Sat on the banks of the Cromarty Firth, in the Northern Highlands of Scotland, is a distillery that needs little introduction for whisky connoisseurs and collectors across the globe - The Dalmore. As Whisky Auctioneer brings Dalmore's acclaimed Decades No.5 Collection to auction for the very first time, we explore the distillery's rich history and the resulting spirit, decades in the making.
The Story of a Highland Great
The Dalmore's heritage dates back to the year of 1263, with the story told that the Chief of the Clan Mackenzie, Colin of Kintail, saved King Alexander III from a charging stag. The King thereafter granted the Mackenzie Clan the right to use the 12 pointed Royal Stag emblem on their coat of arms. When descendants of the Clan became owners of The Dalmore distillery in the late-1800s, the Royal Stag became the recognisable icon that adorns each bottle of The Dalmore today.
The distillery itself was founded a few decades prior to the Mackenzie takeover, by Sir Alexander Matheson in 1839, and has continued to produce world-renowned single malt for the 180+ years that have followed. From the very beginning, production at Dalmore was forward-thinking, having the foresight to withhold casks of spirit for long-term maturation that would be released in the decades that followed. To this day, Dalmore upholds this legacy, with Master Distiller and whisky legend, Richard Paterson, focused on extended maturation and the importance of time in crafting a quality single malt.
[Source: Whyte & Mackay]
Dalmore Through the Decades
The Dalmore distillery remained in the hands of the Matheson family from its founding in 1839 through to 1867, a year that marked the beginning of a new chapter in the distillery's history. Aptly known as the 'great Mackenzie era', the distillery was leased, and eventually purchased, by Charles and Andrew Mackenzie who continued the ethos that the Matheson's had instilled - focussing on extended maturation and the sourcing of quality casks. It was during this time that The Dalmore explored maturing their spirit in ex-sherry casks from Spanish Bodegas, a practice that remains integral to the distillery's production and character today.
The Mackenzie family remained sole owners of The Dalmore distillery until 1960 when they merged with Scottish drinks company, Whyte & Mackay. The following decades saw significant growth and change at the distillery, with the stills being increased from four to eight in 1966, and the distillery's Saladin box (an in-house instrument used for malting barley) taken out of production in 1982. This new era in Dalmore's history saw Master Distiller, and whisky icon, Richard Paterson take the helm and drive the distillery to become the highland heavyweight it is today. Continuing on from the Mackenzie family legacy, cask curation has been at the heart of Richard's successes.
Acting as the creative force behind The Dalmore for almost five decades, Richard celebrated 50 years with Whyte & Mackay in 2020, previously working across the entire White & Mackay portfolio of brands (including the W&M blend, Jura and Fettercairn) as Master Blender since 1975. Richard later shifted focus to The Dalmore distillery and is now credited with curating some of the distillery's greatest, and most highly-sought after, releases in history. From the early 2000's, an array of high age-statement, limited edition releases, saw the brand position themselves as a luxury product, breaking numerous world records in the process.
In 2020, Dalmore released the 'Decades Collection', a series of bottlings that illustrates the distillery's spirit across six decades of production, described by The Dalmore as "A Masterpiece of Time".
"A Masterpiece of Time" - The Decades No.5 Collection
In 2020, The Dalmore distillery released a series of three exceptionally rare collections, known as The Dalmore Decades.
The series included the No.4 Collection – featuring four whiskies from 1979 onwards – which were limited to only 25 sets globally and the even rarer No.5 Collection which showcased a collection of malts spanning over half a century of maturation from 1967-2000. The No.5 Collection was limited to just 15 sets worldwide which were sold exclusively through retailers including Harrods in London and Le Bon Marché in Paris. Each of the five bottlings were hand-selected by Richard Paterson to represent a key moment in Dalmore's history.
The Dalmore Decades also included a singular No.6 Collection, which featured a 1951 vintage.
As Whisky Auctioneer brings to auction one of the 15 sets of The Dalmore Decades No.5, we take a look at each vintage spotlighted within the collection.
Over the past 50 years, I have kept a watchful eye over our superlative inventory of rare whiskies, giving them the guidance to mature and reach their full potential in the finest casks sourced from around the world.
Richard Paterson, The Dalmore Master Distiller
[Source: Whisky Auctioneer]
A tranformative year in Dalmore's history, the stillhouse as it's known today was created - where before four stills stood, now there were eight. The 1967 vintage contains spirit distilled on February 24th of that year and aged for 53 years. The spirit was matured in a selected 20 Year Old Graham’s Tawny Port Pipe, sourced from Portugal’s Douro Valley, before being transferred to a wine barrique previously used to age Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Château Mont-Redon.
The 1970s saw the arrival of Richard Paterson at The Dalmore, during a period where blended whisky still dominated the market, producing single malts for the purpose of long-term aging was a rarity. Distilled on October 29th 1979, this 40 Year Old single malt was matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, before being transferred to a Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butt. The spirit ended its maturation journey in a rare Graham’s vintage Port Pipe from 1952 - a year of post-war austerity when only tiny quantities of vintage Port were made.
Early in his career, Richard Paterson spent almost 20 years learning from Colonel ‘HAC’ Mackenzie, the last of the famed Mackenzie family to be associated with The Dalmore. The maturation journey at Dalmore typically begins with filling into ex-bourbon casks, followed by further maturation in Sherry, Port, or fine wine casks for example. The 1980 vintage expression from the Decades Collection moves away from this norm, with a maturation journey beginning with ex-bourbon casks, followed by Matusalem sherry butts, before being filled back into first-fill ex-bourbon barrels for its final maturation. The spirit was bottled after 40 years of maturation.
The Dalmore's now iconic bell-shaped decanter was introduced in 1994 with a minamilst, elegant shape designed to compliment the character of the spirit contained. Distilled in 1995, this 25 Year Old malt was aged initially in ex-bourbon casks, followed by a Graham’s vintage Port Pipe from 1994 (an excellent vintage for Port), before spending a final five years in an ex-Tintilla de Rota barrique - a sweet fortified wine from southern Spain.
At 12.02am on Saturday 1 January 2000, The Dalmore became the first distillery in Scotland to create new spirit in the new millenium. The spirit was filled into, and fully matured in, Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butts from the González Byass bodega in southern Spain. Left to mature for 20 years, this is a truly rare expression of Dalmore fully matured in these exclusive casks.
Discover The Dalmore Decades Collection at Auction
Whisky Auctioneer is delighted to offer the full Dalmore Decades No.5 Collection in our November Auction, running from 25 November - 5 December 2022.
Every set of the No.5 Collection is engraved with an exclusive number and each bottle features a different coloured stopper. The five bottles are presented in a beautiful fabric-lined display cabinet, alongside five display plinths.
As one of only 15 presentation sets produced, this collection is not only another incredible feather in The Dalmore's cap, but represents the legacy of one of Scotland's finest distilleries and is an impressive centrepiece for even the most extraordinary private whisky collections.
[Source: Whisky Auctioneer]
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