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Dalmore 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)
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- ABV 40%
Originally, the Scots relied solely on oak trees from the forests of England to create casks and mature their whiskies. But at some point, distilleries needed to find an alternative source for their oak as their markets expanded. During this time, Sherry was in abundance and highly fashionable with the English drinking public, who consumed roughly 29% of the world's total Sherry production. Transportation of Sherry-filled casks was a costly and laborious process usually done by cart, and understandably, it wasn't viable for the Spanish to re-acquire the barrels once emptied. Enter the willing Scots looking for a bargain!
Fast forward to current times and the opposite has occurred as the worldwide demand for Spanish Sherry has dramatically declined. This has turned the Scotch whisky industry on its head with fewer Sherry barrels becoming available.
What partly makes Spanish Sherry barrels so special is the oak itself, Quercus Robur, with the Spanish trees cut down at 60 to 70 years of age. Research has shown that tannins in the wood act as a catalyst that aids oxidization during the maturation period hence being a highly desirable commodity in malt whisky production. The old Spanish timbers contain approximately ten times more tannin than the 30 to 40 year-old Quercus Alba, or American White Oak that is used to make barrels for the maturation of Bourbon whiskey. The deep colour and distinct rich, fruity / citrus peel flavours (sometimes marmalade-like) that ex-Sherry casks can impart are more obvious reasons for their value and preference by the Scots.
The current process for acquiring Sherry barrels into Scotland involves an unusual practice, a result of the fundamentals of supply and demand, whereby Sherry houses are commissioned to resume production for the sole purpose of selling what they would consider a 'by-product' - essentially a first-fill barrel with a life expectancy of two fills. The process is as follows:
1. Trees are purchased from Northern Spain allowing two years after felling and being left in the open for natural chemicals in the wood to interact and for the moisture content to drop.
2. The wood is commissioned for cooperage by Whisky producers.
3. Oloroso sherry must then be 'leased' by the Whisky producer for a minimum of two years in order to season the barrel.
In comparison, the average price of filling a Bourbon cask is $45 compared to an astounding $300 per fill for the Sherry; also bear in mind that usual life expectancy for Bourbon barrels is three fills as opposed to two for Sherry.'They literally have us over a barrel,' quips past master distiller at Macallan David Robertson. Not surprisingly, for some time know, the Scots have been seeking alternatives to Sherry casks. Charles MacLean explains how American ex-bourbon casks came to dominate the present industry. In this book “Scotch Whisky, a Liquid History”, he describes how “In 1936, the cooper’s unions in the US broked a deal with [American] whisky makers which insisted that Bourbon must be filled into new oak, so there was suddenly a large surplus of cheap American barrels. These started to arrive into Scotland in 1946, either intact or broken down into ‘shooks’ of staves and reassembled into traditional Scotch (200L) hogsheads... The whisky industry thus kept pace with demand by embracing changes in production methods which were compatible with efficiency and productivity.” Output increased exponentially (this in turn led to oversupply problems in the next decade).
100% Sherry cask matured whiskies are now rare indeed. Unless whisky lovers take up drinking Sherry themselves, it’s not hard to envisage that in the near future, supply and demand will send prices skyward. Expect to be paying much, much more for these historical curios in the years to come - if you can find them at all. Our advice is to stock up!
The Dalmore 15 is 100% Sherry matured whisky stored in Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso Sherry casks. All of which are distinct styles of sherry originating from Palomino, Moscatel (also known as Muscat) or Pedro Xiemenez grape varieties. What partly makes the Dalmore so appealing is its approachability for its 100% sherry maturation, where a much heftier price tag would be expected considering all of the above. We say, savour and enjoy what this whisky expression has to offer while still deliciously accessible!
Tasting note: Deep polished copper. Beautifully integrated aromas of stewed pear and sweet spice. Soft puffs of smoke overlay the biscuity malt. Generous in the mouth with a dried fruit and malt focus, sherry heavy but dryish overall. Excellent balance. Finishes firm with lively peppers, oak and subtle peat. Typically Dalmore. 40% Alc./Vol.
Other Reviews…Those who are fond of ripe, sherried whiskies will enjoy this new 15 year old. It’s aged entirely in sherry casks. The sherry is nicely layered (but not sappy or cloying) and the Dalmore spirit is big enough to handle it. Lush fruit, richly textured, and fleshy, with a warming spice impact on the finish. Orange marmalade, glazed citrus and Key lime pie are enveloped by sweet toffee/molasses notes and spiced with cinnamon, clove, ginger and subtle chocolate. Soothing and restorative in nature. Good for after dinner—or with a cigar.
Rating: 88 - www.maltadvocate.com
Brilliant dark amber color. Nutty, grainy aromas and flavors of butter sautéed nuts and barley, toasted fig bread, leather, and maple nut fudge with a supple, bright, dryish medium-to-full body and a silky, complex, medium-long mocha creme brulee, delicately spiced dried fruits, and smoked tobacco finish. A supple, very refined highland malt with pitch perfect balance. 40% Alc./Vol. 95 points - www.tastings.com
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