Upon entering the room, I was greeted by what alcoholics would consider heaven – there must have over 240 glasses of various whiskies set out over 4 tables, and the smell was tremendous! Sitting fairly close to the front, our table had room for 10, with a tasting mat which sat 6 whiskies, an aroma test sheet and a pocket-size Dalmore booklet.
The class began with an introduction on what defines Scotch Whisky. To be classed as Scotch, is has to be produced at a distillery in Scotland, made from water and malted barley only, matured for at least 3 years and only caramel can be added for colour. There are also 5 types of Scotch whisky. There as follows:-
- Single Malt (produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery) – e.g. Dalmore
- Blended – (blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries) e.g. Whyte & Mackay
- Blended Malt (blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries) – e.g. Johnnie Walker
- Blended Grain (blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries) – e.g. Snow Grouse
- Single Grain (distilled at a single distillery but may involve other whole grains) - e.g. Cameron Brig
The history of whisky was covered next, with such interesting facts like,
- Usquebaugh – the former name of whisky. It’s gaelic meaning ‘water of life’
- In the 1800′s, taxes drive distilling underground
- In 1823, the Excise Act was introduced (you had to pay to distill whisky)
- The 1860′s saw a man named Andrew Usher introduce the art of blending
- France is the biggest exporter of malt whisky
The method of production was next on the agenda, briefly covering the following five steps,
- Malting – Dalmore use the River Alness to make their barley wet
- Mashing – the dried malt is grinded and then mixed with hot water to create ‘wort’.
- Fermentation – once cooled, yeast is added and allowed to ferment
- Distillation – increases the alcohol content to up to 94.8%
- Maturation – placed in oak casks for maturation (minimum 3 years)
After the rather interesting start to the class, we were asked to complete an aroma assessment. We had 10 small bottles with a different flavoured liquid inside and had to smell one by one to determine what was inside. This test was to open up our senses and to understand the different aromas that whisky can give off. I scored a lowly 45 out of 100 (10 points for each correct answer) but once the right answers were given, I understood how you have to be quite accurate and look beyond what you originally smell.
Lastly we covered the different areas of Scotland and their production of whisky. Again there are 5 regions,
- Speyside (where 1/2 of all Scottish whisky is distilled) e.g. Glenfiddich
- Highland - Jura / Glenmorangie
- Lowland – Auchentoshan
- Island – Laphroaig / Ardberg
- Campbeltown – Springbank
- Next on the agenda was the tasting of the 6 whiskies that we had eagerly been waiting to try! The following are tasting notes on each six on offer.
Auchentoshan (meaning ‘corner of meadow’) – Lowland
The only whisky in Scotland to be triple-distilled, it had a light and fruity nose with vanilla essence and what was well described as creme brulee. It tasted of wild citrus fruits, leaving the mouth a little dry and gave a spicy kick at the end.
Macallan 10yr - Speyside
An oaky colour with a slight vanilla tint with a nose of fruits and honey. On taste it had a red berry display with a slight oak edge culminating in a short finish.
Isle of Jura 10yr – Islay
A deep gold colour with a silky floral aroma and a fresh ‘sea side’ smell. A distinguishable taste of sea salt and a gentle smoke flavour on the palate.
Laphroaig 10yr – Islay
Described as Marmite - either you love it or hate it! A sea-weed esq smell with a sea-salt ting to it, and an almost medicinal aroma. Its taste was bold with a slight sweetness and a long lingering smoky aftertaste.
Glenmorangie – Highland
This is recommended as a good introduction to malt whisky. A light and fruity whisky with a vanilla nose. A citrus taste on the palate and it gave a short finish. An easy drink to start off with!
Yamazaki 12yr – Japanese
Apparently won many awards, I was looking forward to trying this as ive never had the chance to sample Japanese Whisky. Its aroma was well described as christmas cake, with fresh fruit peel and marzipan with a rather mellow and smooth taste with a sweet body and a long finish.
Jack Daniels – American
Both a charcoal and a distinct sweet burnt sugar on nose and taste. A classic American Bourbon!
Bushmills – Irish
The only Irish triple-distilled whiskey, it has an almond and marzipan aroma with a pallet of fresh citrus, wild berry and gives a crisp fine finish.
After sampling the various whiskies from both Scotland and around the world, we took a 20 minute break. After writing up a few notes I started talking to two of the guys I was sat next to who turned out to work for Shakers Bar School. Shakers is a company based in Birmingham, who offer practical and theoretical training to both the on and off trade (2 years ago I received a distinction after completing their International Bartenders Course – a course I would highly recommend). Links to their courses are posted at the bottom of this article, make sure you check it out!
Once the class re-started we concentrated on Dalmore itself.
The history of Dalmore was explained with some rather interesting facts including :-
- The story of the Dalmore Stag was founded in 1263, where a predecessor of the Clan MacKenzie saved King Alexander III from a rampaging stag. The King rewarded him with the Royal emblem of a 12-pointed stag that he used in his coat of arms.
- In 1838, Sir Alexander Matheson founded the Dalmore distillery
- The 1890′s saw the MacKenzie family purchase the distillery
- Dalmore is the oldest and rarest Highland Malt Whisky in Scotland
We were also told there is an Art of Dalmore - Its unique distillation process, maturation, fusion and finesse.
Its distillation includes the use of four unique flat top pot stills and each still varies in shape and size. Its maturation process uses mainly Jim Beam oak barrels as well as 5 others (Matusalem, Sauvignon Blanc, Amoroso, Oloroso and Apostoles).
Dalmore also have a ‘house style’ – coffee, chocolate, orange/marmalade and cinnamon. These flavours are all associated with Dalmore and their collection.
Finally, we sampled there whisky range – 12yr / 15yr / 18yr / King Alexander III. Again I have compiled brief tasting notes on each product.
12yr – 40% , £30 rrp
Aged for 10 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 2 years in a Matusalem sherry cask. Its colour is a deep golden mahogany and has a nose of vanilla and honey with a citrus and a more subtle hint of vanilla on the palate.
15yr – 40% , £40-50 rrp
12 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 2 years split into 3 thirds. One third in Apostoles cask, one-third in Amoroso and the last third in Oloroso. The final year is matured in a Matusalem sherry cask which produces a deep mahogany colour. On the nose it has an orange and marmalade smell, with a well-balanced ginger and mandarin flavour once you taste it.
18yr – 46% , £50-60 rrp
Aged for 15 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 3 years in a Matusalem sherry cask to give off a rich, walnut brown colour. On the nose it gave off an almond and cinnamon aroma whilst vanilla, rosemary and hints of coffee presented itself on the tongue.
King Alexander III – 40% , £100 + rrp
This is the only Single Malt with 6 different finishes – Matusalem, Sauvignon Blanc, Amoroso, Jim Beam, Oloroso and Apostoles. Its colour was a deep mahogany gold with fresh flowers and exotic fruits being released. Its taste of almond, rich citrus and vanilla gives off a very smooth, sweet smell. If you ever have the chance to try this – it won’t disappoint!
Other whiskies in the Dalmore range that we didn’t taste today include the Astrum (40yr, £1,500 and only 1500 bottles produced), Aurora (45yr, £3,000 and only 40-50 bottles produced), Eos (59yr, £26,000 and only 26 released) and the Selene where a bottle can go for £26,000!
We were also told of a bottle named Trinitas. Aged 64yrs, there was only 3 ever made and contains spirit from 1868, 1878, 1926 and 1939!
This was an excellent chance for me to taste and experience a range of whiskies from Scotland as well as being able to compare them to American, Irish and Japanese. As for the Dalmore whiskies, this is my first time tasting this brand and have been highly impressed! My personal favourite was the 15 year and the King Alexander III, although at over £100, I’ll probably never get another chance to try it again. This will be one range you’ll be seeing when I open my own bar, and they’ll be no escaping me promoting it!
Check out The Dalmore website for more information – www.thedalmore.com
The Shaker Bar School website http://www.shaker-uk.com/ with links to there range of courses