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Food and Leisure

Stag party

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau - The Philippine Star
Stag party
The Dalmore Decades 1951 (“Royal Heritage”), a 60-year-old single malt matured in twin sherry casks, was the last distilled during the Mackenzie era.

Imagine you had to curate an “All-time Greatest Hits” collection, and you only had six selections for the playlist.

That was the dilemma — if you can call it that — for The Dalmore and its master distiller Richard Paterson. From its 180-year history, the Scottish distillers of this exceptional single-malt whisky decided to pick the best of the best from the past six decades, and release it in one masterful collection.

Each decanter tells a magnificent story of the Highland Single Malt maker’s relentless pursuit of excellence. Celebrated in the release of three extraordinary Collections, the first truly unique set of six whiskies — the No. 6 Collection — was carefully chosen by Paterson to reflect the character and evolution of this prestigious Highland whisky brand and will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong this October, as part of the company’s autumn sales series.

It’s also expected to be highly collectible. How high can the bidding go? Consider that an earlier curated batch called The Paterson Collection sold for £1 million, and that two bottles sold for £500,000 at a 2020 sale, and you begin to get the picture.

A significant percentage of the sale will be donated to Scotland’s design museum and the first Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum outside of London, V&A Dundee. The Dalmore recently unveiled its long-term commitment to the design and creative sectors via its four-year partnership with V&A Dundee. In a world-first collaboration, the fastest growing luxury single malt whisky is working with Scotland’s design museum to champion and nurture creative talent. The four-year collaboration allows V&A Dundee and The Dalmore to curate and advocate for exceptional design on a global scale.

As a warm-up to the topic of The Decades collections, media guests received The Dalmore’s prized King Alexander III edition to raise a toast. The box itself is a beauty, decorated with the trademark “Fury of the Stag” painting commissioned by Clan Mackenzie in 1768.

For The Decades, six whiskies matured in very special, rare casks were selected by Paterson, who is celebrating his own 50 years with the brand. They included ex-bourbon American casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, port pipes and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques brought together in perfect harmony.

Master distiller Richard Paterson nosing in Warehouse 2. (Photo by Scott Rankin)

Mr. Paterson is a master distiller, but also a master showman. He joined Whyte & Mackay host Andrew Knox and Whisky Discovery head Kieran Healey-Ryder in Glasgow in recounting The Dalmore story. There was Paterson’s lesson on how to properly nose a glass (“None of this, ‘Hello? Hello?’ You look at it and say, ‘Hello!’ Then you go back and say, ‘How are you?’ And then you go back in and say, ‘Quite well!’”). Then there were the “mm-mm-mm” chewing sounds made with every sip of the nectar — clearly, tasting is a serious passion for Paterson.

From its beginnings in 1838 to its first flowering under Andrew Mackenzie in 1874, The Dalmore has employed what Healey-Ryder calls a “symphony of stills” at Glasgow. Key to careful growing of the brand was the choice to cask — rather then sell — many of those early whiskies, aging them to maturity (much like a long-term investment) until the first 50-year whiskies were released in 1978.

In 1988, Paterson came on, releasing a series of aged statement single-malt whiskies — these are the ones that have created such a stir at Sotheby’s over the past decades. Let’s look at each bottle in the No. 6 Collection:

• The Dalmore Decades 1951 (“Royal Heritage”) is a 60-year-old single malt, matured in twin sherry casks. Expect whispers of black treacle, ginger spice, and cocoa powder. It’s one of the oldest whiskies released by The Dalmore, and the last distilled during the Mackenzie era.

• The Dalmore Decades 1967 (“Expertly Composed Spirit”) is an impeccably elegant 53-year-old single malt, with wonderfully intriguing layers of clementine, tangy ground coffee and Muscovado, thanks to its final maturation in a Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine barrique.

• The Dalmore Decades 1979 (“Curating Exquisite Casks”) celebrates the relationship between González Byass and The Dalmore. Matured in a fine Matusalem oloroso sherry butt before a finish in a Graham’s Port Vintage 1952, the result is exuberant sultanas and toasted pistachios, finishing in pleasant notes of maple syrup, pineapple, and succulent dates.

• The Dalmore Decades 1980 (“Unbroken Chain of Visionaries”) marked Paterson’s arrival at The Dalmore and a kind of reversal: the whisky now moved from Bourbon casks into Matusalem sherry butts, then spent more than five years back in first-fill ex-bourbon casks before bottling — a bold move, promising beautifully orchestrated single malt layers, which include a gentle whisper of bitter chocolate, marzipan and cocoa powder.

•  The Dalmore Decades 1995  (“The Creation of an Icon”) brought The Dalmore’s minimalist bell-shaped bottle, and a 1995 edition matured in ex-Bourbon casks and finished in spectacular Tintilla de Rota port pipes: it offers a burst of red berries, glazed nectarines, frangipane, and moist pecan pie on the palate, and a triumphal finish.

• The Dalmore Decades 2000 (“Into the New Millennium”). This final whisky — distilled at 12:02 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000, very early into the new century — spent all 20 years in a Matusalem ploroso sherry butt, in a radical departure from distillery practice. Rare and intriguing, black maraschino cherry and bitter chocolate drench the palate, and a final kiss of licorice and tarte Tatin ebbs slowly in the background.

All historical landmarks. But as Paterson often notes, “cask is king.” Eighty percent of a whisky’s influence comes from the choice of cask, and The Dalmores he’s selected — from a mere five liters preserved in Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, to those stored in carefully selected American white oak — are sure to reflect that.

These six fine bottles of The Dalmore will go to auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this October.

I asked how he makes those casking choices, and he compared each to a child. You start with American oak and ex-bourbon barrels to “settle down” the whisky. “The distillate is coming off at 63.5 percent alcohol, it's very hot, it's very aggressive — like a new baby. What are babies like for the first two years? Well, they're not too happy with their surroundings.” After 3-5 years, when the whisky begins to settle down and mature a little, Paterson finds it a new set of “clothing,” nosing thousands of casks at Dalmore distillery to pick the right match. “They're my children. I've nurtured them over the years, but I must look after them. I must give them the best clothes — the best cask — so that they will perform and show what unique, luxury whiskies they really are.”

And once these whiskies are auctioned, they’re gone forever. “It's an absolutely precious six-bottle collection from The Dalmore and it celebrates decades that really started when Richard joined us,” Healey-Ryder says. “When this collection is sold, that liquid will have left our warehouse. That’s the last of it.”

Collectors take note.

* * *

For more information, visit www.thedalmore.com  or www.sothebys.com/wine.

DALMORE

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