*Thanks to the good folks at The Baddish Group for the sample.
Ahhh, the fickle, occasionally brain-dead consumer…ok, “brain-dead” is perhaps going to far, how about the fickle, occasionally unimaginative consumer? The Dalmore, for years, had produced their well-loved “Cigar Malt”, yet they had a bit of a marketing conundrum. The name, it seemed, was holding sales back. People were shying away from the stuff, thinking it could only be enjoyed with a cigar or possibly worse yet (and this is just cynical, misanthropic speculation on my part) there were a small number of folks not interested in the Cigar Malt because they did not like whisky made with tobacco. So in the interest of making the malt appealing to everyone, not just those stinking up rooms with cigars, they changed the whisky a bit and called it Gran Reserva instead. A much less focused name, though I’m sure there were still a few idiots (probably Americans) who now thought the whisky was made with a Pontiac.
The Gran Reserva is a fine Scotch in its own right, but wouldn’t you know it, as soon as it was gone, people were clamoring for their dear, departed Cigar Malt. It seems that for as many people who didn’t drink the Cigar Malt because they didn’t smoke cigars, there were an equal number who couldn’t possibly drink anything but the Cigar Malt while puffing away. Well, The Dalmore has listened to the people and the Cigar Malt is making its triumphant return. Like the first version, the Cigar Malt Reserve is made up whiskies between 10 and 14 years old, but this time around, a greater proportion has been aged in ex-Oloroso butts (70%, with the remaining 30% in ex-bourbon barrels) and the expression has been bottled at a slightly higher 44% ABV.
The Nose: Dark chocolate sauce, buttery butterscotch, a little fresh-baked berry pie sweetness and a bit of candied orange. Spicy, solid, polished yet mildly rough oak notes with cinnamon and peppercorns hovering just behind. A slightly sour, wet-leather earthiness balances out the sweet and spice nicely. There’s also…and I tried to avoid saying so as the name implies quite a bit, but in the end, that’s what it reminded me of…there’s a bit of tobacco leaf in there as well, not smoke, just the leaf.
The Palate: Oily, initial sherried and citrus sweetness registers momentarily but is quickly overwhelmed by very spicy, earthy, slightly spirit-y unsweetened chocolate and coarse malt notes. There’s a lot of rich, complex spice here; green cardamom, cinnamon stick, earthy vanilla, raw clove, black pepper, that, coupled with the wood, gives this an almost rough, wild feel. Make no mistake tho’, this isn’t “harsh” rough, it’s just not a stuffy, silky, sherried dram. A nice puff of wood smoke emerges towards the end.
The Finish: A slightly numbing spiciness lingers, oaky and nicely acidic with that wood smoke drifting away.
Thoughts: There’s a very appealing, refined roughness to this, a bit wild, but a bit stately at the same time. This is a robust, striking dram. I found the coarse wood and spice perhaps a touch too much for my taste, but on the whole, it works well. Again, since I’m not a cigar smoker, I don’t have much to say in that regard but I can see the spicy strength holding its own and complementing a good cigar. I will say it’s pretty damn good with some dark chocolate. The Cigar Malt would be a great malt to sip after coming inside from a long walk on a cold but dry, late fall day, however; it’s $125 price tag seems a pretty steep, value-wise.
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve, Highland