Over my 25 or so years in the booze business as both a Sommelier, purchaser, and writer I have had the opportunity to taste a plethora of extremely rare bottlings of the very best of Scottish whiskies. I am no stranger to amber thimblefuls of extravagantly-priced Caledonia-sourced distillate, and yet the current Dalmore offerings from the Constellation Collection did cause me to take a sharp intake of haughty breath.
Or rather one 700ml bottle of each is.
It’s an extremely niche market… but this market exists.
It’s a thang.
Welcome to the extraordinary world of ultra-rare malt whisky.
So who on earth buys this stuff?
That is a very good question indeed.
These unusually rare Dalmores are bottles for the seriously well-heeled aficionado, the tipple trophy hunter, the canny booze-savvy investor (with their finite super-limited production, these things appreciate in value at a truly astonishing rate!), and the malt-educated bon vivant looking for a rather novel way to usher in the Chinese New Year.
Amongst the single-malt cognoscenti Dalmore has an enviable reputation for making some of the finest, most sought-after and collectible whiskies in the world. There’s a carefully scripted good reason the Dalmore 62 was name dropped with such amusing reverence in 2015’s über-violent (and immensely enjoyable) spy caper Kingsman : The Secret Service. Someone had certainly been doing their malt whisky research. Good work Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, the creators of the graphic novel (née comic) that the film is (loosely) based upon.
The 12 point stag that adorns each bottle dates back to the heraldic emblem of Colin Mackenzie (neé Of Kintail) who according to the local rags of the time (1263 AD) saved the ascendant King Alexander The Third Of Scotland from the brutal charge of a Cervus Elaphus (read : enormous red deer) adorned with such impressively huge velvet-clad antlers.
Directly after this rumpus King Alexander granted Colin a fair bit of land up in Eilean Donan, along with the rights for using the 12 point stag as a brand logo.
Whilst this may seem like a bit of overkill, one must understand that a 12 pointer is a bit of beast and, if we are to be quite honest here, in retrospect, taking the
bullet horn for good old Alex was a rather solid business decision by Colin, the enthusiastic young Highlander, as Eilean Donan is a pretty sweet spot. Speaking of Highlanders, the home of Dalmore sits up in Eilean Donan, and looks as romantically placed as any distillery of lore. My apologies, I was much mistaken here, and apologise for spreading “alternative facts”.
Established in 1839 by Alexander Matheson, the distillery now stands as Whyte and Mackay’s flagship brand, with one of the biggest personalities in the whisky biz, Richard Paterson in the role of Master Blender.
The castle of Eilean Donan you may recall from the original 1986 film Highlander, one of Scottish actor Sean Connery’s most mesmerising performances as the mysterious and flamboyant Egyptian/Spaniard immortal Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. Despite passing through a number of mortal owners throughout the decades, Dalmore has retained an admirable independent spirit (pun intentional).
Dalmore is undeniably a very special distillery in a very special place overlooking the “Black Isle”, and I am very much looking forward to visiting the next time I am back home in Scotland.
In the meantime, if anyone fancies a pretty special bottle of whisky, I’d be more than happy to taste along with you… perhaps we could watch Highlander together?
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he is fascinated by each and every drop of this stuff. And he loves that film.