Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Dalmore. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Scottish Highlands distillery The Dalmore made headlines last year at the high end of the whisky market. First, it released five-bottle collectible sets called The Dalmore Decades that were auctioned off for more than a quarter of a million dollars apiece (it sold 15 sets total). Then it announced a new annual 30-year expression of its single malt, priced at a suggested $5,500 per bottle.
These are interesting releases for collectors, and speak to The Dalmore’s long history and interest in pushing boundaries on what is possible for Scottish single malts. But let’s be honest: Most of us won’t get our hands on those bottles in our lifetimes.
The Dalmore 15-year single malt, on the other hand, is no unicorn bottle. You can find it at state-controlled liquor stores across my home state of Oregon for $129.95 a bottle. Most likely, you can find it in your state, too.
My brother and I knocked off a bottle of The Dalmore 12 during a family vacation at the coast a few years back, and I remember enjoying both the artistry of the bottle – with the silver stag’s head on the front – and the whisky inside it. So an opportunity to put its 15-year-old sibling through its paces immediately appealed to me
The Dalmore 15 was matured for a dozen years in ex-bourbon casks, then split into three batches that were aged an additional three years of finishing in different types of sherry casks. One of the batches finished in Amoroso casks, one in Apostoles casks and one in Matusalem Oloroso casks. All batches were then blended back together in an upstanding sherry butt for the final release.
Tasting Notes: The Dalmore 15-Year-Old Single Malt
Vital stats: Mash bill of 100% malted barley, aged for 15 years; 80 proof/40% alcohol by volume; MSRP of $129.95 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: A nice nut brown color, with decent legs holding up on the side of the glass.
Nose: If you’re expecting a typical Scotch, this will set you back on your heels quickly. It’s sweet and fruity, bringing to mind red wine, Cherry Coke, sticky caramel candy and red gummy bears. The sherry is dominant here, without question.
Palate: As with the nose, you might be surprised if you’re expecting traditional Scotch notes. This single malt has the zest of a ginger beer, and a definite sense of red wine (and sherry). It’s round, fruity and dark, as if you’re drinking a fruit-forward California cabernet. The finish is gentle, and brought to mind one of those milk chocolate oranges you sometimes get in your stocking at the holidays: Creamy, sweet and chocolatey, with just a hint of citrus.
There’s no arguing that this is interesting whisky. The layers of chocolate, dark fruit and sherry are impressive to peel back, and a pour of this goes down as easily as any Scotch I’ve had. It’s smooth, easy-drinking whisky. (The next time somebody tells me they don’t drink Scotch because it’s too smokey and peaty, I’m going to pull out this bottle as a counterpoint.) That said, The Dalmore 15 is a bit too sweet for my taste. When I’m in the mood for a Scotch, I want to taste the barley – and that’s largely hidden here underneath the sherry notes. It’s quality whisky, for sure, but more of a novelty on my bar than a regular sipper.