Thursday, March 26, 2020

Whisky Review: Dalmore 12 Year (Old Label)

After trying the current 12 Year earlier this week, I find myself in the fortunate position of being able to try the 'same' malt from almost two decades ago. This miniature was part of a haul I purchased from The Whisky Exchange way back in 2012, far enough back that the whisky world was a very different place and you could, for instance, still buy IB Port Ellen without making your wallet squeal (too much). Given the way OBs from the 90s and early-2000s have been talked up, I'm quite interested to give this one a try.

This whisky was aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, then bottled at 43% with chill filtration and maybe a little coloring.

Dalmore 12 Year (2004)

Nose: big notes of roasted malt, toasted oak, nuts, mushrooms, caramel, peach, and orange peel, with background sherry roundness, vanilla, and something floral (rose?). After adding a few drops of water it becomes a lot creamier with more vanilla and malt, but the floral notes disappear

Taste: balanced malt and sherry up front with a somewhat unpleasant tartness on top, mixed berries and stone fruit around the middle, fading into creamy malt and mild oak at the back. After dilution the sherry and malt become much more integrated, the tartness largely disappears and becomes more yogurt-y, and it becomes a lot creamier throughout

Finish: opens with pleasantly rounded nougat, fades into sharper malt, sherry residue, citric tartness, creamy vanilla, and chocolate/coffee beans

This is one of the clearest examples I've found of just how different OB single malts used to be. I've tried some older stuff from Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich and was struck by how consistent they were. In comparison, this is practically night and day vs. the current Dalmore 12 Year. The sherry is much more subtle and integrated, plus the finish is far more complex and hangs around for ages. The one through-line is the comparative bitterness of the flavors, though in this case that provides a pleasant contrast with the creamy notes in the finish.

Some of this may be chalked up to differences in production methods - distillations would not have been rushed during the 1980s and 1990s when demand was low and many distilleries were just trying to keep themselves going. Stocks of sherry casks would have been very different compared to the hastily put together custom casks used today. But I also suspect that there was simply more old malt going into this release as the mast blender would have been sitting on a much deeper stock and could have constructed each release with a broader palette.

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