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, where it will finally attain true fulfillment … making Dalmore 12.
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. This distillery boasts with producing one of the most expensive Whiskies in the World, and for being the first to ever export Malt Whisky.
What makes Dalmore special? They are in the Northern Highlands, halfway between Inverness and Tain. Sure, there is the spring water and the single-malt. And all of Dalmore’s Whiskeys start in ex-Bourbon barrels. Solid work so far, but this puts them in line with several other quality brands. What sets them apart is the finishing.
You see, 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 Olorosso 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 flavors that they veritably explode into the Whiskey during those last three year of maturation. This makes the Dalmore 12 Year Old far richer and far darker in color than any other 12-year old Whiskey that I have seen so far. And there is an expresso quality to the aromas and flavor profile that really stand out.
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. This is a significant investment, and far more than all but the highest priced super-premium labels spend.