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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: The Dalmore

Top ten Scotch whiskies for autumn

Whether it’s a blend or single malt, smoky or sherried, everyday or for a special occasion, we’ve got the perfect ten Scotch whiskies for autumn. How do you feel about…

Whether it’s a blend or single malt, smoky or sherried, everyday or for a special occasion, we’ve got the perfect ten Scotch whiskies for autumn.

How do you feel about autumn? We have to come out and say that it might be our favourite time of the year. The trees are turning golden, and the days are getting shorter, but there’s still a little warmth in the air. It’s the sweet spot from a sartorial point of view too, no more sweating in shorts, but the bulky layers of winter haven’t come in yet. 

But the nights are getting cold, making it the perfect season to enjoy a warming dram to take the edge off the evening chill. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite Scotch whisky including a classic blend, a couple of sherry bombs, some fruity mellow bottlings, Islay smokies, and two highly-aged limited editions for those feeling fancy.

So here’s to autumn, “season of malts and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats might have put it if he worked in the content team at Master of Malt.

Ten Scotch whiskies for autumn

J&B rare

J&B Rare 

J&B Rare is one of those whiskies so ubiquitous, you probably don’t even notice it behind the bar. Which is a shame because this is probably the ultimate Highball whisky. Just blend with soda, ice and maybe a dash of orange bitters for a refreshing pre-dinner drink. One sip and you’ll never go back to G&Ts.

What does it taste like? 

Yes, it’s light but there’s depth here too with appley fruit joined by richer notes of malt, cedar, vanilla and walnut with a lift of orange zest. Perfect with soda.

glenrothes-18-year-old-soleo-collection-whisky

Glenrothes 18 Year Old Soleo Collection 

The Soleo Collection was named after the process of sun-drying grapes for the production of sherry in Jerez, and as such you should expect plenty of sherry notes throughout the range. This 18 year old single malt features a very high proportion of first-fill sherry seasoned oak cask matured whisky at its core

What does it taste like?

On the nose there’s peaches and pears with dried fruits, honey and tobacco, and the palate is sumptuous and creamy. Definitely a malt full of “mellow fruitfulness”.

dalmore-15-year-old-whisky

Dalmore 15 Year Old 

The Dalmore gets its character from a heavy new make aged first in bourbon and then sherry casks. But not just any sherry casks, this 15 year old is aged in barrels that previously held luxurious Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso wines from Gonzalez Byass for a rich unctuous taste.

What does it taste like? 

Think Terry’s Chocolate Orange with fruitcake, baking spices, stem ginger in syrup, coffee and orange peel. It makes a cracking fireside dram.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Darkness 8 Year Old 

If you like a sherry bomb then you’ll love the Darkness 8 Year Old. It’s a single malt from an undisclosed distillery aged in ex-bourbon casks before spending a few months in custom-made Oloroso sherry octave casks. Small casks make for a vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, leading to more cask influence. In other words: sherry city!

What does it taste like? 

More sherry than a vicars convention in Jerez. Candied orange peel, dried cherry and chocolate peanuts on the nose, with powerful raisin, prune and oak on the palate. 

tomatin-14-year-old-port-wood-finish-whisky

Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish 

Located on the edge of Speyside, Tomatin is a distillery that deserves to be better known especially as it’s turning out whiskies as good as this one. This is a 14 year old expression aged first in bourbon barrels before finishing in Port casks which impart a wine-like sweetness to the whisky.

What does it taste like? 

Dark chocolate dipped in strawberries with white pepper, crushed almonds, walnuts, Victoria sponge and a centre of oak.

Top ten: peated whisky under £50

Caol Ila 12 Year Old 

An Islay classic that we just can’t get enough of. Caol Ila 12 Year Old has beautifully measured and mellow smokiness that allows all kinds of complex flavours to come together beautifully. Its fresh, coastal and briney elements will transport you to the sea while the fruity, citrus notes add great depth. 

What does it taste like?

Rubbed peppermint leaves, damp grass, lemon peels at the harbour, boiled sweets and elegant smoke.

kilchoman-saligo-bay-whisky

Kilchoman Saligo Bay

A new bottling from Kilchoman on Islay is always something to celebrate. This was previously travel retail only but we’ve managed to snaffle a few bottles. It’s an enjoyably smoky single malt which has been matured in bourbon casks before being bottled up at 46% ABV. The name comes from one of the rocky bays on the west coast of the Hebribean isle

What does it taste like? 

One the nose there’s roasted almonds, rock pools, oak, and honey. Take a sip, and there’s a sea breeze quality to it, with apple and caramel.

arran-10-year-old-whisky

Arran 10 Year Old

This distillery was founded by former Chivas MD Harold Currie, the first on the isle of Arran on the West Coast since 1837. It might be the entry level whisky but this ten year old aged entirely in bourbon casks tastes pretty special, showing off the fruity, floral distillery character.

What does it taste like: 

Nutty and biscuity with fresh apple and lemon fruit plus floral summer hedgerow and honey notes. It’s packed full of character and really over delivers for the money.

balblair-12-year-old-whisky

Balblair 12 Year Old

Another massive favourite with the team here at Master of Malt. This Highland distillery, which featured in the film The Angel’s Share, makes cracking malts across the range. This 12 year old is the baby of the bunch, aged in ex-bourbon double-fired American oak casks, and it’s superb.

What does it taste like? 

The soft mango and peach distillery character really shines through, supported by spicy cedar and nutmeg, honey and barley. A great introduction to a great distillery. 

singleton-of-dufftown-21-year-old-whisky

Singleton of Dufftown 21 Year Old 

And finally… we’ve included two fancy ones in case you’re pushing the boat out. The first is from Dufftown and was chosen by master blender Maureen Robinson and aged in a combination of Oloroso-seasoned European oak and ex-bourbon casks. The result is a gloriously rich and mesmerising dram with exceptional balance.

What does it taste like? 

Gorgeously rich with notes of dates, dried apricots, orange peel, honey, toffee, honey and ginger, with an incredibly long finish. 

bruichladdich-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whisky

Bruichladdich 28 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) 

A 28 year old single malt from the Bruichladdich Distillery, which means that it was distilled before the great Laddy revival of 2000 when the future of this great distillery was looking very uncertain. It was made in the classic unpeated style and slumbered nearly three decades in oak before it was bottled by the boffins at TBWC.

What does it taste like? 

It’s a powerful drop, make no mistake. There dark chocolate and cherry jam coming together rather like a Black Forest gâteau with baking spices and toasty oak. 

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Why are some whiskies so expensive

You may have noticed that there have been a flurry of fancy whiskies on Master of Malt recently such as the Yamazaki 55 Year Old and The Dalmore Decades. But…

You may have noticed that there have been a flurry of fancy whiskies on Master of Malt recently such as the Yamazaki 55 Year Old and The Dalmore Decades. But what why are they so expensive? Lauren Eads takes a closer look. 

Sometimes it’s obvious why a bottle of whisky costs the earth. A very old or very rare single malt will always carry a high price. That doesn’t mean it will be to your taste, but you can understand its value. The secondary market can dictate price and collectability. Novelty and uniqueness can also play a part. But how can you tell if a bottle is overpriced?

There are some basic factors that affect the price of Scotch, which go a long way in understanding value, no matter the price.

The macallan Fine and Rare 60-year-old

Yours for a cool £1.5 million

The older the better?

Quite often, yes, certainly when it comes to cost. The older the bottle, the higher price it will command. As a general rule, whiskies bottled before 2000 will carry a higher price tag, with this rising higher with those bottled before the 1990 when the 70cl bottle was introduced in Europe. Before then, bottles were labelled as 75cl, 750ml or 26 2/3 fl ozs, making them easy to identify. The same goes for bottles made from limited edition runs, which become rarer the older they get. In general, cask strength whiskies – bottled direct from the cask with no water added – also tend to be more sought after with a higher cost.

But a grand old age does not mean a whisky will taste any different or better to when it was first bottled. Its value will rise because there will be less of it on the market. Whisky doesn’t evolve once bottled (as wine does) – it’s inert with little to no oxygen ingress (unless closed with a cork, but that’s another debate). What you are buying is a drop of liquid history, frozen in time. The bigger factor is the amount of time it spent in cask, which determines a good proportion of flavour. Any bottle can be old, irrespective of its age statement, but a much smaller proportion of whiskies are aged in casks for significant periods of time. These older malts are much rarer.

Add to this the fact that distilleries have been running out of older casks for some time now, increasing the rarity of older malts and making the bottles that do appear on the market even more sought after (and expensive). In 2019 a single bottle The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926 60-year-old set a new world record after fetching £1.5 million (US$1.9m) at auction. Great for the distillery, and those that can afford it, but not great for the wider market. With older casks in shorter supply, many distilleries have introduced more no-age statement bottles in a bid to meet demand and help control prices.

Brora Distillery

Brora is open again – what does this mean for the price of old single malts from this distillery?

What makes a whisky collectable?

So, old = expensive. Old + rare = really expensive, got it. Old + rare + collectable? That’s the hat trick.

Some brands are more coveted than others. Auctions play a big part in this, pushing up the price of certain brands. The Macallan still reigns supreme on the secondary market, but other collectable brands include Highland Park, Balvenie, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and The Dalmore, to name a few.

Bottles from silent distilleries, too, are more sought after. Rosebank, Ben Wyvis, Littlemill and Caperdonich are all good examples. As are Diageo’s Port Ellen and Brora, with pre-closure bottles still commanding a premium (Brora reopened in 2021 after a multi-million investment, with Port Ellen to follow).

Sometimes the fervour surrounding a whisky takes the industry by surprise. In 2020 Highland distillery Nc’Nean, founded in 2013, broke world records when bottle number one of its Ainnir single malt sold for £41,004 (US$54,183) during an online auction. Only 1,320 bottles of the no-age-statement whisky were made.

Love them or loathe them, critics can also build a brand’s prestige. Suntory’s Yamazaki achieved rapid growth after its Sherry Cask 2013 won the coveted Best Whisky Award in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015. Since then, prices have skyrocketed.

Oak barrels at Yamazaki

Oak barrels at Yamazaki

What about independent bottlings?

Independent bottlings are whiskies bottled by companies or individuals who are not part of the distillery, for example the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) or The Boutique-y Whisky Company. But there are dozens more. Bottlers source casks and release small batch bottles of rare or unique malts. Historically, these bottles often used to be cheaper, they were considered a distiller’s cast off casks. Today, there is exceptional quality to be found. Many releases are one-off expressions that can be very collectible and command surprisingly high prices, while also adding to the diversity of whisky.

The price of independent bottles is also tied up with a growing appetite for cask whisky investment. Increasing numbers of investors are buying up casks instead of bottles, hampering the ability of smaller bottlers to procure casks and pushing up prices of independent bottles.

Will 2020 be a good year for Scotch?

Then there are unprecedented events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. With many distilleries temporarily closing during 2020 due to restrictions production slowed with fewer casks filled. The Scotch Whisky Association said in May that during the first lockdown 87% of production sites were either “operating at reduced capacity or closed entirely”.

Consequently, some commentators have tipped whiskies produced in 2020 to become some of the rarest and most valuable. It will be some years before that theory is tested, but perhaps 2020 is as good a time as ever to invest in a bottle?

There’s no accounting for taste

The value of a Scotch can really be found at the intersection of its age, rarity and brand. Of course (investment purposes aside), none of these factors mean much at all if a whisky isn’t to your taste, no matter what it costs. If a particular dram sings to your senses, then the cost is merely a practical consideration. The enjoyment you get out of it – that’s where the real value lies.

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The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection is here!

An exceptional collection of whiskies has just landed at Master of Malt. Called The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection, it’s a set of rare single malts from four decades…

An exceptional collection of whiskies has just landed at Master of Malt. Called The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection, it’s a set of rare single malts from four decades of The Dalmore chosen by master blender Richard Paterson. We spoke to Paterson to find out more.

The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection has been a long time coming, decades in fact. It’s a collection of four single cask single malts from the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s. And Master of Malt has one set – see below for how you can get your hands on it.

We were fortunate enough to spend some time with master blender Richard Paterson aka ‘the Nose’ to learn more about this collection. He’s recently stepped back from his role at parent company Whyte & Mackay to concentrate on The Dalmore (and some side projects.)

Richard Paterson Nosing in Warehouse Credit Scott Rankin Photography

Richard Paterson and his famous nose

The Mackenzie family’s enduring influence

Dalmore has a long and rich history dating back to 1839 when the Highland distillery was built in 1839 by Alexander Matheson. But it was under brothers Andrew and Charles Mackenzie that it enjoyed its heyday. Today, every bottle carries the image of the stag, the symbol of clan Mackenzie. They took over running the distillery in 1867 and in 1874 doubled its capacity. 

According to Paterson, The Dalmore has a tradition of long ageing its whiskies: “Andrew Mackenzie thought ‘why am I giving these whiskies at six, seven, eight years old away for?’ and then he discovered ‘wait a minute, they’re becoming a quality I’m looking for, why don’t we leave them even longer?’” This was radical stuff in the late 19th century. Until very recently, Paterson said “the maximum age was 12 years. So if anybody went beyond it, you thought ‘you’re off your head, what are you doing?!’” 

Under the brothers Mackenzie, The Dalmore was sold as a single malt and exported all over the world but by 1914, most of its production was going into blends. “It was heavily demanded by the blenders,” Paterson said. The family sold up in 1960 to Whyte & MacKay, and it was only in the 1970s that the distillery returned to concentrating on bottling its own malts.

The Dalmore Distillery

The Dalmore Distillery

The importance of casks

Richard Paterson joined The Dalmore and worked under Hector Mackenzie, the last Mackenzie to be involved with the distillery. Part of building The Dalmore as a single malt brand was based on tightening up on the casks used. “There were expressions using American white oak, sherry,” he explained, “but not to the same degree to we know today. We know exactly where these casks have come from, we know how old they’ve been, we know how long they’ve been seasoned. All these things have taken place over the last 20 years.”

The other crucial thing was getting the image right: “we’ve got to get our packaging up to a very, very high standard but we’ve got to get a price structure that reflects that image we’re portraying’.”

“But one thing has not changed and that’s the quality of Dalmore,” Paterson told me. Dalmore is famed for its robust whiskies made with “big bulbous stills” that “give complexity.” There is a pair of large stills and three pairs of smaller stills. The other major component of the Dalmore style is the use of ex-bourbon casks followed by maturation of sherry oak from Gonzalez Byass’s Matusalem Oloroso Dulce to create a rich luxurious drop full for fruit cake and tobacco. Indeed, The Dalmore is considered one the classic accompaniments to a fine cigar. 

The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection

“But we can’t just have four decades with Matusalem sherry, but we also want to offer to our discerning drinkers, something completely different, something original, something that’s never been done before,” Paterson said. And this is exactly what he has done. These rare whiskies from four decades of Dalmore’s existence make use of Port casks and other unusual ageing techniques. This is all in keeping with the MacKenzie legacy, Paterson explained: “The Mackenzie Family had gone down to Jerez de la Frontera in 1852, gone up to the Douro Valley, and they had Mackenzie sherry and they had Mackenzie Port!”

Paterson said: “This is called a ‘masterpiece of time’ and that’s what the time is all about – to see that when the whisky was seasoned we took it off at exactly the right time to show the consumer what whisky, genuine aged whisky, is all about.” 

The Dalmore Decades

The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection

Here’s the collection:

The Dalmore Decades 1979 – ‘Curating Exquisite Casks’

This was distilled under Hector Mackenzie’s watchful eye. It was first matured in Matusalem Oloroso sherry butt followed by ageing in a cask that formerly held a 1952 vintage Graham’s Port. Expect flavours of “exuberant sultanas and toasted pistachios, finishing in pleasant notes of maple syrup, pineapple, and succulent dates.”

The Dalmore Decades 1980 – ‘Unbroken Chain of Visionaries’

1980 was the year Paterson arrived at The Dalmore and learned under Hector Mackenzie. This one has a complicated ageing history. It initially spent some time in bourbon casks before being racked into Matusalem sherry butts, and then spent more than five years back in first-fill ex-bourbon casks before bottling. Tasting notes promise: “beautifully orchestrated single malt layers, which include a gentle whisper of bitter chocolate, marzipan, and cocoa powder.”

The Dalmore Decades 1995 – ‘The Creation of an Icon’

The ‘90s saw the arrival of Dalmore’s famous bell-shaped bottle. This 1995 whisky was aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in Tintilla de Rota casks – a rare sweet red wine from the sherry region. According to Dalmore “it offers a burst of red berries, glazed nectarines, frangipane, and moist pecan pie on the palate, building to a triumphal finish”.

The Dalmore Decades 2000 – ‘Into the New Millennium’

Dalmore was the first whisky distillery in Scotland to distill in the new millennium with new make coming off the stills at 12:03am. This spent all 20 years of its life in a Matusalem Oloroso sherry butt. No bourbon here at all. It is described as “rare and intriguing, black maraschino cherry and bitter chocolate drench the palate, and a final kiss of liquorice and tarte tatin ebbs slowly in the background.” 

All sounds pretty, tasty doesn’t it?

Paterson insisted that this collection is for drinking on special occasions: “When people buy this collection, I do not want them to just look at it on their pedestals and everything. I want them to at some point in their life, not just to look at them, to open them up and share them with their friends.”

Click here to find out how you can get your hands on the The Dalmore Decades: The No. 4 Collection.

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