Somewhere in Andalusia a fresh oak cask of Matusalem Sherry is being rolled into the storage buildings where it will dream of the day—more than 30 years from now—that it will be emptied of its wine and shipped to the Highlands.
Alexander Matheson, a trader who made his fortune in illegal opium imports
from the Far East, founded the Dalmore Distillery in 1839. It is located on the northern shores of the Firth of Cromarty, deep in the Scottish Highlands. The Dalmore changed owners many times throughout the years, with Clan Mackenzie
being in control the longest.
Clan Mackenzie is to thank for Dalmore's signature twelve-progned stag
included on all Dalmore bottles. The story of the stag goes back to 1263, when the head of clan Mackenzie heroically saved Scottish King Alexander the Third
, with a single arrow to end the Stag's attempt.
All of Dalmore’s Whiskies start in ex-Bourbon barrels. Dalmore 12 ages 9 years in those Bourbon casks. Then, the spirit is divided. Half is re-casked in Bourbon barrels, and the other half—the magical half—ages three more years in Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Sherry casks. And that Matusalem Sherry is mystical stuff indeed. It is the Rolls Royce of Oloroso Sherries, having itself quietly rested at least 30-years.
It is these barrels that hold the key. After three decades the barrels are so packed with incredibly dense flavours that they veritably explode into the Whisky during those last three years of maturation.
The ex-Bourbon casks used in the making of Dalmore can usually be had for less than $100 each, but the 30-year old Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Sherry casks cost upwards of $1500 each.