I’ve got another fantastic pairing for you today! Even as I write this a bit after the tasting, I am unsure which single malt will win this round. It was a tough one, folks! Let’s see if I am able to gather all of my thoughts, outline the very slight differences between these two, and synthesize the outcome. For a quick review, you can also check out my previous writeup on GlenDronach 12 vs Macallan 12. And so without further ado, let’s dive right in, but first, music! Now playing: Tapes and Topographies – In Muted Forms.
Let’s start with the Dalmore first. Located in Alness (just north of Inverness), this Whyte & Mackay owned Highland distillery has always had a presence on my shelves. Whether it was with their entry-level 12-year-old, their much-refined 18-year-old, or the somewhat over-marketed Cigar Malt – I was always impressed with the smooth and round notes of Christmas cake, toffee, and chocolate in the profile. But I also have to admit that I have never tasted the 15-year-old. I seemed to simply skip it [from the 12 to 18] and jump to the more expensive bottles from the range. So yes, I’m happy that I get to try this one today and pair it with Macallan. This single malt is finished in three different ex-sherry casks: Apostoles, Amoroso, and Matusalem oloroso before it’s married, bottled at 40% ABV, and sold for somewhere around £60 – 70 these days. It really is between the 12 and the 18, although the 18-year-old is strictly aged [not finished] only in the Matusalem sherry casks. It’s slightly darker and more ruby on the colour, although that doesn’t really matter since the Dalmore adds the colouring to all their single malts. The nose and taste are quintessential Dalmore [if you know what I mean] – it’s sweet and round with that caramel and winter spice that urges you to envelope yourself in blankets and cuddle up in front of the fireplace for the night. It’s just a tad too sweet for drinking with a meal and is fantastic as a digestive or with a scrumptious dessert. I simply love it and see how it holds up to the Macallan.
My bottle of The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Years Old [that is its official name] is probably about six years old, most likely still from the American market [I later confirm this by noticing the importer’s address being in New York on the bottle’s label], and as such, it’s bottled at 43% ABV [the UK market bottles get swindled with the 40%]. It’s slightly muted and thinner on the nose. The colouring is lighter than the Dalmore, but this time it’s not artificial and sincere. It’s woodier and fuller on the palate, with notes of raisins, maybe honey and some spice. I double-check, and there is also a double-cask 15 sold for £100. While this particular bottle of this Speyside single malt was matured in a trio of casks: European and American casks seasoned with sherry and American casks seasons with bourbon. It seems to be not available on the primary market, but you can still obtain it for about £140 from a third-party seller, or search for something called “Fine Oak 15 Years Old” which was its prior name. It does feel slightly like an adult whisky, without being stern or strict and somewhat gentler on the touch to get its point across with confidence and softness. Besides the price (and taste), the biggest difference between these is the process. Note once again, that Dalmore’s only “finished” in ex-sherry casks – which means it spent most of its life most likely in ex-bourbon, while the Macallan kept the spirit undisturbed, although in “seasoned” casks – which means they made the barrels with own sherry, versus purchasing the used ones from the bodega somewhere in Spain.
Alright, as I have said this at the start, this is a tricky one, folks, so which one wins this round? I think I will admit that I am slightly disheartened at the artificial colouring and the meagre percentage of the ABV in the Dalmore. But it’s not overpriced or overvalued whisky. Both are chill-filtered. And although the Macallan takes some “shortcuts” with the seasoning of casks, it’s not apologetic or concealing – it lists all the ingredients and bottles product at a higher ABV. It’s tough to choose, but due to the latter, I’ll say that the Macallan wins this round.