Dalmore 12

Dalmore 12Dalmore is not a distillery beloved of whisky geeks. This is largely because it has come to be associated strongly with much of what has gone wrong with the Scotch industry over the last 10 years or so. They have been at the front of the charge towards premiumization for premiumization’s sake with gimmicky releases like the Trinitas (which retailed for $160,000) and the Constellation series (about $250,000 for all 21 bottles), all of which seem to be aimed at helping hedge fund managers cope with the problem of not having enough shiny things to spend their money on. They also have a worse relationship with fake tans than Donald Trump and John Boehner.

Premiumization per se doesn’t bother me so very much–there are many things I will never have enough money to own and even if I had that much money I would not spend it on showy whisky. And if whisky companies leave the stuff aimed at regular drinkers alone–as, for example, Highland Park and Glenmorangie have always done–it doesn’t really affect me. Dalmore’s problems are both tackiness and the fact that they pulled off as obvious a case of “old whisky in new bottles for new prices” as you’ll ever see. The Dalmore 12 used to be a bargain malt, available for less than $30 in most US markets, and this was also the case for their Cigar Malt. In the late 2000s the Dalmore 12 got new glitzier packaging and a 50% price increase while the Cigar Malt later turned into the Gran Reserva and more than doubled in price (confusingly a new Cigar Malt was then released at five times the price of the original). I stopped drinking both then as the new prices were no longer justified by what was in the bottle.

This sample is from a bottle released in 2005, which is when I bought my first bottle, I think. What relationship it bears to the current Dalmore 12, I do not know.

Dalmore 12 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)

As with some other entry-level malts this is bottled at a lower strength in Europe.

Nose: Nice sherried notes with first caramel and then citrus (orange peel) coming through. The citrus expands quite quickly and there’s some milk chocolate too. The orange switches to lemon after a while and there’s some honey too now. Quite nice, I have to say. A drop of water wakes it back up 45 minutes later and mixes the citrus with some melon and some malt.

Palate: Watery but then the flavours intensify with roasted malt, citrus and something a little leafy on the back end. Texture remains a little too thin though. On the second sip there’s other, muskier fruit as well, but I’m having a bit of trouble picking it. Water’s not great for the palate–thins it out further.

Finish: Longer than expected from the texture, with the roasted malt transitioning to something bitter and metallic (I have some suspicions about what that might be). Water does make the finish more interesting though, bringing out citrus that mutes the bitterness.

Comments: I wish I could say that with far greater experience my 2014 self repudiates my 2005 self for having bought and drunk more than one bottle of this but it’s hard to imagine very many better values even back then at $25 for a sherried malt. At the current price though–between $40 and $50–it’s in a more competitive space and it’s hard to recommend it. Also, I have no idea if the current version is very similar to this. It does make me kind of curious about the 15 yo though which only arrived on my radar after I had become iffy about the distillery. I finished this with some 80% chocolate and it paired very well.

Rating: 84 points.

Thanks to Michael K. for the sample!

19 thoughts on “Dalmore 12

  1. I’m surprised you are not picking up the strong peat notes in this whisky. The next morning I still felt it, as if I had smoked cigarettes the night before. I’m also curious if the quality held up in the last 10 years – if it did it deserves more respect that it currently receives. You forgot to mention the Dalmore Patterson Collection released for a British supermarket for about 1 million pounds.

    Here were my own notes:
    The top of the bottle did not seem very impressive – rather generic although complex sherried whisky. The second half was much more interesting. Nose: briny and citrusy, with PX rancio. Some serious yeasty dunder, like an overproof Jamaican rum; smells of old whisky warehouses. Taste: immensely peaty; dark and brooding, reminiscent of a Bowmore. Ashyness balanced by sweetness; stewed sherried fruits; malty on the nose and on the back of the tongue. Overall, a complex, balanced, yet unusual whisky. Not for every day; it rewards attention. 3/5 stars

  2. Yeah, I didn’t get anything I would describe as “immensely peaty”. However, the “roasted malt” and “leafy” notes I got could have been smoke on another evening.

      • Yes, to say nothing of my job at the burning tyre factory.

        Am I an outlier on this? As I said, I drank a lot of Dalmore 12 back in 2005 and in those days I was far more peat-sensitive (and not a fan of heavily peated whisky)–and I don’t have any memory of finding the Dalmore 12 to be very peaty then either.

        • Nope. You’re not an outlier. I’m with you. Both in terms of not picking up much peat (if any) and in not being behind much from any distillery that may happen to rhyme with Schmalmore. Very rarely beyond a mid-80s score until you hit the ol’ granddaddies in the range.

          Regarding the peat here though…to be fair…it’s been a long time. Will try to revisit soon.

        • Dalmore 12 is peated? I didn’t even find it to be particularly sherried; like a couple of Juras and Macallan at standard strength, there just isn’t enough flavour here to hold on to – they’re fine off the cork, but any amount of staling quickly has me reaching for something else. ABV distributed with an eyedropper doesn’t help, but I also don’t think that there’s much attempt at anything edgy or distinctive. It reminds me most of Blue Label; wanting to be everything everyone thinks of when they think of “scotch”, but not really taking any risks in trying to achieve it.

  3. My memory should not be trusted too far. I just found on the W3 forums a post from January 2011 in which I refer to finishing up a bottle of Dalmore 12–so I’d owned a bottle well past 2005. I am relieved to note though that I don’t refer to any peat/smoke in that edition either.

    In my defense I will note that our second child was born in the summer of 2011 thus doubling my brain damage.

  4. I haven’t drank it for years, but for the finish I would go towards leafy, bitter wood, or tobacco as opposed to any sort of peat. IMO, of course!

  5. I’ve had my bottle for less than a year, so it’s certainly newer than the ’05, and I don’t get the peat either. My impression was the same as yours. I found this to be more grain-forward than I was anticipating for a 12 year sherry malt. The palate to me was equally soft sherry and roasted malt. Certainly interesting and enjoyable to me but I’m not sure on the price given others in the range. For my $45 I’d rather have the creamy richness (sans obvious malt) of the Macallan 12.

    • Yeah, priced like the Tomatin or Glen Moray 12s this becomes a no-brainer as a pleasant, introduction to the sherried side of the spectrum or for keeping around for drinking on occasions when you can’t pay too much attention to your glass. But I suppose their brand strategy doesn’t allow anymore for there to be a very cheap Dalmore. As you say, when it enters a price range where it’s competing with the Macallan 12, the Highland Park 12 and is in fact more expensive than the Balvenie Doublewood or the Aberlour 12 it becomes hard to get too excited about it.

      That said, I did give it 84 points, just below the Aberlour 16. I wonder if I unconsciously rewarded it a bit for liking it better than I thought I would.

      • Wow, you just helped me figure out exactly how I feel about Dalmore 12y. I’ll return to it here and there but only, now that I’m thinking about it, at times when i’m in the mood for a sherry malt but won’t be able to pay much attention to it. Thanks!

      • I got this off a dusty shelf for $30 a year ago. On a recent visit it was bumped up to $40 – I think I’ll still get another bottle. Although I am not a fan of sherried whisky this is an odd dinosaur, it’s worth having as a reference.

  6. I’m having a deja vu’. It seems like yesterday we were debating the peat in Caperdonich… Glenfiddich 12yo, you are next!

    My comment only refers to this old edition of Dalmore (in fact, to this bottle in particular). The only other bottle of Dalmore 12yo I owned was a few years back, very tasteless. That was a puzzle for me after reading high praise in one of Michael Jackson’s books. I could not finish it. That – and possibly the recent output too – was a different animal from this dusty.

    The 2006 edition of Wishart’s “Whisky Classified”, relevant for this discussion since it’s like going back in time, gives Dalmore 12yo 2/4 for “smoky”, on same level with Springbank – not Islay level, but higher than most Speysides. They don’t mention whether the malt is peated or not (for other distilleries they do, see our Caperdonich heated and peated debate). In the whisky description they include “whiff of smoke” in the nose and “nutty, smoky hints” in the finish.

    In the 6th edition (2010) of MJ’s Complete Guide to SMS, not written entirely by MJ, there is no mention of peat under the Dalmore entry and just the Dalmore Gran Reserva has “smoke” under palate and finish. I wish I had an older edition, maybe I’ll get one from Amazon, they are still available.

    • Like I said, I could totally see “whiff of smoke” as an apt descriptor for what I describe as leafy. “Immensely peaty” I didn’t get though, and I am primed to get excited when things are immensely peaty. I assume you and Michael split this bottle (from which my sample came)–did he get a lot of peat on it too?

      • We’ll see what Michael finds. I should say that I tasted that Dalmore several times without being struck by the peat. It’s just that after one particular night of tasting (as it happened, with Michael) I got up with a peaty throat, and I realized it was the Dalmore. Maybe “immensely peaty” is more a descriptor of my surprise than of the actual peat level. It’s certainly “immensely peaty” relative to whiskies where you don’t expect peat, not relative to a Talisker or Caol Ila.

          • You’re mixing up your hangovers, I’m talking about the Feb 2014 tasting. No tuica, just Scotch at night and rye in the morning.

    • I got my hands on the 5th edition (2004) of Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to SMS. The last one written entirely by him, and closer in time to the 2005 Dalmore you drank.
      Here’s what he has under Dalmore 12yo (40% abv):
      “Colour: An attractive amber hue.
      Nose: Arousing, with rum butter, malt loaf, and soda bread.
      Body: Medium. Silky smooth.
      Palate: Gradual flavour development. Malty sweetness, orange jelly beans, spiciness (anise?), perfuminess, heather, light peat. Even a faint, salty tang of the sea.
      Finish: Toasty. Grainy. Long.”

      I think that between the two of us we pretty much covered all these notes :)

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