Wednesday, March 31, 2010

sieze the day

When we went over to New York for my birthday I recall standing around in the duty free shop at Heathrow salivating over the huge selection of single malt whisky available at knock-down prices (and not only that, most of them were litre bottles compared to the normal 70cl) but thinking: well, I don't want to be lugging around a couple of litres of whisky for a week, so what I'll probably do is buy some at the equivalent store at JFK on the way back. Needless to say on the way back the duty free whisky selection was piss-poor, comprising a shelf of Johnnie Walker Red and J&B and that was about it. Denied!

So when we popped over from Birmingham to Waterford last weekend for a long weekend of golf (at Waterford Castle) and Guinness I decided to pounce upon the pretty decent selection in the Birmingham duty free shop, knowing that Waterford Airport was likely to be little more than a shed (and so it proved).

What I ended up with was a litre of 12 year old Dalmore for the princely sum of £35. Not only does this work out at the equivalent of £24.50 for a 70cl bottle, but I've yet to see Dalmore in any high street shop or supermarket.

Dalmore is a Highland whisky; now it's arguably a little early in my whisky-sampling career to be making sweeping statements about where my favourite whiskies come from, but from what I've sampled so far I'd say the Highland region probably has the lead over the others: the Oban, Royal Lochnagar, Glenmorangie and Ardmore come from here, and if you include the non-Islay islands then that brings in the Talisker and the Highland Park as well.

What makes Highland whiskies so great is the balance between the sweet sherried friendliness of the Speyside region to the east, and the spiky pugnacious antiseptic smokiness of the Islay region to the west. Sure enough the Dalmore has the best of both worlds: a lovely rich dark colour, a good solid whiff of almonds and butterscotch, and more of the same when you taste it, as well as something a bit more dark and complex. There's some smoke, but it's not the eye-watering bonfire smoke you get with, say, Ardbeg, it's more toasty and leathery than that. A bit reminiscent of a cigar at New Year, without making you feel quite so sick afterwards.

If this isn't my favourite of the ones I've tried yet (the Highland Park probably just shades it) then it's pretty close; this is bloody marvellous stuff. The chunky bottles with the antlers are pretty cool too.

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