Review: Dalmore Port Wood

The Dalmore Port Wood, from the most premium and prestigious of the Whyte & Mackay brands. Just like with so many others in the industry, this premiumization of the brand means it went a bit of the radar for some whisky nerds (myself included). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold a grudge against The Dalmore for choosing this pathway. I know many fans of the brand who swear by it, but personally I’d love to see a bit higher ABV on their core-range. That way flavour molecules that will attach themselves to the alcohol molecules, means that at a higher ABV we’ll just get so much more flavour from our daily dram (told you I was a bit of a whisky nerd).

But this whisky isn’t aimed at us. It’s aimed at those who prefer a “smooth” drinking sensation over anything else. And The Dalmore delivered just that. But then there was the Port Wood… bottled at 46,5% ABV!

Colouring and Chill-Filtering

Even though there’s still colouring added – and thus I can’t really call this an integrity bottling – it does seem to be aimed a bit more towards us whisky afficionados. I can’t find any information about whether this release has been chill-filtered or not, but I’m half assuming it is. This being a Dalmore, I think there will be plenty fans of the brand that will pour this one over ice. Which would quickly bring the ABV below 46% and chill the whisky enough that cloudiness might appear. So, in the end (it seems like) all us geeks are left with is a higher ABV, and an interesting finish. Perhaps not a whisky truly aimed at us after all. But still… a step in the right direction.

The big question…

What I’m most curious about in the end is whether this could be a dram that slowly turns fans of “smooth” whisky towards geekier drams (and that by doing so The Dalmore would find a bigger market for these type of bottlings). Or that this bottling will spurn those long-time fans of the brand while at the same time not offering enough of an improvement to sway whisk ynerds towards the brand. I guess the answer I’m looking for today is if this is a half-assed attempt, or a case of we’re halfway there. Let’s find out!

Tasting Notes: The Dalmore Port Wood

ABV: 46,5% (93 proof)
Age: NAS
Distillery: The Dalmore
Category: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Chill-Filtered: Unknown (probably though)
Natural Colour: No

Setting:

After a long day of work and care it’s finally time for me to put my feet up. I turned on the lights on my new whisky shelves and selected a bottle that I always found rather charming, though some might call it a bit gaudy. The only thing that always kept me away from the brand was that I kept reading negative reviews about it… but seeing as they upped the ABV to a respectable 46,5%  for this one (and I do love a good Port finish), I found myself wondering if it might be able to surprise. I poured the dram neat (no ice) into one of my Dram1 tasting glasses and I’m set to find out!

Nose:

The nose of this dram holds a combination of dried red fruit and earthen scents. It’s chockfull of dried cranberries, strawberries, and dates. Paired with an (almost over the top) berry sweetness, reminiscent of home-made blackberry syrup. The earthen elements I’m finding remind me a bit of fern, dunnage floors, and actual dirt (the type you grow your veggies in). The balance between the sweet and earthen notes here is pleasant, and very much reminiscent of other port finished drams. (If I were to knock it, it’s perhaps a bit too reminiscent).

Palate:

The palate holds much more of a surprise for me than the nose did. It’s by far not as sweet as I expected from the nose. The sweetness is there eventually, but the first things that hit you are meaty notes. Like peppered roast-beef. Not a note I get all that often in unpeated drams. It’s paired with a dark yet delicate sweetness that reminds me of the port syrup I keep in the cupboard to pair with old cheese. But there’s also extra dark chocolate and a feint hint at liquorice root in the mix. All-in-all plenty of complexity to discover. I do find a bit of an ethanol note in there as well though, and I’m starting to feel like this one might be a bit too intense for long time fans of the rest of The Dalmore’s core range.

Finish:

The finish has a medium-long length. At first there’s more of that port-syrup and liquorice root that lingers. But eventually it turns towards more tannic and bitter flavours (like sucking on a popsicle stick for too long), though there’s some wine gum in there as well. I liked the finish at first, but I must admit it gets away from me near the end. It does occur to me that this one would pair perfectly with a good chunk of old cheese (instead of the syrup). It will give me something to wash the bitter notes away, while bringing out the best flavours of this dram at the same time.

Verdict:

That cheese pairing? Yes, that was just what this dram needed. For that fact alone I can’t knock the Dalmore Port Wood too hard. For me it also did prove a step in the right direction (a halfway there so to say). Not just because of the higher ABV, but also because of the price. I paid 58 euro for my bottle, and all things given I don’t think that’s an unfair asking price. I will add that I don’t think this one will be a particular success with long time fans of The Dalmore, but for those looking to explore there’s plenty to like. I’ll say this, keep going in this direction Dalmore, let’s remove chillfiltering and colouring as well and we’re really getting somewhere!

Value:

C+

Rating:

82/100

Dramble on!

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