Whisky Advocate

Review: The new Dalmore whisky range

July 1st, 2009

The new Dalmore range is very exciting and shows the many personalities of the whisky. In my reviews, you’ll find flavor descriptors common to all the expressions (marmalade, spice), but I tried to point out each whisky’s distinctive individual characteristics. Overall, I like the new line very much. However, I would like to see these whiskies bottled at 43% (or better yet 46% and not chill-filtered). It would have made an improvement across the board.

The Dalmore, 12 year old, 40%, $45
Half the whisky was aged in bourbon barrels, the other half in sherry casks. This whisky has always been on my short list as one of the finest, most affordable 12 year old single malts available. While the price may have gone up a bit (I remember when it was $20!), the quality remains the same. It’s fresh and lively. A well-balanced dram too, with its tell-tale orange marmalade accompanied by tangerine, pineapple upside down cake, vanilla soaked barley, subtle brine, and caramel, all leading to spicy, cinnamon and dried vanilla finish. A nice “every day” dram.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

The Dalmore Gran Reserva, 40%, $65
Aged exclusively in first-fill casks (60% of it sherry cask), and its oak intensity shows. Sweet, but with a steady dose of dried spice oak resin, and teasing tobacco to back it up. Silky texture and lush, with fallen orchard fruit, tangerine, chocolate covered orange, and lemon meringue. A firm dried spice finish rounds it all out. Sort of like The Dalmore 12 yr. old pumped up on steroids.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

The Dalmore, 15 year old, 40%, $80
Those who are fond of ripe, sherried whiskies will enjoy this new 15 year old. It’s aged entirely in sherry casks. The sherry is nicely layered (but not sappy or cloying) and the Dalmore spirit is big enough to handle it. Lush fruit, richly textured, and fleshy, with a warming spice impact on the finish. Orange marmalade, glazed citrus and Key lime pie are enveloped by sweet toffee/molasses notes and spiced with cinnamon, clove, ginger and subtle chocolate. Soothing and restorative in nature. Good for after dinner—or with a cigar.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III, 40%, $200
Master Blender Richard Paterson’s excellent adventure. This whisky consists of Dalmore aged in a wide variety of casks, including cabernet sauvignon, Madeira, Matusalem Sherry, Marsala, Port, and bourbon. This diversity shows in this whisky’s complexity and unique flavor profile. There’s a lot going on in here. Very rich, but balanced with oak spice and gripping resin (especially on the finish). Sweet layers of toffee, molasses and vanilla fudge provide a foundation of red plum, ripe red raspberry, black cherry, blueberry, orange marmalade, kiwi, grape skin and toasted almond. A very busy whisky which requires a good dose of mental participation to really appreciate it and sort all the flavors out. Very much like Glenmorangie Signet in personality in this regard.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

The Dalmore, 1974 Vintage, 42%, $1,250
Beautiful complex fruit on the nose. Tannic grip on the palate—especially on the finish. The tell-tale orange marmalade combines notes of orchard fruit, caramel apple, fried pineapple, banana nut bread, unsweetened chocolate, grape skin and plain toast, peppered with cinnamon and ground espresso bean. Distinctive and evolving on the palate—and humming along quite nicely—until the oak turns a bit austere and aggressive on the finish. For this reason, it’s my least favorite of the range.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 82

The Dalmore, 40 year old, 40%, $3,000
By far the softest and gentlest of the range, and oh so drinkable. Hard to believe that this whisky is 40 years old, actually, as it shows no sign of excessive oak. Instead, there’s soothing layers of caramel and toffee as the whisky’s foundation. Add orange marmalade and other juicy citrus fruits, cinnamon spice, graham cracker and gently toasted almond. A gentle, subtly sophisticated Dalmore, and an interesting comparison to the much different, more visceral 50 year old. If I were a rich man, I could drink this whisky every day—it’s so easy-going.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 93

The Dalmore, 50 year old, 52.8%, $1,500/100ml
The Dalmore is one of a handful of whiskies that seem to be able to age in the cask for many decades and still improve. This one is incredibly viscous on the nose and palate (and very heavy on the tongue), with chewy toffee and old pot still rum. The classic Dalmore marmalade note shines throughout, along with vanilla cream, an array of dried spices (especially cinnamon and evergreen), juicy oak, forest bedding, rancio, old armagnac, polished leather, tobacco, maple syrup, dark chocolate, almond macaroon and subtle espresso. Long, mouth-coating finish. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on the palate—especially the interplay with the oak. I can’t drink this whisky slow enough. A rare experience for the lucky few who can afford it.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

25 Responses to “Review: The new Dalmore whisky range”

  1. David G says:

    I’m very much looking forward to these (well, at the low end of the scale anway).

    Are they going to be continuing their Cigar Malt expression? I’ve never had it with a cigar, but it’s quite excellent with good bittersweet chocolate.

  2. John Hansell says:

    David G, I believe that the Gran Reserva is the renamed version of Cigar Malt (more or less).

  3. SSB says:

    $1,500 for a Double Mini? (well we feel bad about gouging you $11,000 for a 750ml so we make it more accessable to you?) I’ll keep to my last case of 28 year old Stillman’s dram which i paid $110 per bottle including tax last year.

  4. Thanks for the comparison of the full range. I love these posts where we can get your take on a number of expressions within a range all at once.

    I just bought and tried the new 12 year yesterday…it was my fist Dalmore ever. I must say, for a non-Islay malt, the flavor profile really won me over, and it was SO easy to drink.

    My only issue was that I felt I had to bury my nose in the glass, and it didn’t stick with me nearly as long as I’d like. I think this is where your comment about higher proof and/or non-chill filtering comes in.

  5. John Hansell says:

    Jeff, glad you enjoy the “full range” reviews. If you like the 12, you might want to look into getting the 15 year old. I think it’s very nice and not too expensive.

    SSB, those Stillman’s Drams were a great deal, no? So was the old 21 year old, which I liked.

  6. Aye Willie says:

    Hi John
    So glad you enjoyed the Dalmore, we all new it was great, now it’s even better. sorry to say i have not tasted the 50year old.Never mind i am not bitter.

  7. monique at the dell says:

    John, I have to say that having just finished receiving and tasting the full range, well not the 50 year old, your comments are right on. We have been happy to serve the Dalmore 12 as our House Dram for almost 20 years, so we were sad to see it disappear for a bit. It’s return and tasting next to the former, reveals a bit more vibrance in the new bottling. My favorite is the King Alexander which we’ll unveil to the public at this Sunday’s Bill and BJ tasting. Spoiler alert!

  8. Louis says:

    Hi John,

    Would you say that the 12 and Gran Reserva have improved over the old 12 and Cigar Malt? You ratings are higher than I would have given the older two.



  9. B.J. Reed says:

    Yes, Anyone want to fly in to Omaha to have a taste at the Dell on Sunday along with the other seven whiskies Bill and I are going to sample and review, feel free 🙂

  10. John Hansell says:

    Louis, perhaps a little bit of an improvement.

  11. B.J. Reed says:

    Any of you who had the chance to meet Drew Sinclair at Dalmore before he passed away a few years ago know how passionate and careing he was about the distillery and the products it produced.

    As we talk about this new line of bottlings I cannot help but think of Drew.

    I certainly hope he would be proud of these new (or revised) expressions.

  12. Todd says:

    The Dalmore 12 has long been one of my bang for the buck favorites. It has gone up in price from the $20 days. Funny coincidence about this post, several days ago my brother and friend called from a liquor store and asked what they should get in $30ish price range. I immediately suggested the Dalmore 12. He called back today and said he ended up with the Lagavulin 16, as they did not carry the Dalmore 12 and he is very happy with his choice – albeit for a bit more money.

  13. John Hansell says:

    Todd, well let me put my money where my mouth is. We’re going to a party tonight and I’m bringing my bottle of Dalmore 12 to share with fellow whisky drinkers. They are mostly JW Black drinkers just getting into single malts. I’m leaving the bottle there with them to enjoy when I leave.

  14. Jon W says:

    I liked the old Dalmore 12 for its sweet simplicity. The Cigar Malt never did it for me. It’s one of a few malts that, to my nose, has a very offputting scent of fish cooked in banana leaves. Weird, I know. The 28 year old Stillman’s Dram is FANTASTIC. I paid a bit (but not much) more than $110 for mine, but for that style and pricepoint I thought it was a good deal (would take it over some Mac 18’s).

    I can’t wait to try the new 15, despite the sad news of 40%. Any idea of when it will be available? Will it come to PA?

  15. Iain says:

    “It’s one of a few malts that, to my nose, has a very offputting scent of fish cooked in banana leaves”

    “Few”? – surely that must be unique! Now I really wish I’d tried it.

  16. […] What does John know? (Malt Advocate) – John mentions pineapple upside down cake on the nose. I can certainly see that in place of my peaches in syrup notes. […]

  17. John Hansell says:

    Jon, it sould be getting into circulation. But don’t hold your breath on PA. You might have to special order it, or just get it outside PA during one of your travels.

  18. […] to be outdone, John Hansell at Malt Advocate reviews the new Dalmore range in its entirety (7 […]

  19. Neil Fusillo says:

    We just got the whole range in to a shop right down the street. I was thinking about grabbing the 12, Gran Reserva, and 15. Sounds like it might be a good idea.

  20. John Hansell says:

    Neil, all three are mighty tasty. And low risk, given they are the least expensive of the line.

  21. […] have the chance to walk away with a bottle of Dalmore King Alexander III, which in the words of John Hansell: “Master Blender Richard Paterson’s excellent adventure. This whisky consists of Dalmore […]

  22. Harry Webber says:

    I went to one of J Hansells whiskey dinners a year or so ago.
    Loved the dinner but loved the malt decriptions even more…

    Hansell described one malt as “falling off a weathered wooden boat into a salty sea, soaking ones lamb wool sweater & drying off next to a roaring peat fire!!

    Hansell is revolutionary….

  23. […] Advocate – John Hansell reviewed the full Dalmore lineup. Like Serge, he rates the 15 year a few points higher than the other […]

  24. […] Dalmore 15 year old. Representing the third tier in the Dalmore Range (which includes whiskys up to 50 years old), the 15 is about the best there is in the world before […]

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