*Thanks to the good folks at the Baddish Group for the sample.
Rising up on either side of the Cromarty Firth’s narrow opening are two 400′ promontories known as “The Sutors”. Sutor…or more accurately “Souter” is Scots for cobbler or shoemaker, and according to local legend, these two facing bluffs act as the workbenches for two shoe-making giants who lived nearby and protected the locals, presumably by making them quality footwear. The giants would sit aside their work benches, cobbling diligently, and occasionally throwing tools back and forth across the water. An evocative bit of lore to be sure, though I’m not sure that giant hands would be dexterous enough to do the delicate stitching a fine boot requires. Perhaps they were only making shoes for other giants, but given the number of giants in the area, that doesn’t sound like a very big workload. Maybe giants wear out shoes more quickly, I don’t know, I’m certainly no expert. I do know that hurling tools of any kind and of any size at other people is unsafe behavior and a rather cavalier way to treat one’s equipment.
I mention all this because some of those people who these shoemaking giants protect are the folks at The Dalmore Distillery which has been making whisky on the shores of the Firth since 1839. This expression, the Dalmore 18 Year Old, has been aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks for 14 years, then ex-Matusalem sherry casks for three years, then the vatting is married for one more year in ex-sherry casks.
The Nose: A rich nose, nicely sherried with butterscotch, toasted walnuts, and clove mixed with fruitier notes of candied orange and raisins in rice pudding. Behind that, notes of polished oak, and hints of worn leather and coffee beans. Faintly reminiscent of the Nocino we made a few years ago.
The Palate: A creamy, robust entry full of burnt toffee, unsweetened chocolate, and honey roasted nuts. Quickly spicy, lots of clove, coarse vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, fresh grated nutmeg, and a little saltiness. A strong, tannic, oak influence gets pretty big, but it works, quite drying with good mouth-watering acidity as well.
The Finish: Nice, lingering combo of wood, clove, and sherried sweetness.
Thoughts: Fairly delicious stuff. Nutty, sweet sherried notes and “old library” tones on the nose transition well to the slightly wild, spicy Highland palate. This has all the marks of a good “late teens” Scotch; rich, after-dinner flavors, big wood influence, and contemplative complexity. I’d say it’s definitely worth a try but with the caveat that the price point (around $140-$145 here in the US) seems a little high for what’s in the bottle, especially in comparison with other similarly aged malts that cost $50 less.
The Dalmore 18 Year Old, Highland