One of Scotch whisky’s most iconic and emblematic malts is back after a three year absence – and its re-emergence is being seen as a small victory for the smoking lobby.
The Dalmore Cigar Reserve disappeared in a repackaging exercise its parent company Whyte & Mackay in what was widely seen as a drive against smokers. But the whisky has been relaunched a a premium malt, largely due to public pressure – particularly from the United States.
Among those delighted by the decision to launch a new version of the Dalmore Cigar Reserve is the man who made both the original and the new version, esteemed master blender Richard Paterson. In his view, common sense has at last prevailed.
“The whisky was first introduced in 1999 as a whisky which would work well when consumed along with a good Cuban cigar such as a Partagas,” he says. “But there was a lot of misunderstanding about it. People thought it had been matured in tobacco casks and had tobacco in it and that sort of thing. Eventually it was decided that when The Dalmore range was repackaged and relaunched it should be changed to Gran Reserva.
“But I found that when I went out on the road and to tastings, especially in America, people asked after it and when I told them that it was the Gran Reserva, there was a lot of cynicism and disbelief. It didn’t work. So the decision was taken to bring it back.”
The new version of the malt isn’t exactly the same. the original contained malt of which 60 per cent had been matured in former Oloroso casks and the rest in American White Oak. the new version is made up of malt of which 70 per cent has been matured in Oloroso sherry, 20 per cent in American oak, and 10 per cent in former Cabernet Sauvignon casks. The malt has a deliberately earthy, meaty tone to it but is sophisticated, balanced between sweet and sour, and quite complex.
“This is all very intentional,” says Paterson. “If you smoked a Cuban cigar with a fruity sweet Speyside whisky the cigar would over-power it. You need that earthiness to hold its own against the cigar and you need the sour notes followed by sweet to match the tastes you’d get from a good Cuban cigar.”
The new malt is beautifully packaged, is being rolled out in the United Kingdom in February, and is made up of malts aged between 10 and 14 years old.
Now Paterson is calling for common sense when it comes to accommodating cigar smoking at the end of a meal.
“Where it is possible to do so outlets should allow private diners to enjoy a cigar at the end of a meal. I know in a lot of places the law doesn’t allow it but where you can allow private diners the indulgence of a good whisky with a cigar, you should.”
The Dalmore Cigar Malt will be available through The Whisky Shop from early February.
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Tasting Notes
The nose is intriguing with rich orange fruits, some wine notes and touches of coffee, marzipan and almonds. But the palate’s a surprise, a complex but typical Dalmore in some respects but with three differences. One, there is less of the intense burnt toffee that can make or break the malt. Two it flip flops quite dramatically from savoury to sweet, front, middle and back. A bit unsettling but very beguiling. And three, there’s a meaty, pronounced earthiness, the deliberate result of the faintest sulphur, and undoubtedly the malt’s suit of armour when in battle with a Partagas. It’s whisky’s answer to Muse: it grows on you with repeated visits, there’s lots going on, it chops and changes constantly, it’s excellently crafted and executed, and boy does it rock!