Top of the class for single malts, The Dalmore has built its historic reputation on the finesse of its whisky, which undergoes a complex maturation in hand-picked casks. Tasting it is a moment of the utmost privilege.
At the mercy of the elements and backdropped by the dramatic landscape of the Highlands, a two-hour car ride north of Inverness, we find the famous Black Isle. The Dalmore distillery, a specialist in single malts that was founded by Alexander Matheson, stands strong on the banks of Cromarty Firth. Matheson was a wealthy entrepreneur with a seat in the House of Lords, and he was on the hunt for something new, something with true spirit. Now with 175 years of history and expertise under its stills, The Dalmore has constructed a cast-iron reputation for itself on the selection and meticulous conservation of its casks…inside which evolve the finest of nectars.
We have to go back much further in history, however, to understand the symbolism of the stag that adorns Dalmore’s whisky bottles. It is said that in the 13th century, Colin of Kintail saved Alexander III from such a mammal as it was about to charge. Colin of Kintail being the chief of the Mackenzie clan, the stag with twelve horns would become the family crest.
Whilst distilling methods in themselves differ very little from one distillery to the next, it’s the ageing process that has the biggest impact on the final flavour, the richness of aromas, and the complexity of texture. This is why the Dalmore has always held its highest priority in the selection of its containers. These casks have varied and interesting origins, including sherry barrels from Bodega Gonzales Byass and casks formerly used to mature fortified Andalusian wine. Note that this distillery is the exclusive recipient of 30-Year sherry casks from the Oloroso appellation.
Always trying to push the limits of excellence, the distillery is perfecting their blends in other, hand-selected barrels. Richard Paterson is currently leading Dalmore in its careful craft, and he’s spent fifty years experimenting with cask maturation and sharing his expertise. This contribution has been central to the refining of methods used at Dalmore. Paterson has figured out how well the distillate evolves when first matured in bourbon casks, containers that simply ooze notes of honey and vanilla. Brought in only for the final stage of ageing, the sherry barrels confer an unmistakeable roundness and a spiced profile to the whisky, whilst the bourbon casks give the spirit its distinctive kick.
Thanks to their maturation time in the 30-Year Oloroso sherry casks, these whiskies carry nutty and chocolatey notes, with even a nuance of orange. These spirits are made to be sipped, and if you’d like to make a little something to accompany your glass, they make for some simply divine pairings. On iDealwine’s team, Constance and Raphaël recommend anything involving rich chocolate and orange zest. The Dalmore recommends characterful ingredients like game, truffle, mushrooms, parmesan, caramel, and even fruits like fig and blackcurrant…Others, of course, might prefer a good cigar.