If the old adages are anything to go by, good things take time and nowhere does that sentiment ring truer than in the world of fine whisky-making. Age statements and rare finishes dominate the top shelves of barrooms across the globe with each dram offering a mere taste of the blood, sweat, and barley painstakingly poured into each cask. For revered Scottish icon The Dalmore, the labour of love has spawned a swathe of incredible releases, but the Cask Curations Series could be considered one of if not the most important in the label’s 180 years of operation.
A four-year programme, the Cask Curation Series celebrates the role that exquisite casks play in the formulation of the iconic single malt Scotch whisky. The whisky maker’s collection of distinctive stills is responsible for producing a new make, Highland-style spirit of great character and depth that is well-suited to extended maturation, and it’s not by accident. Master Whisky Maker Gregg Glass and Master Distiller Richard Paterson OBE have continued the tradition of sourcing casks from some of the world’s finest wineries and bodegas to fully express The Dalmore’s whisky-making artistry. It’s a journey that has spanned generations, traversed heritage and, as I found out recently, even crossed continents.
The Sherry Edition
To mark the true arrival of the much-anticipated Cask Curation Series, The Dalmore recently lifted the covers on The Sherry Edition and I had the enviable pleasure of travelling to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain to be there when it did. A stunning first release that speaks to the label’s dedication to craftsmanship, The Sherry Edition features the input of fifth-generation winemakers González Byass, led by master winemaker Antonio Flores and his daughter Silvia Flores.
As I quickly learned, the connection runs deep, with The Sherry Edition representing just a small token of the time-honoured relationship between the family and The Dalmore. A receipt was revealed, dated 1915, for the purchase of González Byass sherry wood from The Dalmore’s Mckenzie Brothers for 50 pounds. The receipt, signed “Dear Sirs, we remain faithfully yours”, was clearly not the first time the transaction had been made, and thankfully for me, not the last.
The story of The Sherry Edition starts on the vine in sun-drenched Andalucia and continues into the magnificent bodegas of González Byass where the sherry wine is laid down to develop its unique character over time. It is here where The Dalmore’s whisky makers visit regularly to pick out rare casks with the perfect characteristics for maturing their whisky.
Curation is about choices – from the vine, to the grape, to the press, to the bodega, to the solera, to the sherry, to friendship. From sunny Jerez to the highlands of Scotland, this release is a testament to the friendship between The Dalmore and González Byass that has thrived for over a century. At the heart of the Cask Curation Series are the special and exclusive relationships between The Dalmore and the renowned winemakers with whom it collaborates.
The Sherry Edition is a set of three exceptional aged-statement whiskies of 26, 28 and 43 years – all finished in the finest González Byass casks. There are only 150 sets available worldwide and they retail at an eye-watering $58,000.
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As you would expect at that price point, the set is beautifully presented in a bespoke red leather-finished travel case hand-crafted in Florence, Italy. This eye-catching package harkens back to the bygone era of glamorous travel where one can imagine crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner or embarking on a transcontinental train journey.
Each age-statement whisky represents The Dalmore Single Malt finished in González Byass Sherry Casks in its purest form; natural colour, non-chill-filtered, and cask-strength. Housed in the iconic Dalmore bottle adorned with a matching collar;
- The 26 Year Old, finished in rare González Byass 2002 Vintage, Cask No.4
- The 28 Year Old, finished in very rare González Byass 30 Year Old Matusalem Sherry Cask
- The 43 Year Old, finished in very rare González Byass 30 Year Old Apostoles Sherry Cask
26 Year Old, Finished in Rare González Byass 2002 Vintage, Cask No.4
Despite being legally old enough to buy its own Scotch, the youngest whisky of the set is the 26 year old. Matured in American white oak ex-Bourbon casks and finished for two years in Cask #4 – a 2002 Vintage Palemeno Sherry Cask, it is a true reflection of the natural beauty and charm that The Dalmore offers. A one-off, the stunning Scotch whisky offers a myriad of exotic flavours that are unusual when compared to more traditional The Dalmore releases.
At 48.2% ABV, it’s far from light on alcohol, however, the rich, sweetness of the sherry allows the whisky to remain vibrant and approachable. On the nose are fresh notes of orange blossom honey, apricot, Madagascan vanilla, and cacao. On the palate is the sweetness of golden raisins, iced cherry cake, sugared almonds and mandarin citrus. The finishing notes are reminiscent of a bakery with fresh brioche, coffee, ginger, and warm vanilla. As Gregg Glass, Master Whisky Maker of The Dalmore, surmises, “It is an expression of our cask curation at its finest”.
28 Year Old, Finished in Rare González Byass 30-Year-Old Matusalem Sherry Cask
The 28 year old was matured in American white oak ex-Bourbon casks and finished in Cask #73 – a very rare 30-year-old Matusalem Sherry Cask. I found that when compared to the 26 year old, the floral note is more pronounced but wonderfully balanced out by the richness of the Matusalem sherry cask. The Matusalem notes of figs, dates, and raisins have always paired well with The Dalmore’s house style and it is on fine display with this release.
One of the longest finishes The Dalmore has created, the 28 year old is strikingly different from the core range and packs a punch at 55.3% ABV. Rich dark fruits, Manuka honey, liquorice, sweet tobacco and star fruit can all be picked up on the nose. On the palate are antique flavours found through sherry-soaked raisins, Old English marmalade, marzipan, and liquorice. Waves of dark cherries, molasses, and dark chocolate will stay with you long after you’ve sipped. Richard Paterson OBE, Master Distiller at The Dalmore describes it as a “melody of flavours brought together in pure harmony through the classic influence of our renowned 30 Years Old Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butts – the result is a treasure chest of pure liquid gold.”
43 Year Old, Finished in Rare González Byass 30-Year-Old Apostoles Sherry Cask
When the case is opened, all eyes are understandably drawn to the 43 year old proudly sitting front and centre. Matured in American white oak ex-Bourbon casks and finished in Cask #1—a very rare 30-year-old Apostoles Sherry Cask—for 12 years, The Dalmore have created a timeless classic. The vintage wood and Apostoles sherry provide a wonderful freshness and complexity.
Full of tropical fruits, elegant top notes and umami characteristics, this release, at 46.8% ABV, offers a lot to discover. Honey, roasted chestnuts, sun-kissed raisins, and Seville oranges can all be found on the nose. On the palate, there’s vanilla, dark forest fruits, crushed almonds and dark chocolate. Notes of fresh baked brioche, pineapple, blood orange and sweet cinnamon come home strongly. According to Richard Paterson OBE, “This noble spirit was nurtured and finished over many years, creating an unsurpassed journey of pure charm and sophistication.”
The Sherry Edition may be the first chapter in The Dalmore Cask Curation Series, but it certainly won’t be the last. The esteemed distillery has already outlined plans to drop the second release sometime in 2024, with the next instalment set to celebrate the influence the Port pipes have on the spirit. Until then, I’m still picturing the sun-drenched vines of Andalucia and the hallowed bodegas of González Byass.
The Sherry Edition is a stunning release housed in an equally stunning case that reflects the passion and knowledge of generations of whisky and sherry makers and their ongoing, committed friendship. The Dalmore Sherry Edition launched in Australia in late October and is currently showcased and available to purchase at Dan Murphy’s Martin Place, Sydney.
Disclaimer: The author of this post, Richie Hall, was invited to attend the launch of the Cask Curation Series: The Sherry Edition as a guest of The Dalmore.
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