There is a valid question to be asked about how much a company can subtlety a product line, even when their products tend to be exceptional. At what point is it undeniably superfluous for a distillery to add a new spirit, falling on sparse, unoccupied ground between its existing SKUs? How different and distinct must this new brand be to justify its existence? And will the addition of this new brand really help the bottom line by capturing some small, additional segment of the target audience, or will it simply cannibalize the potential sales of the company’s other brands?
This is the thought process I immediately started going through, seeing the announcement of The Dalmore 14 as a new and permanent addition to the distillery’s flagship collection for the US market. I’m a huge fan of The Dalmore’s house style of port-focused sherry and single malts, but it seemed hard to deny that this new brand was probably sharing some hairs. After all, The Dalmore has not one, but two 12-year-old single malts and a well-established 15-year-old Dalmore. It already offers brands in the US with official MSRPs of $65, $80, $100, and $130. You can actually put a 14-year-old brand in that space, position it for $90, and find a way to register as distinguished? This seems like a difficult task and a lot to expect from the consumer as well. Not that this is relevant to the quality of the spirit in the bottle, but you have to ask yourself about the practical considerations of introducing a brand like this.
Now: What is really in this bottle? Well, the signature feature of the Dalmore 14 is its exclusive use of “rare Pedro Ximénez casks from the House of Gonzalez Byass” rather than other sherry styles such as oloroso which are used in a wide variety of Dalmore brands. . The company is positioning it as its first bottle of the Principal Collection to be matured exclusively in PX sherry, which will presumably make these concentrated fruity flavors its biggest calling card. As a bonus, it also has slightly higher strength than the main expressions Dalmore 12 or Dalmore 15, which weigh in at just 40% ABV (80 proof). This is 43.8% ABV (87.4 proof), a nice incremental upgrade, although it’s still a little below the Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve’s 44% ABV or Dalmore Port Wood Reserve’s 46.5% ABV. Regardless, it’s likely to be an admission that the US market actually prefers an elevated proof point.
I have high hopes for this one, so let’s get straight to the tasting.
On the nose, this doesn’t immediately strike me as one of the most assertive Dalmore expressions I’ve come across, but I suspect this is also a result of having tried so many barrel-proof expressions lately. What it really needs is a few minutes to open in the glass, which reveals increasingly strong waves of caramel, syrupy dark fruit compote – blackberry and currant – and raisins. It has a slightly toasty character, with a hint of honeycomb and a little cocoa. After a few minutes, the sherry really opens up in a big way, with notes of increasingly strong and vinous fruit and roasted nuts. Sweet, fruity and inviting.
On the palate, this is again decidedly sweet and fruity, with bright red and black fruit and a hint of citrus orange, but is balanced by an equally assertive roast and accented coffee, along with mocha. There’s also a licorice-like spiciness, while the fruity flavor suggests first-time confections, baked pie, or cobbler. Over time, this also grows more overtly like sherry, with more dried fruit and oxidized wine notes. Coffee, meanwhile, gives it just a little roasted astringency, which helps balance out the considerable sweetness. In short, he drinks quite easily, with muted ethanol but a slightly thin mouthfeel. As is often the case with The Dalmore, I find myself loving the balance of flavors, but at the same time wondering how it can be at an even higher strength, close to 100 proof. This can really be a showtopper.
All in all, this is an excellent expression, which has a tendency to grow in the glass – my pleasure increased considerably from the first taste to the last. I’m still not sure that it necessarily stands out from the rest of the Dalmore Principal Collection in a way that makes it a must-have new addition, and the $90 MSRP isn’t exactly cheap, but at the same time the rampant price increase on the The world of American whiskey makes it seem much more palatable than it might have been before. Fans looking to enjoy the rich, decadent interplay of fruit and baked goods will find a lot to like here.
Distillery: The Dalmore
City: alness, scotland
Style: sherry malt whiskey
ABV: 43.8% (87.4 tests)
Availability: 750ml bottles, $90 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a writer on the Paste team and a resident beverage geek. You may follow him on twitter for more written drink.
Source : www.pastemagazine.com