This week we’re getting excited about the newest release from The Dalmore, the impressive 21 Year Old, fully finished in rare Matusalem sherry casks for up to three years.
Released as the newest addition to the Principal Collection, joining The Dalmore King Alexander III and The Dalmore 18 Year Old, The Dalmore 21 Year Old has been hailed by the distillery as the ‘pinnacle’ of the range. We were lucky enough to taste it, so here are our thoughts.
Dalmore’s history dates back to 1839, when it was built by Alexander Matheson, but the Mackenzie brothers really took the distillery forward after taking it over in 1867, doubling its capacity by 1874. It’s why even today every bottle carries the symbol of clan Mackenzie, a stag.
Interestingly enough, The Dalmore has a tradition of long ageing its whiskies, which was revolutionary in the past time. In the 19th century Andrew Mackenzie decided to leave the whiskies to mature for longer. We think he’d be pretty excited about the 21 Year Old.
The Dalmore 21 Year Old
Onto the main event: The Dalmore 21 Year Old. It’s Dalmore, so of course there are sherry casks involved, and the stars of this show are casks which previously held 30-year-old Matusalem, an intensely rich oloroso sherry from Gonzalez Byass. The Highland whisky spent up to 36 months finishing exclusively in these rare casks, after an initial maturation in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels.
The partnership between Dalmore and Gonzalez Byass goes back nearly a century. “Matusalem is our favourite,” says Stephen Martin, Whyte & Mackay’s global single malt whisky specialist. “It’s the cask that best compliments what we do at the distillery.” It brings a balsamic note to the spirit – more along the lines of a rich glaze rather than anything vinegary.
“The most important ingredient in whisky is time,” Martin reminds us. “The Dalmore 21 Year Old is a shining example of that.” Dalmore’s house style is alive and well in this, with that distinctive chocolate orange note amid waves of dried fruit, but it’s also developed over time. “At 21 years, you see a refinement in character – the fruits become less sticky, the spices become less sweet. Candied peels move more towards blood orange,” Martin observes.
There’s a certain savoury spice note that brought balance to the whisky. Initially people were hesitant to use the word musty, but then we agreed that the whisky is a pleasantly earthy affair, full of rancio from the sherry casks. It was a good reminder that good whisky doesn’t have to be only full of flavours of things we want to eat. It’s an annual release, and this year it’s limited to just 8,000 bottles at £575 each.
You can buy The Dalmore 21 Year Old at Master of Malt now.
Nose: Rich notes of rancio, cigar box, damp wood, and baking spices, bolstered by bittersweet cocoa and a lick of butterscotch.
Palate: A symphony of dried fruits appear while the spices become dustier (think fresh cinnamon and clove), supported by old leather, dark chocolate, and juicy citrus.
Finish: A dry finish of curiously savoury baking spices, rich nuttiness, and fresh orchard fruit.