Glenmorangie Finealta

Recreating old whisky must be a tricky business. I can taste and smell things in a dram that seem to me to be the flavours and aromas it contains (or suggests). But to work the other way and engineer a whisky to capture subtle notes and undercurrents once contained by a whisky gone by takes a rare skill and depth of understanding.

Glenmorangie Finealta is a recreation of a recipe from 1903, which is matured in a specific ratio between American white oak casks and Spanish Oloroso casks. There’s also a spot of peat to this – unusual for a Glenmorangie these days, but a hundred plus years ago, they dried their barley in a peat fired kiln, so it would have been standard at the time.

Having not tasted the original myself – being only forty-something years of age, rather than a hundred and forty something – I can’t speak to the exactness with which the whisky has been recreated. But I can tell you what I think of it.

First, the nose is quite citrus. Lime and oranges and a sugary note reminiscent of lemon drops, with a touch of dried fruit and a slight note of thin woodsmoke – like burning kindling. The sweetness comes through on the palate – still citrus, but more marmalade than fresh fruit. A little water takes the sharpness away – and too much quickly deadens it – but it’s still overwhelmingly marmalade with ginger and a little allspice.

The finish is an unusual one. Instantly baking soda and sugar – sweet, but unbalanced, like a misread fudge recipe. Not altogether unpleasant, but certainly surprising after the delicate start. An overall chalky floral ending, as if you’d inhaled your grandmother’s face powder – evocative of times gone by, certainly.

This may or may not be indistinguishable from the whisky served at the American Bar of the Savoy in 1903, but the attractive art nouveau inspired bottle, the stories that will accompany it, and the unusual nature of the dram (both in terms of its peaty air and its antique elegance) will pique the curiosity of many whisky enthusiasts.

If you’re interested, you’ll pick up a bottle for around the £60 mark. 46% abv.

Dalmore Castle Leod

The View From Here
The view from here

So, if you’ve been wondering why the silence from this end of the whisky tasting operation, it’s because I’ve been busy renovating, selling and moving house. Something which automatically calls for a dram.

The family and I have relocated to Fife. Rural enough without being remote, and fine for transport in any direction and by any mode, be it winged or wheeled.

And most importantly, closer to the whisky.

In the interim, it appears that Dubber has taken delivery of several samples of the new Dalmore releases – but whilst for the most part, he did the gracious thing and saved me the trouble of tasting them, he managed to send me one to evaluate.

On The Rocks
On the rocks

The Dalmore Castle Leod is the second bottling to draw attention to Dalmore’s close historic ties with Clan Mackenzie (see tasting notes for that here… ). The Castle itself has been home to Clan Mackenzie since 1606, and The Mackenzie bottling helped in part to support The Mackenzie Clan Gathering last year.

It’s great that whisky companies appear to be waking up to the fact that their products are synonymously intertwined with culture, and are choosing to associate themselves with important issues and causes. Whilst the more cynical of you may dismiss this as mere marketing, I for one, am happy to see the profile of these causes benefitting from the extra exposure. If you can enjoy a dram whilst helping maintain important cultural iconography, then why not?

As for the dram itself, here’s what I made of it:

Nose: heavy wine notes, pot ale syrup/treacle, chocolate orange, custard creams, dried fruit

Palate: Astringent, big, robust, wine notes, lots of sawn wood, cocoa powder, blackcurrants, copper (?!?)

Finish: More red wine in the finish initially, giving way to chocolate again, back to wine and dried fruit, perhaps tropical fruit, mango, pineapple and the like, quite lengthy

All in all, an unusual whisky, but certainly offering something of the luxurious, as befitting it’s namesake. It would be a great end to a celebratory evening.

You can book a tour of the castle itself if you become one of the Dalmore Custodians. Next time I’m up that direction I intend to check it out.

Dalmore Rivers Collection: The Spey Dram

Photo by Junnn

It’s worth noting that the collection has been created by Richard ‘The Nose’ Paterson, who is Whyte & Mackay’s talented (and world-renowned) master blender – and according to the blurb here, each expression is different and reflects the character of Scotland’s four greatest salmon rivers.

I have to be honest here: I don’t taste the character of the Spey river in this particular dram, and I didn’t taste any other river characters in the other drams – but this is a metaphorical reflection rather than a literal one, which I suppose is a good thing. I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy a whisky that literally reflected the character of a salmon river, no matter how pristine and well-preserved, quite as much as I enjoy these Dalmore drams.

All that said – on with the Spey. And as much as it’s a fine whisky, this is further up the floral end of the spectrum than you might ordinarily associate with a Speyside whisky – and that’s because it’s not a Speyside. Being a Dalmore means that it’s a Highlands whisky, regardless of how much of the spirit of the Spey the expression metaphorically reflects.

There’s a light note of jasmine on the nose, and not much of anything else. Perhaps a little lavender. The palate is fairly unchallenging – sweet and subtle with hints of macadamia and marzipan – and while the finish isn’t abrupt, it is rather light with just a touch of pepper and bergamot.

Rather disappointingly, since this is the Rivers Collection I’m finishing on, this is for me the least of them. Still, if you wanted to make a contribution to the upkeep of the Spey river – or indeed all of the rivers – or if you wanted to collect the set, this would certainly be one to get. But for my money, if you’re choosing just one of the four – go for the Dee dram, which was the second one I tasted.

I still have a sample of Dalmore to try that came in the same box, but it’s not one of the Rivers Collection. This is the one I’ve been saving for best: the Dalmore Castle Leod… and I’ll be tasting that one in a couple of days time. Look forward to that one.

Dalmore Rivers Collection: The Tweed Dram

Photo by christianvassdal

Known as perhaps the best and most prolific of the salmon-fishing rivers, the Tweed River is both celebrated and supported by the release of the third of this series of Dalmore rivers collection bottlings: the Tweed Dram.

A lighter and more delicate scotch than the previous two (Tay and Dee), this has a more honeycomb and marzipan nose to it, with a touch of pear. The palate is marmalade and allspice with barley sugars. Honey on the medium-length finish with a slight nut and caramel tone to the aftertaste.

If you’re looking for a slightly sweeter and mellower dram, this would be a very good choice, and you can feel good about the £4 or so that goes toward the preservation of Britain’s best salmon waterway.

Dalmore Rivers Collection: The Dee Dram

Photo by aldenchadwick

The second in the series of the four Dalmore Rivers whiskies is the Dee Dram. Quite a different character to the Tay I tasted yesterday. It’s more bitter – not in an unpleasant way, but in the way that dark chocolate, espresso beans and walnuts are more bitter than cake.

In fact, those are, for me, the predominant characters of this whisky, which actually makes it more to my taste. There’s still something of the citrus in here – orange peel, perhaps – as well as some slight aniseed or liquorice tones, and this comes through quite strongly on the nose. There’s a distinct cocoa flavour on the palate, a touch of hazelnut, and again a longish finish.

It’s a 12 year old scotch, 50% aged in sherry casks and 50% in bourbon casks, and is a limited edition bottling to raise money for the preservation of the Dee River. Around 10% of the retail price for the whisky goes to the Dee River Trust to support their work and enable conservation and sustainability efforts for this important part of Scotland’s natural heritage.

And it’s a very nice whisky.