Archive for June, 2012
Scotch whisky distilleries can be famous for many things. For their history, their iconic status, their smokiness. But only one is famous for being the home of one of the most notable invention to ever grace a whisky distillery – the Doig Ventilator (see an example here). Dailuaine, a distillery that you may have never heard of, can lay claim to this honor.
In the early 1890′s, Scottish architect Charles Chree Doig redesigned Dailuaine’s kiln building to include a pagoda roof. The objective of the pagoda was to more efficiently draw heat and smoke out of the building, thereby cooling the malt more quickly, requiring less fuel and producing a less smoky malt. It was Doig’s first design work for a distillery, and he would go on to design 55 more distilleries during his career, with the pagoda roof/Doig Ventilator being his signature mark. To this day, the pagoda roof remains a classic element of Scotch whisky distillery design, and many still feature them even though they haven’t malted their own barley for decades.
Sadly, the pagoda roof at Dailuaine burned down in a fire in 1917, the first of two fires that the distillery experienced (the other happened in 1959). Perhaps more sadly, this distillery’s whisky is practically unknown today, as all but a sliver of its production goes into blends.
Thus, here is another excellent example of the critical role that independent bottlers play. All but 2% of Dailuaine goes into blends (principally Johnnie Walker). As a result, the opportunities to taste it as a single malt are quite rare, especially if you live in the US where we have access to far fewer independent bottlings.
This particular bottle, from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, is particularly unusual in light of its age. Not too many scotch whiskies are bottled at less than 10 years (although, the number seems to be increasing). So a 7-year old whisky is rather rare, and many of the young examples that I’ve tasted are of variable quality.
That being said, this whisky is stunning, and you would never know that it’s so young. It has depth, loads of flavor, plenty of body and presence, and a good, solid finish. It was bottled at 61.4% and given how full-bodied and flavored it is, I have to guess that it’s from a first-fill cask. The Society’s tasting panel named it “Bentley In Zanzibar”.
The whisky is lightly touched with gold, the color of sauvignon blanc. The nose is redolent with notes of toffee, butter cookies, poached pear, and almond cake. The palate is dense and sweet with flavors of marzipan, creme brûlée, shortbread, grapes, brandy, and malt. The finish brings a lingering malty sweetness
Absolutely delicious. Amazing that it’s so young. A true testament to the impact that a good cask can have.