Low Key mission #4: Dalwhinnie

This low key mission is similar to my recent Coleburn session blog, with two G&Ms & one Cadenhead – with the addition of the official 15yo. Today, vintage order protocol is observed. Isnt it amazing to be drinking whisky distilled in the 1960s for the price of a pint?

If like me youre not a huge fan of the 15yo or the abominable Winters Gold, chances are Dalwhinnie isnt one of your favourite distilleries. The distillery has in the past released alternative ‘unique’ NAS vintages under their ‘Distiller’s Edition’ range that spanned the years 1980-2000, less frequent presentations under series titles such as ‘Manager’s Dram’, ‘Cask Strength’ and [Diageo] ‘Special Releases’ as well as one-off vintages & alternative age statement editions – an 8yo & a 16yo for example that i believe were available in the 1970’s-80’s. These alternative Dalwhinnie expressions however are sadly are few and far between, and for most of us the official 15yo stands alone in representing this aesthetically beautiful old distillery.

distillery.jpg

And there are only very few independent bottlers who got to present Dalwhinnie in a different guise, namely:

  • Cadenhead
  • G&M
  • Sesante
  • SMWS

,.. though im sure/hope we shall see a TBWC bottling soon enough.

Before I explore three of these independent releases, first lets have a quick reminder of the official 15yo.

 

Dalwhinnie 15yo [2014/15] Ob. 43% WB81[671] WF83 Ralfy90

15yo.jpg

  • N: Sugary, honeyed [soft] hay into flour, a touch farmy, some once-damp old newspaper fustiness, light putty-porridge notes, lemon tea, some saltiness, some caramel and sausages!. A more natural barely profile with a sweeter citrus balance is consolidated over time. Nicely woody, very nice nose overall.
  • T: Sour-sweet dry-lemon cereal with a bitter-sweet honey-citrus development. Becomes somewhat edgy-soapy with bitter>sweet grapefruit-lemon moving decidedly sour,….. attempts to sweeten a touch nearing the turn but with an unwanted yet so-far controlled bitter radish-like heat looming underside.
  • F: The heat thankfully isnt realised, becoming chalky [attempting but failing a Balvenie-fluffiness], still a touch soapy and woody-bitter, following up with sour~savoury~sweet grapefruit-putty/mash. Water has varying effects but doesnt affect the profile. Clean sour=savoury witch hazel finish.
  • C: Ive always found the official 15yo more complex & challenging than its ‘beginners malt’ status, given all that bitter sourness, and today i dug it more than i ever have. This bottle is from around 2014-15 and is from a far better batch than i had at the distillery in 2016. Reminds me a little of some [1979/1995] Balblair expressions.

Scores 84 points

 

Dalwhinnie 1966/1993 27yo Cadenhead Single cask 45.5% WB0 [WB]88.33[3] WF89 WM88[3]

Cadenhead.jpg

  • N: Such a fine series, these green bottled CS Cadenheads. Potent, grassy/hay, oily, nutty-woody [think walnut oak], faintly chocolate-y<cacao honey malt. Its just shy of the modern [2017] ‘craft approved’ abv minimum but smells stronger. Aromatically spiced with cumin, mixed herbs, floral notes, fruit jams, old oily cardboard boxes [garage storage jobs] – actually an array of garage-y notes like: petrol, paints, chemicals, metals, oily rags,…. wowee! With time, theres the emergence of [tropical] fruits alongside the garage sale that points firmly to a bourbon cask. [Does Dalwhinnie work wth sherry?] Did i mention the mineral-y flinty notes? Cracking start.
  • T: Some OBE issues to begin with, but that doesnt detract from the savoury-oily>fruity>farmy<garage-laiden journey ahead. Thinnish initially but quickly picks up steam. Add water to knock the OBE away and for a salivating herbal-sweet oily-ish/waxy-ish<sooty mouthful, with some ashy boot polish, a lightly peppery herbal heat, [marjoram, rosemary, nasturtiums], fried nigella=cumin=mustard seeds, beeswax and some liquorice wood. Rumbles on, and on [more savoury/herbal/oaky/garage complexities to enjoy. Chew, chew, chew,… oily and a touch plastic-y,…..
  • F: [Eventually], first milky/creamy before turning to lemon sorbet with a particularly tasty, woody-oily, brown paper bag & 1990’s vegan icecream dryness ive only encountered once before – and thats in the latest 15yo Glen Scotia release WB. More rumblings, much of it cask led, with more sooty>ashy, dry heather, bourbon savoury-sweetness, witch hazel,… Later i find myself burping sooty/peaty lemon=grapefruit.
  • C: Both a culinary and academic delight, Dalwhinnie at its best. And to think this was £6 for 5cl, the equivalent of £84 for a bottle – more than two Winters Gold!

Scores 89 points

 

Dalwhinnie 1963 GM Brown Label 40% WF87

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  • N: Fruity-sweet grain with milky lactose veering towards emulsion. The honey-sweet grassy/hay element is close enough identical to that of the Cadenhead. Similar complexity too though more creamy and let down a tad by the lower strength. With time, the bourbon fruits [like the Cadenhead] come through, coupled with that cheesy lactose note, vanilla ice-cream, butterscotch tart, old soaked-paint brushes, a pinch of chilli heat and a little peat that gradually grows. An hour later, tropical fruit icecream>heather=hay is the order of the day. Aside from lots of garage-y similarities, the main difference in comparison to the mineral-y Cadenhead is the malty-barley strength. Very pleasing stuff, so lets dive in.
  • T: Softer/thinner arrival than the Cadenhead [of course], a little dryish yet also with a somewhat squidgy & salivating mouthfeel and again a very slight herbal peppery [vegetal=liquorice [cabbage<rocket=radish] heat. Develops with a desirable & complex sweetening bourbon-honeyed chew accompanied by a less prominent ashy/boot-polish/sootiness. More rumblings,…. long unscramblings,…. Theres something a little putrid tied in with that lactose note.
  • F: Eventually that lactose note changes into a dry=ish ice-cream with a splash of white Pino, some more herbal pinches, a continued flavoursome vegetal-peppery warmth and similar oakiness. Its much less phenolic than the Cadenhead at this latter stage – also less dry [with water].
  • C: Profile-wise, very similar to the Cadenhead which its eclipsed by – not only because of the strength. It remains however a very decent Dalwhinnie expression, one that needs a little tendering.

Scores 87 points

 

Dalwhinnie 1962 GM Brown Label 40% WM88[2]

1962.jpg

  • N: Bit pongy this one, a sulphury/dunder=decay pong and with good strength – possibly the boldest of the four. That aside, im picking up a liquid-sooty=peatiness, smokey carrot & treacle tart, an earthy/floral/ creaminess, herbal jam tarts, smoky grassy/hay & camphor, sweet rhubarb, roasted butternut squash, dried berries, dry & tarry, sour/vegetal-sweet, some mint, sage, a little TTW…. Could go either way. Much later the pong lifts bringing more honeyed bourbon notes to the fore with drier candied fruits, [Wrigley’s] spearmint and sweet play dough. Next day, the similarities between all three vintages are even closer. A lovely bitter-sweet fruity-cereal, phenolic sooty=oaky vibe keeps me engaged.
  • T: Similar vibe as the nose and though a clumsy start, theres lots going on. Theres still some sulphur action but its more fleeting on the palate. Otherwise, we’ve more of that sweet~sour [treacle tart~creamy/cheesy~grapefruit] note and a slightly putrid/decaying once again, like with the 1963 vintage. Becomes chalkier, drier, woodier, more sour and a little floury. Like the nose, much more oozing bourbon cask action after an hour or so. Now a sour-sweet Speyside-y, dried-grassy citrus malt is the order of the day – not dissimilar to the official bottling now. Smoky-dry yet salivating.
  • F: Complex, medium-length, dryish=sour-ish finish with this reoccurring ashy grassy=woody grapefruit-y profile showing through once again. Theres a small build up of smoky-woody, peppery heat with dried sour-sweet chalky cranberry powder [specific!] and heathery>peaty>farmy raisin=vanilla=rum=putty,…… Finishes coal-like with toasted=heathery, sweet<bitter oak.
  • C: Though somewhat messy & overshadowed by the previous two, its still very good.

Scores 85 points

 

According to WF/MM, the distillery profile is/was:

  • Fruity Malty Vanilla Tea Nutty Resinous Marzipan Apples Caramel Honey

There seemed to be a common thread throughout todays flight but one that spelled out a different profile:

  • Woody-bitter/honey-sweet, herbal/grapefruit=lemon sour, milky/creamy, heathery/grassy, peppery, smokey & sooty.

 

According to SW ‘The heaviness of the sulphur means that it takes 15 years in refill casks for Dalwhinnie to emerge fully‘ – so it makes sense that the complexities shown from these three independent expressions has likely come from even older-matured spirit. Thank goodness for the independent bottlers, may they continue to thrive!

 

Further reading:

Ralfy:

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