Picture this: The sun setting over the charming Spanish town of Jerez de la Frontera, its cobbled streets and vibrant Andalusian architecture bathed in golden light, while the cathedral bells chime in the background. It's a scene that sets the stage for a remarkable journey, one that delves deep into the heart of two extraordinary worlds—Scotch whisky and sherry wine.
Jerez de la Frontera, often lauded as the true home of sherry wine, is the backdrop for this adventure. Nestled in the heart of the town stands the storied Gonzalez Byass winery, a fifth-generation winemaker renowned as one of the foremost producers of sherry wine worldwide. Adjacent to the winery lies the Tio Pepe boutique hotel, named after the visionary Uncle Pepe, who catapulted Gonzalez Byass into a global phenomenon. The seamless integration of the winery and hotel into the town's architecture conceals vast underground cellars, where wine ages and wine enthusiasts gather.
Our journey unfolds at the gracious invitation of The Dalmore, a name synonymous with world-class Scotch whisky, celebrated for its ex-sherry cask matured expressions. The occasion is the debut of The Dalmore Cask Curation Series, a collection that revolves around the enchanting alchemy between sherry casks and The Dalmore's whisky-making prowess, all nurtured by a robust partnership with Gonzalez Byass.
At its core, this is the age-old cycle: Sherry wine, meticulously matured in oak casks beneath the cobblestones of Jerez, is eventually bottled. Only the finest of these emptied casks embark on a voyage to Scotland, where they are rigorously inspected and, if deemed worthy, filled with Scotch whisky.
What follows is a patient journey of maturation, where whisky absorbs the essence of the sherry-soaked wood. Ex-sherry cask matured Scotch whiskies have earned a devoted following for their rich notes of red fruits, winter spice, and dried fruits.
But our journey reveals that the tale of the cask begins long before the wine is drained and the whisky fills its wooden embrace. It commences with the relentless rains over the region, the careful cultivation of grapes, and the intricate journey of each grape from growth to harvest, drying, and, finally, transformation into premium sherry wine.
Before whisky even enters the equation, sherry wine matures in oak casks, sometimes for over three decades. Our guides through this intricate maturation are the master winemaker, Antonio Flores, and his daughter, Silvia Flores.
The climax of this narrative is the whisky, which, too, undergoes its own journey before emerging as The Dalmore Cask Curation Series. This exclusive collection, limited to a mere 150 sets globally, reveres the intricate odyssey from grape planting to whisky bottling, spanning decades.
On the rooftop of the Tio Pepe boutique hotel, the set is introduced by Gregg Glass, The Dalmore's master whisky maker. The initial offering, a Dalmore 26 Year Old, culminates in a rare Gonzalez Byass 2002 cask, delivering an explosive symphony of light notes and freshness at 48.2% ABV. It tantalizes with honeyed accents, mandarin citrus, and vanilla on both the nose and palate, concluding with a grand crescendo of citrus, brioche, and spiced vanilla.
The journey continues with the second installment, the 28 Year Old, caressed by a Matusalem sherry cask—a cask that itself matured for 30 years before being enlisted for whisky duty. A combined 60 years were invested in creating this masterpiece, which unfolds with opulent dark chocolate, blood orange, dark fruit aromas, and a delicate tropical fruit note on the palate, all at 53.3% ABV and matured for a substantial 19 years in the Matusalem cask.
As the sun dips below the Jerez horizon, we encounter the final and most venerable whisky in the series—an astonishing 43 Year Old, nurtured in a Gonzalez Byass 30 Year Old Apostoles sherry cask. The distinction between the Matusalem and Apostoles wines lies in the grape varietals and proportions employed.
This four-decade-old elixir concluded its journey with a 12-year sojourn in the sherry cask, resulting in a 46.8% ABV expression from the year 1979. It unfolds with warming subtlety, gracing the senses with notes of honey, Seville oranges, and almonds on the nose, followed by a rich tapestry of vanilla and dark chocolate on the palate.
As our tasting journey reaches its long and fruity denouement, the teams from The Dalmore and Gonzalez Byass unite, celebrating the birth of the extraordinary Dalmore Cask Curation Series. It serves as both a testament and a jubilation of the enduring relationship nurtured over decades.
Priced at £30,000 ($36,500), this exceptionally limited collection marks the first in a series of four releases. Each installment promises to narrate the compelling tale of wood and whisky, spotlighting the stories, relationships, and remarkable individuals behind every stave in the cask and every drop in our glasses. The Dalmore has granted us a captivating glimpse into the world of sherry wine and the rich history of Jerez de la Frontera. The question now is, where will this esteemed brand take us next?
With The Dalmore Cask Curation Series, a new chapter unfolds—an exquisite symphony of sherry and Scotch, a testament to the enduring magic of two worlds in perfect harmony.
About The Dalmore Distillery
The Dalmore is a distinguished Scottish whisky distillery located in the northern Highlands, near the town of Alness. Founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson, the distillery has a rich history and reputation for producing high-quality single malt Scotch whiskies. The name "Dalmore" is derived from the Gaelic word "dal mor," which means "big meadow," reflecting the distillery's scenic surroundings.
One of the defining characteristics of The Dalmore is its commitment to traditional craftsmanship and attention to detail. The distillery utilizes copper pot stills and oak casks for aging its whisky, emphasizing the importance of these elements in shaping the final product. Dalmore whiskies are often aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, adding depth and complexity to their flavor profiles.
The Dalmore's core range of single malt Scotch whiskies includes expressions like The Dalmore 12 Year Old, The Dalmore 15 Year Old, and The Dalmore 18 Year Old. These offerings are celebrated for their elegant and well-balanced flavor profiles, featuring notes of citrus, spices, rich toffee, and a hint of Highland heather.
In addition to their core range, The Dalmore is known for producing limited edition and special release expressions that showcase their dedication to innovation and craftsmanship. These releases often feature unique cask finishes, rare aging techniques, and innovative flavor profiles, making them highly sought-after among whisky enthusiasts and collectors.
The distillery's visitor center offers tours and tastings, providing an opportunity for whisky enthusiasts to learn about The Dalmore's history, explore the whisky-making process, and sample a selection of their whiskies. The serene Highland setting adds to the appeal of visiting The Dalmore, offering a glimpse into the natural beauty that inspires their whisky production.
In summary, The Dalmore is a respected name in the world of single malt Scotch whisky, known for its commitment to quality, tradition, and innovation. With a rich history, diverse portfolio, and dedication to crafting exceptional whiskies, The Dalmore continues to be a prominent figure in the Scotch whisky landscape.