Sunday, 3 November 2013

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old: incredibly complex, highly underrated

Today's Scotch Sunday review from Sukasa Style centers on an indispensable dram belonging to our core collection, Dalwhinnie 15 year old, and supports the case to steer away from the conventional view that this single malt is not worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of so-called serious single malts, à la Lagavulin or Talisker.
Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

In his indispensable classic "Malt Whisky Companion" Michael Jackson gave Dalwhinnie 15 year old a score of 76/100 describing it as "lightly peaty" and an "aperitif" with a palate that was "remarkably smooth, long-lasting flavour development. Aromatic, heather-honey notes give way to cut-grass, malty sweetness, which intensifies to a sudden burst of peat."

To be clear, tasting a malt whiskey is akin to tasting wine; it is a personal exercise that is arguably more social than it is scientific: everyone's palate is different yet when your humble blogger was introduced to the wonderful world of single malts a decade ago, his knowledgeable friends instinctively understood that Dalwhinnie was an ideal choice for those accustomed to blended scotches yet apprehensive and overwhelmed by the choice of single malts.

In our opinion, the long finish and smoothness of this scotch do not come at the expense of complexity. It is an ever evolving single malt that changes as you drink it in one sitting and over time as you make your way through the bottle. The rich straw colour belies a palate profile that is reminiscent of citrus, dried fruits, honey and grass in varying amounts. However, upon first opening the bottle, it is harsher then expected -- almost medicinal -- before opening up to the characteristic smoothness that it is known for. Is this a result of the geography as the second highest distillery in Scotland (see below)?
The people from Diageo in conjunction with David Broom have provided a useful flavour map (below) which can be downloaded at the link provided here.

Dalwhinnie on the Flavour Map (www.malts.com)
Source: Great Whiskeys (DK Books, 2009)

LCBO Summary
DALWHINNIE 15 YEARS OLD SCOTCH WHISKY  | LCBO 238097 | 750 mL bottle | Price $ 89.95
Made in: Scotland, United Kingdom
By: James Buchanan & Co. Ltd. (owned by Diageo plc)
Spirits, Whisky/Whiskey, Single Malt Scotch
43.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Taste Profile: Medium & Sweet 
Tasting Note: Bright gold colour; soft heather, peat & light smoke nose; medium body, smooth lightly smoky finish
Serving Suggestion: serve with smoked salmon

Our Sukasa Style takeaway is that Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is a single malt worthy of a special toast or a regular imbibe: you serve it to friends because you like them and they will surely return the favour. We recommend as an ideal single malt to those graduating from blended scotches.

Serve straight.

Sukasa Stars: 4.65 / 5

Quality Price Ratio: Very Good

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