When the hammer fell at Sotheby's on 18 November 2022, it marked a milestone moment in the history of The Dalmore. The Highland single malt Scotch whisky distillery is no stranger to headline-grabbing auction lots
, but this time it was different. The bottle sold – for an impressive £118,750
– was a breathtaking thing indeed: The Dalmore 48 Years Old Luminary No. 1 – The Rare, the first instalment in a three-part series
of exceptional single malt Scotch whiskies created by collaborations between The Dalmore’s master whisky makers and luminaries of the design world.
The Dalmore Luminary No.1 — The Rare has been aged in cask for an impressive 48 years.
One of just three bottles released, part of Luminary No. 1 – The Rare’s appeal is undoubtedly its acute scarcity — the volume of stock of this venerable age remaining at the Highland distillery is incredibly small. However, what makes this whisky particularly special is the unusual maturation process that was undertaken to make it, its unique presentation, and the fingerprints of the masters who collaborated on its creation.
The Luminary Series is born of a ground-breaking partnership with V&A Dundee
, Scotland’s design museum. It brings together two beautiful worlds: architecture and Scotch whisky. And with that meeting, some of the brightest minds in creativity have collaborated to create something extraordinary.
Visionary architect Kengo Kuma.
The Dalmore’s Luminary No. 1 actually features two bottlings. The phenomenally scarce 48-year-old edition, dubbed ‘The Rare’, was devised by The Dalmore master blender Richard Paterson OBE alongside TIME magazine’s most influential architect 2021
, Japan-based Kengo Kuma
. Everything about the release, from the accompanying 48-sided sculpture to the exactingly matured whisky, showcases the materiality Kengo Kuma is known for.
Meanwhile, the liquid exhibits the rich flavours and dark hue that are Richard Paterson’s hallmarks. Both men are undisputed masters of their respective crafts. The Dalmore 48 Years Old Luminary No. 1 Rare represents the pinnacle of what can be achieved when the brightest lights shine together.
But, of course, if mastery isn’t handed on – if successors aren’t trained – then precious skills like those of Kengo Kuma and Richard Paterson will become extinct. What’s thrilling about The Dalmore’s Luminary series is that the two savants have entrusted their understudies with a second expression. The Dalmore Luminary No. 1 – The Collectible echoes the philosophy of its grande dame sibling, but in a more accessible form.
Created by Kuma-san’s protégé Maurizio Mucciola and master whisky maker Gregg Glass, who has worked under Paterson for a number of years now, around 15,000 bottles of this 15-year-old single malt have been made available globally, priced at £250 each.
From left to right: John Galvin, Richard Paterson, Gregg Glass, and Maurizio Mucciola.
It was an appreciation of the materiality of wood that paved the way for the collaboration. “When I travelled to Japan I was privileged and honoured to see some of Kengo Kuma’s work,” said Richard Paterson. “In Tokyo I saw this mammoth building with all this wood structure interlaced,” he recalls. Wood is Kuma-san’s signature, which is reflected in the structure of V&A Dundee, one of his projects.
“I thought of the connection of wood because, make no mistake, when we talk about wood in the whisky industry, it accounts for something like 80 per cent of what gives you the style, the consistency, that extra level of luxury,” Paterson continues. That shared passion for wood and its role in their worlds brought the two together.
Kuma-san describes the working relationship as a “revelation”. “I learned many things about whisky, it’s a very exciting process,” he said. It’s a sentiment echoed by Glass. “There were a lot of shared passions and a shared space,” he said. “We sat down to talk about flavours, about common characteristics… and then the use of natural Scottish oak and Japanese oak.”
Kuma-san sketches an early design for the sculpture.
It started with wood, and wood remains front and centre when it comes to The Dalmore Luminary Series’ liquid creation. Japanese oak – known as mizunara – is rare in whisky maturation. As a result, casks made from mizunara are expensive and highly sought after by whisky distillers in Japan and beyond. However, Scottish oak is practically unheard of. Both Luminary No.1 expressions made use of both oak types in their composition.
“The cask is what makes the taste of the whisky and what makes it special,” says Mucciola. “We wanted to make something very special which reflects this philosophy.” Let’s start with The Collectible, which he worked on alongside Glass. The spirit started life being matured in casks made from American white oak. When the spirit was almost ready to shine, a final maturation process known as ‘finishing’ was begin in a selection of very special casks.
Gregg Glass overseeing preparation of the "kinsugi casks".
Some of the whisky was transferred to Amarone red wine barrels from the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, while the remainder was finished in bespoke hybrid-oak casks, made only for the release to a design devised by Gregg Glass. Given the name ‘Kintsugi casks’, these special vessels were made from three types of oak: Scottish oak sourced from close to the River Tay, Japanese mizunara and American white oak. Together, the finishing casks are a celebration of the heritage of each man behind the partnership.
The Collectible’s packaging mirrors the complexities of its maturation. Shared passions for wood and flavour are reflected in the strong earth tones, with Mucciola’s geometric design recalling the interplay between whisky and nature. Materiality runs through it all – importantly, the liquid has been bottled with only its natural, cask-derived colour.
The Dalmore Luminary No.1 — The Collectible
Then there’s The Rare – undeniably, a once-in-a-lifetime release. Again, it was first matured in American white oak, with additional influence later coming from secondary maturation periods in Matusalem and Apostles sherry casks, and vintage Port pipes. After careful blending, the amalgam was finished in both Scottish Tay and Japanese oak.
The beauty of the tree doesn’t stop there. The sculpture that accompanies The Rare is made from 48 hand-crafted diamonds cut from Scottish oak, Japanese oak and polished metal, representing each of the 48 years the whisky has matured for. The tessellating, gravity-defying piece was inspired by how invisible aspects of nature impact the visible world – the Scottish oak was even harvested from a tree that had fallen into the River Tay.
It’s a strikingly beautiful, almost effervescent sculpture, brought to life by celebrated cabinet maker John Galvin. The piece – a work of art in its own right – perfectly captures the otherworldly nature of such a preeminent expression.
An early prototype of the sculpture.
The concept of ageing also brought the four masters together. “Ageing as a condition is beautiful,” said Kuma-san. “Age gives value to a building, the same as the cask. The cask adds value every year to the whisky, and the same thing is happening with buildings.”
“Time is everything,” Paterson added. “When we talk about ageing, we look for harmony. These whiskies are 15 and 48 years old and they are shining.”
Richard Paterson OBE, master blender at The Dalmore.
This melodic togetherness showed up in the ways of working, too. “Creating whisky is very similar to going through a lot of different design interactions when we’re designing a building,” Mucciola mused. “Most of them don’t work. But then there’s one that creates the building. It was created in the right space in harmony with the environment, and with the rest of the series.” And this harmony, this sense of honing many iterations over time until perfection is reached, underpins the Luminary philosophy.
This is just the first in a three-part series of whisky and design collaborations, developed in partnership with V&A Dundee. With so much beauty, an abundance of inventiveness, and mutual admiration for each other’s craft, it’s thrilling to even imagine what will come next.
V&A Dundee was designed by Kengo Kuma and Maurizio Mucciola.
But what about the other two remaining bottles of The Rare? The second is being held at The Dalmore Distillery for safekeeping, while the third is displayed at V&A Dundee – the institution at the heart of the collaboration. Because besides all the ceremony, artistry, and impressive auction results, the Luminary Series is about doing good, too. A portion of the proceeds from that lofty Sotheby’s hammer price has been donated to V&A Dundee to enable the team there to continue their work as custodians of design.
The legacy of The Luminary Series will live on. The masters have passed their craft on to their successors. And these exceptional whiskies will bring inspiration to whisky collectors and beyond for years to come.
Luminary No.1 — The RareSingle Malt Scotch WhiskyWhyte & Mackay
STYLE: Single Malt
AVAILABILITY: Limited to 3 bottles worldwide.
Nose: Dark and sumptuous, with freshly ground coffee beans, liquorice, dark cherry, a beautiful nutmeg spice, buttercream icing, and a gentle magnolia uplift.
Palate: Gentle like silk and decadently mouth-coating, there’s orange oil, a subtle hint of menthol, Black Forest Gateau cake, mocha coffee, raw vanilla pods, and a dusting of cumin. Retronasal aromas of waxed leather and furniture polish, too.
Finish: Elegant and generous, with subtly warming spices, tobacco and the darkest chocolate lingering on.
Comments: A stunning whisky. There’s expressiveness, elegance, and an extraordinary balance that sees the cherry, orange oil sweetness held beautifully alongside the earthier spices. It’s regal without being overwrought, and it holds a surprising vibrancy for its age.
Luminary — The CollectibleSingle Malt Scotch WhiskyWhyte & Mackay
STYLE: Single Malt
AVAILABILITY: 15,000 bottles
Nose: Lychee, peach, gooseberry jam, and orange oils. Pine needles and violin rosin. Blossom honey, elderflower and white flowers. Underneath, New York cheesecake, strawberry preserve and ripe blackberries.
Palate: Medium-full bodied and silky. Delightfully oily. A wonderful interplay of floral notes ( (calendula, gentian, orange blossom and elderflower), fresh junipe, pine and peppermint oils, ripe white stone fruits (plum flesh, peach, black cherry), and delicate almond nuttiness. Medjool dates and sultanas bring in the bass notes, with flapjack, heather honey and orange oils.
Finish: Long. The orange oils, honey and florals linger to the last, with white sage and kiwi emerging in time.
Comments: Quite unlike anything we’ve tasted for a long time. This is a truly unique, multifaceted whisky with significant complexity. Superb.