Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dalmore Whiskey Tasting

Richard Paterson, the 3rd generation Master Distiller for Dalmore Scotch Whiskey, came to Los Angeles last week as part of a San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas west coast tour and I was fortunate to be able to attend a tasting he hosted at the Varnish in downtown LA of various Dalmore single malts.

The afternoon began with a round of Penicillin cocktails featuring Dalmore that bartenders Eric Alperin and Devon Tarby mixed. The Penicillin is a great drink, originally created by Little Branch and Milk & Honey bartender Sam Ross. The penicillin includes fresh lemon juice, honey, ginger and scotch whiskey and was garnished with candied ginger. The cocktails were refreshing and it was a good introduction to the Dalmore by demonstrating that single malts can have a place in mixed drinks.

Paterson, the author of Goodness Nose, is an engaging and charismatic speaker/performer. He has a shtick down and got the audience involved in the tasting beyond the rote routine. He stressed the importance of smelling the whiskey before you drink it and of letting it stay in your mouth so you can fully taste the nuances of it before you swallow.

The Dalmore is produced in the Highlands of Scotland, in a distillery north of Inverness. Paterson brought 4 single malts to sample: the 12 year, the Gran Reserva, the 15 year, and the King Alexander III. The 12 year was a lighter scotch and was aged in 50% American oak and 50% Oloroso sherry casks. The Gran Reserva is aged in 60% Oloroso sherry casks and is described as being a great whiskey to drink while smoking cigars. In fact this scotch used to be known as the Cigar Malt but some confused people actually thought that this meant that tobacco was an ingredient in the whiskey. It had a rich and slightly sweet flavor and does seem suited for a postprandial treat.

The third Dalmore we tried was the 15 year. This was my favorite of the tasting. The citrus flavors that are a signature of the entire Dalmore line came through along with a light spiciness. I found it to be exceptionally smooth and balanced. It was aged in Matsusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso sherry casks. I tend to favor citrus, so perhaps that is why I preferred the 15. The final whiskey of the day was the King Alexander III, named for the Scottish king whose life was saved by the Mackenzie clan and who in exchange gave the clan the right to use the stag as their emblem. The King Alexander was aged in six different casks including french wine, Madeira, Sherry, Port, Marsala and Kentucky bourbon. This whiskey also had a little bit of sweetness in the flavor, perhaps because of the port and bourbon casks. A complex flavor that held less of the citrus than the other Dalmore single malts we had sampled.

A highlight of the tasting was when the gentleman seated next to me got to sample a small amount of the most expensive single malt whiskey in the world, which combines 6 different vintages of Dalmore. A bottle retails for $175,000 according to the Nose. Online research indicated that the Dalmore 62 has sold for 32,000 GBP, which is approximately $49,000 at current exchange rates. I am not sure whether the price we were quoted was off or whether this was a different offering. In any case my table-mates and I got to sniff the glass which held the whiskey and it smelled wonderful. I'm not in the market for a bottle of spirits which costs as much as a luxury car, but if I was, this would be a great place to begin.

Dalmore has an illustrious history but had been owned for a number of years by Jim Beam, the American based bourbon producer (largest in the world) who seem to have had a policy of benign neglect. Beam sold the company in 2000 but retained North American distribution rights until the end of 2007 when producer Whyte & Mackay bought back the rights. Since then Patterson has been crossing the globe raising the profile of whiskey and of The Dalmore in particular to build up brand recognition and move the whiskey further upmarket.

Dalmore 12 year $35-49, Dalmore Gran Reserva, $49-75, Dalmore 15 Year $80-99, Dalmore King Alexander III $249
In Los Angeles, Dalmore is available at K&L Wines, Bevmo, Wally's, Wine Expo etc. note that in my quick online search, K&L wines had the best prices

You can follow Richard Paterson online & on twitter

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