Whisky Connosr

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old bottled 1980s

All Dal'ed Up

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@WhiskyBeeReview by @WhiskyBee

19th Nov 2013


Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old bottled 1980s
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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This was among the first single malts I purchased when I began my whisky journey a few years ago. Why is it always a journey? It’s not like I’m Roald Amundsen navigating the Northwest Passage or anything. “Aimless, serendipitous tramping around” would be more to the point in my case. I just buy the stuff everyone else seems to like, or whatever Mr. Murray rated at 97, knowing that I’ll probably rate it ten points lower. In WhiskyLand, I suppose that’s a journey.

It somehow seemed fitting that I should write about one of my first single malts for my 70th review. It would be more appropriate to write about a 70-year-old Glenlivet, but that one’s under lock and key at my chateau in Loire Valley. So Dalwhinnie 15 it is. According to the scores in my cabinet, I thought this was 90-worthy once upon a time. That was about eight months removed from when I thought Johnnie Walker Black was classier than bowling under black light, so let’s see if that ranking holds now that I’m further along on that journey thing.

Dalwhinnie 15 yo is the “Honey Malt” or the “Gentle Spirit,” which most of the 396 Connosr members who own a bottle of this already know. It’s also known as a “Ladies’ Scotch” because it contains estrogen, but that may be just a rumor started by the Irish. Diageo denies it emphatically. Many “big-flavors” guys find it too light and insubstantial, but “complexity within its lightness” is supposed to be part of its charm. Let’s get down to cases and see if those charms are both endearing and enduring. This is my second bottle of Dalwhinnie (the first was consumed in a couple of months), down to slightly above the halfway mark. First dram I’ve tried in at least six months.

Nose: Flowers, honey, fruit cocktail in heavy syrup, corn flakes, and a slight trace of smoke. Pleasant, fresh, crisp, yet very, very light. “There is no there there,” as Gertrude Stein said, but her estrogen levels are none of my business. I think everything would disappear if I brought my Glencairn within ten feet of a water drop, so we’ll continue this journey neat.

Palate: It’s one-dimensional, but it’s a tasty dimension nonetheless. Honey and malt, to be sure, but what really impresses is the just about the cleanest and purest vanilla taste I’ve experienced with any whisky. There’s some itsy-bitsy (and only with Dalwhinnie can you use descriptors like “itsy-bitsy”) traces of grasses and grains that add some substance.

The finish is of medium length and very malty. A little peppery sting, and a whisper of peat, but not enough to offend those who don’t like peat.

It’s light and pleasant whisky that certainly has its place—say, before dinner or as a tasting-evening starter—but I’m not getting the hidden complexity that some (such as Mr. Murray) rave about. The good layers are too muted by the alcohol, and I think the solution would be more alcohol, if that makes sense. A higher ABV could prod the hidden stuff into the open. There’s nothing unpleasant, nothing that doesn’t work, only things that deserve to play a larger role.

(Review written with no offense intended towards any whisky drinker. I still use the term “whisky journey” frequently, and as a half-Irishman, I reserve the right to poke fun at my own kind. Gertrude Stein, however, is fair game.)

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Nozinan commented

I loved the nose when I first tried it, but the palate never lived up to it. It's one of the ones I would turn down at a party.

10 years ago 0

Victor commented

With Dalwhinnie 15 I sometimes wonder how it managed to stay so mild after 15 years in the wood. It would be interesting to see what it tastes like without any dilution.

Somehow, "itsy-bitsy" seems like a perfect descriptor to work into a Dalwhinnie 15 review. Some have famously referenced a note of "baby puke". I am very happy that I haven't noticed that particular note in Dalwhinnie 15. Nice review.

10 years ago 0