The launch of the whiskies coincides with an intense week of activity at the Highland distillery by master distiller Richard Paterson OBE, master whisky maker Gregg Glass and Dalmore custodian Margaret Nicol. The trio allocate a week each November to carry out a detailed evaluation of several hundred key Dalmore casks and decide which will be set aside for the following year’s vintage releases.
Richard Paterson explains, “November is special. This is the point just before the whiskies go to sleep for the winter as temperatures drop in our dunnage warehouses beside the Cromarty Firth. In November they express themselves and we tease out their special nuances.”
The Dalmore’s permanent Principal Collection includes 15- and 18-year-old expressions, so when it comes to vintage bottlings of the same age, Gregg Glass notes, “We find casks that don’t fit in that age profile for the core range, perhaps with ‘stronger’ characters, and we use those for the vintages.”
‘Warm honey spice’ is the chosen theme for the pair of 2022 vintage releases. Glass explains that the use of a Marsala cask-matured component after initial bourbon cask ageing gives the 2007 bottling a floral quality, “like honey blossom”, as well as giving the whisky a “warm lift”. Other cask types utilised in this vintage are Matusalem, Amoroso and Apostoles.
The 2003 vintage contains a proportion of whisky finished in Rivesaltes sweet wine, which helps to add a heavier note of manuka honey. This assemblage also contains whisky which has experienced secondary maturation in Matusalem, Amoroso and small-batch bourbon casks.
The Dalmore 2022 Vintage Collection follows the introduction of an annually released 21-year-old expression as the pinnacle of the Principal Collection and comes as the distillery prepares for a major redevelopment programme.
A building that formerly contained Saladin malting boxes has been demolished to create the footprint for an entirely new production area which will be equipped with exact replicas of the existing semi-lauter tun, eight wooden washbacks and four pairs of stills.
The Dalmore distilling regime with its flat-topped wash stills and water-jacketed spirit stills of varying sizes is idiosyncratic to say the least, and copper-smithing legend Forsyth of Rothes and the Dalmore team have the tricky task of ensuring that new-make spirit in the new distillery is an exact match for the existing liquid.
According to head of whisky discovery Kieran Healey-Ryder, “The distillery was leading edge when it was built in 1839 and we want it to be leading edge for today. Sustainability and efficiency are vital, but we must be sure not to lose any of our distinctive new-make character.”
Once the new distillery is up and running, probably late in 2024, the existing plant will be closed and renovated, with the likelihood that at some point it will be brought back into production, giving the site a theoretical annual capacity of up to 9 million litres per annum (lpa).
The Dalmore 2007 Vintage 15 Years Old (46.5% ABV) and The Dalmore 2003 Vintage, 18 Years Old (46.9% ABV) are bottled with natural colour and without chill filtration. The bottlings are available in Europe and Asia and via www.thedalmore.com priced at GB£150 and £350 respectively.