Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dalmore 15 is a deeply sherried delight.

Dalmore is one of those venerable 19th century distilleries that developed a marketing aura and has positioned itself as able to sell multi-kilobuck malts. For example the recently launched "constellation" series of multiply wood finished single cask offerings with distillation dates from 1964 to 1992 are priced from US $3,233 to $32,333 per bottle. That kind of thing, personally, makes me a little sick to my stomach. Meanwhile, there are plenty of Dalmore expressions that regular people can drink. Recently The Scotch Noob reviewed several: the 12, 15, and NAS Gran Reserva. The 15, in particular, was found to be good and a good value:

"The 15 is good. As I’d hoped, its sherry fruitiness was muted in the same way that 18+ sherried malts are – leathery and resiny with some umami notes bordering on meaty. Think old leather furniture and orange-scented upholstery cleaner. The house characteristic orange was in force, but as a contributing player and not the main event. This 15 year-old tastes to me like a much more accomplished 17- or 18 year-old sherry finish"

Some of the crafting and fancy barrel management that pulled this off is described on Dalmore's own web site:

" For this Dalmore, 13 years in American Bourbon Casks and then a year split between Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso sherry butts from Jerez de la Frontera have been elemental. And to achieve this extra layer of complexity, we marry these liquids together in an upstanding sherry butt for one final year. The redolence of these vessels delivers the perfect balance between spirit, wood and maturity."

That's some fancy barrel management and some serious apparent concern about the specific sherry flavors. Part of the Scotch Noob's appreciation is the value equation. Not discounted currently, Dalmore 15 is currently running $65-$85 in the NY metro area. This is around what, say, Glendronach 15 runs around here. That's only interesting if it stands up to Glendronach. I was half expecting this to be a bit overblown - but I took the Scotch Noob's recommendation and tried it.

Dalmore 15 40% abv

Color: Rich copper tinted medium amber

Nose: A rich and noble sherried whisky aroma: dried bitter orange slices, sandalwood incense, jammy figs wrapped in dry parma ham, nuts, and a bit of tanned leather like nice men's gloves. Reminiscent of Glendronach - high praise.

Entry: surprisingly dry on entry but loaded with flavor: old oak and walnut furniture lead off, with a fairly rich oily mouth feel. Then citrus, fig, prune and black raisin fruits with a trace of rancio, leather and black pepper bloom at mid-palate. A vinous dark sherry note warms the turn to the finish for a moment. Then walnuts and walnut skin tannins and bracing bitter flavors dominate the lovely warm finish which isn't particularly lingering but isn't abrupt either. There's a feeling of butteriness - or prochutto fat - in the finish along with the nut skins and old sherry flavors that's quite nice.

A few drops of water accentuates the ham meatiness in the nose. After a few minutes some traces of stone fruit and more spiced incense old oak furniture smells too.

The water takes the august majesty down a notch and thins the mouth feel a bit but adds a bit of sweetness and light. Spicy heat joins the dark rich medley of flavor elements - and a nice buttery note. Ultimately I preferred it neat but, despite the low 40% abv the flavor density is rich enough to add a bit of water.

All in all a lovely sherry bomb quite reminiscent of Glendronach 15, so it seemed. So, characteristically I set it up in a head to head against Glendronach 15 OB 40% abv which was moderately sherried and Glendronach 18yo 1993/2011 (54.9%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Butt 1, 509 bts) which was rich and syrupy and intense. The Dalmore 15 wasn't the massive sherry bomb the Glendronach 18 was, but the flavor signature was much closer to it than it was to the comparatively aged and priced Glendronach 15. Scotch Noob's words came back to me: "This 15 year-old tastes to me like a much more accomplished 17- or 18 year-old sherry finish". Indeed. He had nailed it. Dalmore 15 tastes more like an 18 than a 15. It has the flavor signature of a bigger, older, sherry bomb.

Dalmore 15 should take its place along side the Macallan and Glenfarclas and Glendronach as a real world non-cask strength everyday sherried dram with a lovely complexity and spin all its own. This is eye opening value for the price and quality in absolute terms. High 4 stars - almost 5:



  1. Very nice review, I LOVE sherry bombs! And I'm an advocate of bottles for "value" as I believe it's important to share that with new people especially. Debunking the myth that whisky has to be old and expensive to be good!

    Well done "Coop"

    Canadian Whisky Lassie :-)

    1. I have to admit I love sherry bombs too. I'm really surprised that Dalmore 15 is in the neighborhood of qualifying for "bomb" status at only 40% and 15 years - but the flavor density is surprisingly good. As a man who loves Bruichladdich Octomores, Port Charlottes, Kilchomans, and Amruts - which all excel at young ages I'm not dogmatic about age. But sherried malts need lots of time in the sherried wood (unless they enjoy tropical heat maturation like Amrut's shockingly good Intermediate Sherry, for example). This Dalmore pushes the envelope for amount of sherry packed into 2 years of maturation.

      A clue might be found in the Dalmore 15 review on The Casks blog:

      "There’s also this 15 Year Old from the Dalmore which, while not aged with the solera process, has been aged entirely in three different types of sherry wood. There are casks formerly used in two renowned soleras, and casks which formerly held Amoroso, which is a type of sweetened Oloroso sherry. All three types are sourced from the legendary sherry producer Gonzalez Byass, with whom the Dalmore has an exclusive arrangement. If I undertand correctly, the two soleras that these casks came from are the Matusalem and Apostoles Soleras. I’m not sure how many casks were plucked from a life of sherry to be used for single malt, but according to the Dalmore’s website they are “bespoke” casks. A somewhat oblique and confusing term in this context, it leads me to believe that they’re re-constructed casks made up either entirely or partially of wood once used in the soleras."... "It’s worth mentioning all this solera stuff in regards to this expression because usually there’s not that much attention paid to the exact type of sherry cask used. Often the casks are just filled with a “seasoning” sherry that never sees the inside of a bottle. In theory (Dalmore’s theory that is) these former solera casks have been seasoned by years and years and years of good sherry, thereby by imparting their whisky a unique complexity and richness."

      If that's true that would explain a lot of how this Dalmore seems to transcend time in achieving an usually rich flavor profile.

  2. Thanks for the link, Josh. :) Glad you agreed with my review. Sounds like you hit a lot of really interesting notes, there. I'm going to have to go take another taste and find some of those cool flavors and aromas - Sandalwood is indeed a great catch: I always have a hard time describing that perfumy wood scent!

    1. No way did I find anything you didn't find, Nathan. You used the term "umami" for Lord's sake! I always just call it "ham". You utterly rule and I humbly follow distantly in your awesome footsteps.

  3. I hope you're not cupping your Glencairn (filled with Dalmore 15) in your hand especially if you do it in front of Richard Patterson. If you do, HE'LL KILL YOU ;).

    Though he's made that threat so often that I'm pretty sure he's joking... or people really are too afraid to test him.

    1. OMG! For those who are confused, this is from Malt Maniacs:

      "Mr. Paterson, Master Blender, looking quite dapper and wearing his signature pocket handkerchief, sprang into action. In what seemed to be the most jam-packed few minutes of my life, Richard poured water from a silver pitcher onto the floor exclaiming, in the voice of a preacher at a revival meeting, “Uisge Beatha–the Water of Life”; spat on the floor while damning England (and apologizing to Jim Murray for doing so); and then threatened our lives if we held our glasses cupped in our hand, balloon style. A smile on my face, I settled in for the night."

      No, I DON'T CUP MY GLASS! Please believe me! I hold it by its stubby little foot like a proper epicure... (looking over virtually every glass photograph in this blog where time after time I'm cupping the frickin cup)!

    2. I'd suggest relaxing but since Richard is also a blogger, there's always the chance he peruses the occasional whisky blog. According to the MANY Youtube videos of Richard, he states that our hands warm the whisky and evaporate the alcohol (since it's already evaporating anyway from the ambient temp. I'm guessing he feels our hands speed up the process when cupping).

      That said I've read many comments on the forums that people like cupping their glasses anyway because warming the alcohol releases the aromas. Hopefully Richard won't be killing any of them.