us back to the bottle, which has used this as a means of marketing shenanigans. This bottling is the 12 year, which doesn’t tell us that it isn’t chill filtered, or that it is naturally colored, and it does get bottled at only 40%. That being said, none of that guarantees us that this is a poorly made Scotch. That’s why we’re here to tell you exactly what to expect before buying a bottle. Before we dive into this, we can tell you a bit about how this is aged. Dalmore tells us this whisky sits for 9 years in bourbon casks, and then is divided (carefully, they say). One half of the whisky sits for another 3 years in bourbon barrels, and the other half sits in “30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry casks”. What does this mean? Not a whole lot.
Nose: So right out of the gate, this nose gives off some hints of harsh alcohol, implying maybe not the best quality of spirit. Dig further, you’ll get a signature oloroso nuttiness and sherry combo coming out nicely. There is a sense of wet grass and burnt wood in the nose, with some stale malt flavor coming in the background. It doesn’t start as a fresh nose, quite honestly. It isn’t very crisp or refreshing, but more heavy and compacted. That being said, there are some nice dark apple flavors coming out of the nose, with small hints of butter and honey. The nuttiness seems to dominant the nose at the end of the day, but it reminds me of a toasted almond that got burnt. I have to confess, this is a relatively confused nose.
Arrival: The arrival starts off butter and butterscotch, almost like you are grabbing some popcorn. There is a pale maltiness that lurks in the shadows, and a bland sense of fruitiness comes through. It feels pretty worn and unimpressive. After a couple of sips, the best guess for a flavor is dried cranberries and grapes. There is still some burnt wood flavors coming through as well. The arrival is pretty flat.
Body: Into the body, you will get some more of the nuttiness coming out in the whisky, which is good. The overall sherry idea is somehow loss in the flavor. There is a sense of marzipan in the body, with again a reoccurrence of dried fruit flavors. There is slight vanilla notes involved. The maltiness in the whisky is uninspired and flat, and does not pop in the flavorful, fresh manner that we saw in the anCnoc.
Finish: There are terribly dominant notes of popcorn kernels, sherry, and chocolate in here. There is hardly much to talk about, minus a slight residual hint of tobacco. There is still a nuttiness from the beginning of the flavor, with some vanilla and more burnt flavors. It is really a short and simple finish that doesn’t excite us a whole lot.
Nose: Water seems to just exacerbate the rough spirit smell that starts at the beginning. There is still the burnt sensation that is apparent in the beginning of the whisky. That ashy smell seems to over dominate the nose again. Not worth continuing with more notes on the nose.
Arrival: Finally, there is some salvation. You may have thought this review was going to be 100% negative, but alas, in tasting the whisky after adding a teaspoon of water, it seems like the maltiness has jumped forward much more, along with making the fruitiness more lively. There is actually some caramel coming through, with some light spiciness and a sort of peanut butter cookie flavor. This isn’t a perfect arrival, but it is certainly MUCH better with some water.
Body: The body carries over some of the burnt flavors still, but in addition there is a sense of confectionary notes as well which help to balance out the ashy character. There is some apple character and some cinnamon sugar flavor coming through as well.
Finish: Those peanut butter cookies are interestingly lasting through the finish, with a sense of chocolate and cinnamon as well. There is some tobacco notes in here, but there is still some nuttiness, apple and cranberry flavor, and gingerbread. This is a much better surprise than the initial flavor content. There is also a citrus, orange flavor coming through at the end.
Final Comments: There is a terribly disappointing quality issue here. When we talk about “flatness”, we are not talking about carbonation, but rather a lack of dynamics and assertive flavors in the whisky. This is a flat whisky, and the flavor doesn’t pop out in the arrival, or in the body, or in the finish. Without water, there is not much flavor to be had at all, and we were disappointed by how much we didn’t enjoy unassertive notes. The saving grace to this whisky is that with a bit of water, there is some more complexities and flavors to overcome the shortcomings slightly. That doesn’t make this whisky “fantastic” by any stretch of the imagination, but it does provide some hope that it could be drinkable. Also, don’t think this means we’re dismissing Dalmore. I hear there are some great independent bottlings of Dalmore.
Why you’d buy it: You want a nice centerpiece for your table, and that bottle just really hits your “I want this as my centerpiece” buttons.
Why you wouldn’t: You don’t want to spend $50 on disappointment.