Our taste of Dalmore's $275,000 collection of 5 single malts spans five decades

Our taste of Dalmore's $275,000 collection of 5 single malts spans five decades
Courtesy of Dalmore

From the 1960s to 2000, the collection consists of cask-strength scotches. 

Actor Paul Giamatti waxes poetic about the cult classic film Sideways, a cinematic love letter to wine in which he declares that the fruit of the vine "connects you more with life," adding, "I like to think about what was happening during the year that the grapes were growing at that particular time."

At a recent tasting of some of Dalmore's most exclusive Scotch, which included an expression from 1967, the year in which I was born, I relished this sentiment. It applies equally to the ingredients and processes involved with spirits, and it resonated profoundly with me.

When one gets older, one is less likely to be able to taste juice that has been on the same number of trips around the sun, the liquid manifestation of a lifetime. The Dalmore Decades were the subject of a dinner I attended recently at Wally's Wine & Spirits in Santa Monica, Calif. The set is made up of five cask-strength whiskey samples that range in age from the 1960s to the new millennium at the distillery, which has been in business since 182.

The 2000 whiskey, which we introduced into the wormhole whiskey universe, was aged for 20 years in Matusalem Oloroso sherry casks. As opposed to Dalmore's traditional two-cask aging process that employs American white oak barrels and butts formerly used to hold the 30-year-old sherry, the 2000 whiskey spent 20 years solely in Matusalem Oloroso sherry casks. On the nose, it has hints of baked fruits, including black cherry and dark chocolate, both of which are de rigueur for Dalmore estate, which are perfectly complemented by the citrus notes of salt-roasted beets and the aged balsamic vinegar.

Courtesy of Dalmore

The 1995 vintage stood out among the five samples as the brightest one of them all. Aged in barrels made from bourbons, as well as being further aged in port casks, this wine was one of the most vibrant wines. In glass, the wine was reminiscent of an Hawaiian luau, with floral notes followed by citrus notes. In addition to the grilled duck and Maui onion jus paired with the grilled duck entrée, this pairing was a perfect match for the dish.

There are two expressions in this series that present quite differently since they show the disparate approaches taken by master distiller Richard Paterson, who has worked at Dalmore for more than half a century. Paterson reversed the script for the 1980 selection, which featured Kurobuta pork alongside the whiskey.

After maturing the whiskey in the bourbon and sherry barrels, he then refinished it in bourbon barrels for another five years. It may seem non sensical that the lack of peat in Dalmore's distillery results in as little smoke as possible. But, according to Craig Bridger, Dalmore's head of advocacy, the third step triggers the latent smoke in the staves of the bourbon cask, which, as Bridger says, "wakes the whiskey up."

Despite the fact that the 1979 bottling goes through the same bourbon barrel aging process as its 1980 sibling, where tropical fruit characteristics are gathered, it then gets infused with chocolate and orange from Matusalem sherry butts, but that's where they differ from one another.

As a next step, Graham's Port was retold in casks that had previously held the 1952 vintage of Graham's Port, regarded as an exceptional vintage at the time. As a result of the combination of these three distinct nuances, the aroma of pistachio, maple and date dominates the meal, a richness that is shared with the black truffle fondant drizzled over a course of Wagyu.

My favorite part of the evening was the aforementioned 1967 tasting. Not only because it is old, but also because it has been finished in casks that were originally filled with Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, it accentuated the juice’s exclusivity. I found the overall personality of the wine to be more subtle in the first sip compared to the previous expressions, especially if paired with chocolate gelato.

Although the wine is reputed to have notes of clementine and ground coffee, I found this to be more subtle than the previous expressions. As a result, it was gradually revelatory, as if a sage elder had a lot to impart to anyone who was patient enough. The sample, unlike the others, reflected the North Sea's salt air with a delicate hint of its longstanding marine influence. Having lingering on my palate for a few minutes, it was reminding me of some of my own personal achievements, both sweet and bracing.

In the Dalmore Decades collection, there are only 15 bottles and each is priced at $275,000. A unique six-pack of Dalmore Decades was sold earlier today for more than $1.1 million at a Sotheby's Hong Kong auction which included an additional cask-strength representation from 1951. That six-pack has been available for purchase for the past few decades.

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