It’s all about the cask. A fine whisky is judged by the carefully selected cask it has slept in for years. Sometimes, the spirit even ages through the years inside two or three casks made specifically for them to acquire a unique DNA.
So, when Dalmore Single Malt Whisky, considered worldwide as the liquid gold of boutique spirits, announced the release of a special exclusive collection—the 15-year-old Dalmore Vintage 2000 Highland Single Malt and the 18-year-old Dalmore Vintage 1997 Highland Single Malt—whisky devotees got all fired up.
The luxury brand Dalmore, whose distillery is located north of Inverness, Scotland, was acquired in 2014 by Chinese-Filipino billionaire Andrew L. Tan of Emperador fame. It’s not surprising then that all 600 bottles (100 cases overall) produced of the said vintage will be available only in the Philippines.
A private, by-invitation-only sale of these rare spirits will be held. A minimum of one case per buyer is allowed. Five cases will be reserved for the public.
“This product sits at the apex of the single malt whisky. We are the most revered and the most expensive whisky in the world,” said Winston Co, president of Emperador Distillers Inc.
In 2011, The Guardian reported that a bottle of Dalmore 62, enclosed in a hand-blown crystal decanter, was purchased in a duty-free shop at Changi, Singapore, for S$250,000, the highest ever for a bottle of whisky. It is one of only 12 bottles produced, and is also the spirit highly revered in the movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
The Dalmore Paterson Collection, a 12-bottle collection of whisky with the oldest a vintage from 1926, is fetching a million pounds at Harrod’s in London, said Co.
Whisky pairs very well with Asian cuisine, said British Dalmore spokesperson Adam Knox. Most Asian cultures prepare dishes with overwhelming flavors. A sip of this gorgeous spirit is enough to tone down a menagerie of flavors bursting in the mouth.
The fiery, 15-year-old Dalmore Vintage 2000, containing 53 percent alcohol per volume, still goes down smoothly but leaves a powerful, long-lasting finish. Despite its staggering alcohol content, hints of chocolate, nuts and sweet raisins gently roll over the palate, tempering the intense, spicy flavors into an almost suave finish.
Knox said some people opt to add a touch of water, but we chose to drink it clean.
This vintage is matured for 10 years in an American white oak ex-bourbon casks, before spending the last five years in a single 30-year-old Matusalem oloroso sherry butt. The sherry butt is from the sherry house Gonzalez Byass, selected for its outstanding finish.
“It’s a 15-year-old drink. You will want to hold it in the mouth for 10 seconds—swirl it around or chew it, that depends on you,” Knox said. “After swallowing, wait for three seconds before taking a deep breath. Then you’ll realize the finish is like no other.”
The nosing, or savoring of the complexity of the aromas, must be done three times, moving from the left nostril to the right. With each nosing, different aromas of the 18-year-old vintage, the Dalmore 1997, teases the senses.
The 1997 vintage has aromas of lemongrass and tropical fruits like pineapple and banana, and peaches and melon. The palate is very polished, luxurious and velvety, bursting with liquorice, nuts, caramel, vanilla with hints of dark chocolate.
It pairs well with meat and duck, said Knox, but is exquisite when paired with 72 percent Valrhona dark chocolate. The whisky glass must always be held at the bottom, not on the stem, to avoid warming the alcohol with your fingers.
It’s a vintage that stayed for 15 years in an American white oak ex-bourbon cask, before moving on to a single, second-fill Apostoles sherry cask for another three years, Knox said. Each sherry cask is hand-selected by master distiller Richard Paterson, known in the whisky world as one of the great master blenders.
Dalmore Distillery has an extensive collection of casks, from 12-year-olds to 21 and beyond.
“Every time you distill a whisky, the aging process makes it different. That will depend on many variables like barrel type or finish of the barrel,” said Kendrick Tan, executive director of Emperador Distillers Inc.
Single malt whisky is a class of its own. It means the spirit is distilled in one distillery, but not in just one type of cask. Transferring whisky from cask to cask is a tedious process, said Knox, but as a luxurious brand, its makers can afford to take their time.
What distinguishes Dalmore from other brands, he added, is the choice of wood.
“Wood is king,” Knox pointed out.
The older the wood, the more it impregnates all its flavors on the wine. The grain of an American oak is tighter, so the whisky matures a bit slowly and mellows over time. European oak has much wider grain, so it matures faster and gives it a lovely color.
“A sherry cask is like a red dress. It will give the whisky that beautiful, elegant flavor, plus the texture and complexity of the Dalmore spirit,” Knox said.
Today the Dalmore Distillery warehouse is a pilgrimage site in Scotland. It houses the oldest wood casks and whiskies in the world. “When you enter, you will instantly smell hints of sherry and oak and all that lovely dankness,” Knox said.