It is with great regret and mild humiliation that I’m writing this review (and a few others) pretty much after the fact. This past Fall, Master of Malt, in their infinite wisdom, sent out samples of their most recent round of single cask bottlings for people to review, to you know, drum up sales. However, in my case, they failed to take two things into account. One, they’re a damn popular outfit, and their well-priced, well-chosen independent bottlings tend to sell out quickly, even without the help of humble whisky bloggers. Two, I’m woefully behind in my tasting queue; new kid, new job, the holidays, all of that has conspired against me and I’m just not drinking enough whisky quickly enough. Rest assured this is something I hope to improve upon in 2012. The end result here is that Master of Malt sold all of this particular bottling before I was able to post my tasting notes, leaving this rather philosophical question hanging in the air, “if one posts tasting notes for a whisky that no longer exists, should anyone care?” Hell, I don’t know, philosophically speaking, who do I look like…Hegel? If nothing else, this shows just how good these Master of Malt selections can be.
Dailuaine (pronounced ‘dale-YOU-an’) is one of Diageo’s workhorses, laboring in single malt obscurity with 98% of its whisky going towards blends, specifically Johnny Walker. Indeed, over the last several years, the distillery has suffered a bit of an identity crisis, making three different styles of whisky to fulfil the needs of various blends. As there’s only the occasional special distillery bottling released (the 16yo Flora & Fauna), Dailuaine’s single malt can more easily be found in independent bottlings like this cask-strength, non chill-filtered, un-caramel-colored 27 year old beauty from Master of Malt.
The Nose: Sweet, sherried, and mature to be sure, but there’s also something a little dirty about this one…and I mean that in a good way. Ginger snap cookies, thick honey, hints of butterscotch, and a bit of orgeat syrup. The sherry influence comes across as lush, sweet dessert wine, think Vin Santo. There’s a subtle earthiness here as well, old damp leather, old worn wood, almost a touch of peat-like pungency, but it hovers well in the background just showing up enough to keep all the sweeter components interesting. A little water brightens the fruit here quite a bit, softens the ginger and sweetness and brings up more delicious grain notes.
The Palate: Oily mouthfeel opens with burst of honey, figs, juicy grapes, and spice – grated ginger and white pepper. The wood takes no time in letting its presence be known, but it wisely does not blow everything out of the water. Joined by strong malt notes with hints of cardamom, clove and star anise, the wood is complex and quite tannic yet works well with the initial sherried sweetness. With water, this is just beautiful, it slows everything down, and stretches out the flavors. The wood gets a little too heavy at the end, but its worth it to have the rest play out more languidly.
The Finish: Continued spicy, woody goodness with more ginger, white pepper, wood spice and sherried sweetness.
Thoughts: Pretty impressive stuff. It teeters on the edge of expected and refined on the nose, but has that slight earthy catch that keeps it interesting. The palate is a bit of a wild ride without water, but with water, it really shines. There’s a lot going on here to keep it from being just another decent old sherried Speysider. A nice display of malt and wood, and of sweetness and spice.