Whisky Advocate

Review: The Dalmore “Mackenzie”

April 5th, 2010

I’m back on track after my surgery, and I’ll be posting up a series of new whisky reviews this week. I’d like to thank all of you who wished me well.


The Dalmore “Mackenzie,” 1992 Vintage, 46%, $175

A tribute to the Mackenzie Clan. Aged in American oak (ex-bourbon) barrels for 11 years, and then aged an additional 6 years in Port pipes, creating a rich, voluptuous, robust Dalmore expression. Notes of toffee, molasses, caramelized nuts, pancake batter, fig cake, and chocolate-covered citrus. Subtle glazed ginger and orange marmalade add complexity. Polished oak, tobacco-tinged finish. Very dynamic and never sappy or cloying. Save this one for after dinner.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

30 Responses to “Review: The Dalmore “Mackenzie””

  1. Thanks for the kind words John – and glad to see you’re getting better.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    Really sounds terrific. but 175$ for a 17 yo…? IMHO, it should be more like 80-110$. Think about it– this is running 40$ more than the new Springer 18.

    I talked to a Whyte & Mackay brand ambassador the other day. I was surprised at how, with no prompting from me, he began to gush about his admiraton for the success of the Macallan brands. He followed up on this with:

    “Of course we set the pricing on our 18 to match The Macallan. We’re not there yet, but we’d like to at least give them a run for their money.”
    I said, “Oh. Well, there are other marketing models, you know…”

    It is true that for years, the Dalmore was underpriced. And I wouldn’t’ve begrudged them a price correction– but if theyr’e going to enter the “money run” with Macallan– let’s just say that my money won’t be included in the prize.

    • two-bit cowboy says:

      Hear hip-hip, Red!

    • Seth Nadel says:

      I think the price is a little high, but’s not the price that bothers me, Red. What bothers me is when they drop the price 30%-40% when they realize the whisky isn’t selling. It’s happening more and more.

      • Steffen Bräuner says:

        It would never bother me that prices are lowered, the sooner the better


        • Mark Davis says:

          It’s a limited product so they only need to convince so many people.
          This is a classic marketing move that sneaker companies do. Make a limited edition product to increase the demand of the standard products.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Seth– you’ve got that right. Just look at Ardbeg— But please answer me this very serious question: why do the price drops bother you?

        After all, it is not as if a price drop on a whisky is an admission of overpricing– Just an overestimate of what it will sell for. It is up to us, the consumers, to decide, based on our notions of value and our meager understanding of the costs of production, what is overpricing and what is not.

        So really, why do price drops bother you?

        • mongo says:

          not seth but price drops bother me (across product categories) when they happen not too long after i paid 30-50% more for the same thing. as a result i don’t drink too many new (release) whiskies.

        • Seth Nadel says:

          It bothers me because, just like the consumer, I get screwed. These distillery reps come in talking about “limited editions” and “one chance to buy it” opportunities. In my head, you know they are over priced, but you have to take a position on the item just in case it becomes the “must have” whisky. Then 6 months later when it doesn’t sell, they drop the price. I’m stuck with cases that I might have paid $100/bottle for and they drop the price to $60/bottle and the rep tells me, “This is what we should have priced it at in the first place.” It happens all the time. Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie…all companies that have had significant price decreases. It makes me look bad because it appears that I’m price gouging. Try explaining that to a customer when you are closing out a whisky they paid full boat for.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            I understand, Seth and I don’t think our perspectives are that far apart. Incautious and flagrantly greedy marketing strategies have been blowwing up lately and the wave of recent price drops is the fall out. From the beginning to the end of the process of releasing a whisky priced above comsumer expectations, seeing it sell more slowly than anticipated, and finally dropping its price to match with consumer expectations, the producers sully both their own image and yours( you’re some sort of retailer right?) as much as possible– That this is common place these days is really quite absurd .

            You’d probably agree with me that a slightly less progressive and more conservative approach to pricing would be better for all.

    • I took issue with a tasting I went to of Richard Paterson – it seemed that he trumpeted how expensive the whiskies were over how well they tasted. Disappointed me.

      • What event was that?

        • At Elixir in San Francisco. You exclaimed the virtue of the 62 year old Dalmore by trumpeting it as the most expensive whisky in the world. You then equated great whisky with expensive whisky and mentioned that you will keep on making whiskies that are expensive because California has lots of millionaires who will buy them (which may or may not be true, but it fell on deaf ears to this non-millionaire).

  3. Seth Nadel says:

    Is this Scotch a limited release?

  4. Mark Davis says:

    I’m glad you’re back in tasting shape.

  5. @yossiyitzak says:

    Welcome back, John! Nice tasting notes – hope to get my hands on a wee taste of this. I like the Dalmore well enough but to find one finished in port rather than sherry, sounds like a refreshing addition to the line (even though this is a limited release expression).

    Again, welcome back.

  6. John Hansell says:

    Thanks, everyone, for the well-wishes. The Dalmore Mackenzie has helped with the recovery.

  7. mongo says:

    yes, it would be nice if there were some correlation (or some more correlation) between age and price. the macallan model is not the one to follow. to my mind 10-12 year olds shouldn’t go far past the $40s, 15 year olds should top out at the mid $60s and 18 year olds should top out in the low $90s. generally speaking. prices based on artificial “limited” supplies don’t endear brands to me.

  8. Holysinner says:

    Mongo, I don’t see how your pricing model is any less arbitrary than any other. Price is determined by what the market will bear. Laws limiting distribution or mandating specific channels don’t help. Some distillers/bottlers will keep prices low to push volume and maintain customer loyalty (or at least attention), while others will test the market by raising prices. Of course we like the former approach and dislike the latter, but keep in mind that even for the largest producers stocks are finite. Given the global popularity of whisk(e)y, if your pricing model were universally adhered to we would likely see much lower availability generally and particularly of certain brands and offerings.

    Certainly production costs are generally higher for older whiskies than younger, but there is also a cost – or at least a risk – inherent in trying something new. Production costs are just one consideration when any business determines pricing; they have to make (or increase) their margins somewhere. Ultimately an age statement is just a number, not an indication of quality, and there are some NAS whiskies I’d prefer to some others labeled well over 20 years.

    I’m not an apolgist for those that charge high prices, I’d like to think I’m just a realist about economic considerations. (At no one in particular…perhaps complaining does help, but I wouldn’t count on it; complaining while buying expensive bottles of average quality surely doesn’t.) I am very much a budget purchaser, but I for one would rather see greater, rather than lesser, availability, even if it means many bottles are out of my own price range.

    I’d prefer prices based on quality (and to a lesser extent, supply constraints, especially single cask offerings) – regardless of age – but even that is unrealistic. Evaluations of quality – or at least preference for different offerings of similar quality – is quite subjective, and surely nearly every producer believes most of what they offer is of high quality. Many of us don’t have the opportunity to try before we buy, but at least we can inform ourselves about what others we trust (like John!) think of a given whisky. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is how much a bottle is worth to you; no one else can make that decision.

  9. mongo says:

    i would agree with you except i think the whisky industry does generally present a correlation between age, quality and price–it’s just not a particularly consistent one. age seems to be the one “feature” of whisky that drives price. if the industry’s not going to do away with that then some general adherence to some kind of loosely defined standard pricing (which would, of course, rise over time) would be good for the consumer (and for the industry). i am fine with there being a +/- of $20-30 for whiskies of the same age range (there’s room there for all the unquantifiables that you allude to). but when the range extends to +/-$80 or beyond it makes little sense to me. i’m not going to pay that much more for the marketing.

    my fear, of course, is that if a standard is adopted most companies will follow the macallan lead and put 18 year old whiskies (of whatever subjectively measured quality) out of the reach of the majority of middle-class drinkers. which would be a shame, and it will be of no consolation to me if it happens that it is the wonder of the free market that has allowed it to happen. i don’t mind forgoing the macallan 18 at $150 a pop, but it will really upset me if i have to forgo the laphroaig 18 as well (now available in the $60s in most american markets).

    • DavidG says:

      “the laphroaig 18 as well (now available in the $60s in most american markets)” – I live in Chicago – and it is priced at $130 – where are you seeing it priced so attractively? Typically, we are a hub of good pricing [but for Lagavulin]

  10. mongo says:

    the laph 18 is $60ish in minneapolis (in three separate stores–so not an aberration). also in austin. others have reported prices in that range in other states/cities as well. in los angeles and nyc it’s much higher. it’s entirely possible that laphroaig tried out the macallan 18 pricing and are realizing that they can’t sell at that point and now the price is going down (though not across the board).

    • Seth Nadel says:

      For some reason, State run stores charged much less. We were around $150/bottle and now we are at $79.99/bottle.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        The reason is that Laphroaig has been intentionally pricing the 18yo differently for different markets. Some state liquor monopolies complained that they would not take it unless the price was comparable to the 75$ that the 15 yo used to run for and Laphroaig said “ok.” But they had wanted to charge more like 90-110$ for it accross the board. So they did this rotten thing where states with out state liquor monopolies had to pick up the pricing slack from states with them. I think (hope) that they will soon level the prices on it.

  11. mongo says:

    except minnesota and texas–two states where i know it is selling in the $60s–do not have state monopolies on liquor.

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