Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old

Title picture courtesy of Ralf Roletschek – Own work, CC BY 3.0.

The Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old single malt scotch will always have a special place in my heart. During the early years of my marriage (when our budget was tight) my wife bought this gem for my 30th birthday even though it was over $100 CAD. Since then, I always have a bottle stocked in my cabinet. No wonder then, that when my wife, my brother-in-law and I visited Scotland, we headed to Dalwhinnie for their whisky and chocolate masterclass experience. Today, I wanted to talk to you about this “gentle spirit.”

Where does this scotch come from?

This spirit comes from the Highlands in Scotland and, incidentally, the highest (and coldest) distillery in all of Scotland. As some background, the Highlands span across the north west region of the country.

Courtesy of Google Maps
Courtesy of StuzzyW at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dalwhinnie, in particular, rests on the south west portion of the Highlands, due south of Inverness and along the eastern border of Cairngorms National Park, a large mountainous region. Because of it’s location, it intersects another region known as Speyside, thus allowing them to be branded as both a Highland whisky and a Speyside whisky. I just want to add that when we visited Dalwhinnie in person, my wife and I could not miss the intense aroma of bread that filled the cool air.

Courtesy of Bill Henderson, CC BY-SA 2.0

What type of whisky is it?

Dalwhinnie is a single malt scotch, meaning that it’s made by a single distillery from only malted barley on Scottish soil.

According to what I’ve heard, single also referred to using a single family of barley, but I’m not sure if that’s true. As a side note, according to the Dalwhinnie tour guide, scotch can only legally be called scotch if it’s aged in a certain type of barrel on Scottish soil for at least 3 years.

Further, to acquire it’s color and taste, the 15 Years Old has been aged for 15 years in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks. This gives it the notes of flavor we’ll talk about shortly.

What does it look and taste like?

  • Look: The 15 Year Old is bright gold in color with a smooth and light-medium body.
  • Flavor Map: On the flavor map, the 15 Year Old is between smoky and delicate. Further, it lends itself more towards light than rich.
  • Nose: According to Dalwhinnie, the nose consists of “A big, crisp, dry and very aromatic nose with hints of heather and peat.” Master of Malt adds “aromatic, toffee, fruit salad, lush nectarine, custard, floral, apple blossom, honeysuckle. Apple peels, pear, touch of smoke.”
  • Palate: According to Dalwhinnie, seek out the “smooth, soft and lasting flavours of heather-honey sweetness and vanilla followed by deeper citrus-fruit flavours and hints of malted bread.” Master of Malt adds “Walnuts steeped in manuka honey with vanilla sponge. Gentle smoke weaves its way through the cereal with a touch of spice.”
  • Finish: Finally, Dalwhinnie encourages us to experience a finish that is “long, lingering, surprisingly intense … that starts sweetly, then gives way to smoke, peat and malt.” Master of Malt adds much the same but includes walnut and almond in it’s flavor profile.
  • Pairings: Dalwhinnie expresses itself more beautifully when it’s paired with crème brûlée and butter pudding.
Courtesy of Ralf Roletschek – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Has it won any awards?

Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old has won several awards:

  • Silver (2005 – 2006): San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • Gold (2007): San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • Silver (2007 – 2008): International Wine and Spirit Competition
  • Silver (2008 – 2009): San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • Gold (2009): The Scotch Whisky Masters
  • Gold, Best in Class (2009): International Wine and Spirit Competition
  • Bronze (2009 – 2010): International Spirits Challenge
  • Silver (2011): International Spirits Challenge
  • Gold (2011): The Scotch Whisky Masters
  • Gold (2016): San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 91 Points (2016): Ultimate Spirits Challenge

Where can you buy it and would you recommend it?

Fortunately for us Canadians, you can purchase this “gentle spirit” from your local LCBO. To our American brothers, you can purchase them via Master of Malt.

Would I recommend it? Most definitely. I can’t say it better than what the masters have said above, but, in my humble opinion, Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old is very easy to enjoy especially for dessert at the end of the night.