The Dalmore King Alexander III – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at the Baddish Group for the sample.

The legend behind The Dalmore’s King Alexander III goes that a quick-thinking member of the Mackenzie Clan saved King Alexander III, who was out hunting,  from the pointy antlers of an angry great stag, and that the King was so grateful that in return he granted this Mackenzie the right to use the image of the stag on his family crest. Time passes, clans grow, distilleries are bought and sold and today, that emblem now also adorns bottles of The Dalmore. Now, I am no hunter. I occasionally hunt for bargains and increasingly hunt for things I put in strange, incongruous places instead of the obvious places they should have been put in the first place, but that doesn’t really count. Give me a gun, hat with ear-flaps, a blaze orange vest, and send me out into the wild and I’m much more likely to lose the gun and take a nap under a tree than I am to return home with some poor deer whose plans for the day most likely didn’t include getting an ass full of buckshot and being strapped to the hood of my car. So, far be it to me to criticize anyone’s hunting technique, let alone supposed royalty, however…

Why was this stag so pissed off? I can’t help but think that this legend sprang into being from either poor aim or poor judgement on the King’s part. Stags, as far as I know, don’t just charge royalty for no reason, they have their dignity, so it’s likely this majestic beast was provoked. No one likes to be hunted and no one likes to be shot at. Perhaps this stag, whoever he was, took none to kindly to getting shot with an arrow in what might have been a non-critical but still, I’m sure, a very painful place. Maybe the stag charged the King (who at this point was probably wishing he’d been a little more lethal) but then was stopped just short of doing some serious royal damage by this MacKenzie chap, who did what the King should have done in the first place, and put the stag on the train to Venison City.

I suppose it’s all water through the grist mill at this point, the legend is firm and the stag lives on, clinging to the sides of pricey bottles of booze. The MacKenzie family’s ties to the Dalmore go back to 1867 when the founder of the distillery, Alexander Matheson hired three Mackenzie brothers to operate the distillery for him. When Matheson died in 1886, the brothers took over, eventually buying the distillery in 1891. The Mackenzie family owned the distillery until 1960 when they sold to Whyte and Mackay. (Try here if you’d like to follow Whyte & Mackay’s convoluted tale of owner ship in recent years)

This King Alexander III bottling from The Dalmore contains a range of ages of malts matured in a dizzying array of casks including American White Oak Bourbon barrels, French wine barriques, Sherry butts, Madeira drums, Port pipes, and Marsala barrels. Whew, that pretty much exhausts the list of synonyms for “cask” doesn’t it?.

The Nose:  I have to say, I was expecting a bit more forward nose with this one, instead, I felt the nose was a little reserved, even muddled at first. Citrusy, bright tangerine and Meyer lemon mingle with cocoa powder and smooth, prominent oak. The winey notes here, faintly jammy raisins and plums, tannic grape skins, try to be complex, but end up feeling a little jumbled.

The Palate:  Surprisingly restrained. Creamy, quite viscous and really sweet with a dessert-wine entry, jammy red-fruits and vanilla. The fruit turns more citrus-y and is joined by mellow cinnamon, cocoa and other baking spices. Towards the end, smooth, mildly tannic wood notes emerge to give a bit of a counterpoint to the sweetness.

The Finish:  That creamy fruity sweetness lingers along with bright cinnamon, and soft oak.

Thoughts:  Um, good stuff, exceedingly smooth and drinkable, but I was expecting more. This is almost too soft and too sweet, there just isn’t a lot of backbone here. For all the attention paid to the different wood finishes, the result seems a little smeared together, I didn’t feel there was the complexity to justify it. I would’ve loved to have seen this at a higher ABV, 46% at least, because the rather pedestrian 40% doesn’t do it any favors. That’s a gripe I have with most of the Dalmores, but for the price of this one (around $180-$200), it’s a much, much louder gripe. An interesting whisky, with some really good flavors, just not enough balls to make it truly excellent or worth the high price tag.

The Dalmore King Alexander III, Highland

40% ABV

Score:  83


6 thoughts on “The Dalmore King Alexander III – Review

  1. Agree 100%. It should have been bottled at 46%. I was very dissapointed in this “watered down” expression from Dalmore.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Emmet.

      I generally like the Dalmore range, but I don’t love it. I’m just a little mystified as to why Dalmore chose to re-position itself as a high-end luxury brand, yet it continues to bottle at low ABV and add coloring to its expressions. They know their product and their market best, I’m sure, but it keeps me from being a big fan.

  2. I totally agree with this review. Often times we see a
    price tag and assume that, because this bottle is around $289, it
    must be amazing…this is definitely not the case with this one. It
    is thin and extremely subtle, very light tastes, almonds/ marzipan,
    hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, faint hints of stewed fruits with
    raisins. If you are looking for something in a similar range, for a
    reasonable price, Glenmorangie nectar D’or would do quite nicely. I
    was quite familiar with the Dalmore 12 and Dalmore 15. To get an
    idea of King Alexander III, think about the already diminished
    lighter flavor of Dalmore 15 with more water added to it. Glad I
    only bought a sample of this and not a whole bottle. Jim McEwan was
    right in selecting Dalmore 12 as a top dram; it clearly delivers
    the richest flavor of any of the other Dalmore

    1. Thanks Sven!

      The Dalmore is one of those brands I’m pretty much constantly frustrated with. It’s obvious they’re capable of making excellent juice, but they spend a lot more time trying to position themselves as an extreme luxury brand than they do releasing a truly excellent single malt product. They won’t give up their caramel coloring or their low bottling strengths, but still insist on charging exorbitant prices…I just don’t get it.

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