This new whisky is the latest addition to the Principal Collection from the north Highland distillery of Dalmore. The 21 year old expression is the oldest whisky in the series, which also features the 15 and 18 years old, plus the King Alexander III. The whisky was initially matured in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels before a a lengthy finishing period of up to 36 months in ex-Matusalem Oloroso sherry barrels. These were sourced from the bodega of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez, Spain. This inaugural batch consists of just 8,000 bottles. The Dalmore 21 years old is bottled at 43.8% ABV and will be available from specialist whisky and luxury retailers worldwide. A bottle will cost £575/ $715 US.
Dalmore is located in the village of Alness to the north of Inverness. It sits on the shores of the Cromarty Firth and overlooks the Black Isle. The distillery was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson and has an interesting history, including being used during the First World War by the Royal Navy to manufacture explosives. The current capacity of the distillery is just over four million litres per year. Dalmore is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay, part of the larger Phillipines-based Emperador Inc. They own the Whyte & Mackay blended whisky brand, plus the single malt distilleries of Fettercairn, Jura and Tamnavulin.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose is highly fragrant. Aromas of fruit and nut chocolate, vanilla and caramel immediately leap from the glass. These are quickly joined by heavy oak spice, raisins and a hint of candied orange peel. Earthy liquorice root and dusty cinnamon add further depth.
On the palate this whisky is bold, rich and velvety. It has a luxurious feel with initial notes of raisin and plump juicy sultana. This is followed by gripping oak spice and some delicious sweetness - think of golden syrup, caramel and a hint of molasses. Then comes a hit of vanilla and some background tropical fruit, especially peach and pineapple.
Warm baking spices and a distinct earthiness also sit in the background and give fabulous complexity - imagine cinnamon, clove and liquorice root. A hint of brazil nut and milk chocolate evolve slowly as does a distinct citrus note. This is multi layered with blood orange, grapefeuit zest and candied lime detected. A late floral note, plus cedarwood and old cigar box round things off nicely.
The finish is long and with plenty of depth. The sweet and fruity elements are first to fade, followed by the baking spices. This leaves the savoury and earthy characteristics to drag the finish out. Becomes a little peppery and dry towards the end, but that just makes you want to reach for another sip.
What's the verdict?
This new Dalmore 21 years old is a big whisky but one that has incredible vibrancy and juiciness for its age. It is packed with flavour, depth and complexity. It makes a fine addition to the Principal Collection and rightly sits at the top of the range. Dalmore are good exponents of the use of ex-sherry casks and this 21 years old shows the levels that can be achieved with good oak and time.
The only issue has to be the price - £575 is steep for a 21 year old Scotch single malt irrespective of the brand positioning, age or limited nature. Compare to something of the same ilk, such as the small-batched Glendronach 21 years old at around the £140-150 mark, and this point comes even sharper into focus. A great whisky but for those with deep pockets.