It seems that when a distillery is looking for a new name for a bottling, lineage and heritage, with a huge spoonful of traceability thrown in, is the key to finding a title.
Obviously, the most popular method of naming a whisky is simply with an age statement. Two large digits on the front of any bottle should suffice to keep the consumer calm. Taking it up a notch from just a simple number is to use a vintage, a specific year.
Giving your whisky a year for its name is like having the coolest nickname in the school playground. You could be picked for any sports team first, no matter what your ability, if you were known as, say, ‘Striker’. We had a kid at our school with that nickname. He was rubbish at football, but got his name from his dad who wasn’t a professional footballer, but a Miner.
If a distillery wishes to expand their range of whiskies away from the normal age statements and vintages, but is still keen to show off artisanal roots and farmhouse production methods, then finding a local figure of historical importance, or a special event to name your whisky after is a must.
Most famous for this approach is surely Bruichladdich. Left with a whole heap of stock when the current owners took over the distillery, the obvious way to release some of their liquid investment was in unique and inventive bottlings such as the Weapons Of Mass Destruction bottling (due to them being spied on by the CIA), the Mayor Of Islay bottling (for the Mayor of Islay, a place in Peru) and the Drambusters, an acrobatic aeronautical team who clearly like their whisky. One hopes their exploits are as a result of their thirst and not a result of pre-flying boozing...
Fair play to Bruichladdich for their creative efforts, even if (like a late 20’s man who has been a little wild over the past few years) they’ve now started to settle down a bit with the launch of the their new 10 Year Old. I’m sure some of their releases have meant a great deal to a lot of people (the Links series I’m sure is very popular with golfers) yet none have managed to find an association with anything I’m that interested in. In fact, I’ve not yet managed to find an unusually named whisky bottle that I could say reflects my hobbies, until now!
Browsing through twitter the other day, I saw a shop announcing a sale on a miniature of whisky called Goal Keeper Whisky. As a custodian of the sticks, a fully paid up member of the goalkeepers union, I eagerly clicked on the link to find this:
“Why a miniature?”
The only explanation I can think of is that in this modern era of technology, goalkeepers tend to carry a small clutch, or man-bag with them on to the pitch. The contents are often as simple as a spare pair of goalkeeping gloves and a cap for when it gets sunny. That’s about it really.
Maybe carrying a tiny bottle of booze in the bag is the start of a series of accessories for the goalkeeping clutch. Whatever can we expect next? A goalie branded hanky, perhaps? Maybe a set of business cards with the job title “guardian of the goal” underneath to hand out during corners. Or some sort of alarm for when the big opposition striker penetrates the ‘keepers defence and enters his box...
Either way, I’ve found my blend. This shall become the staple bottling in my household, at least for display purposes, and if not for my house, then for my goalie bag.
All this brings me on to a whisky which has been out for a while, yet I have only just encountered in the last few weeks, the Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III.
The name, like all good whisky monikers is of course steeped in tradition and history. King Alexander III was saved from certain death from an attack by a vicious stag, by a member of the clan Mackenzie. As a result, the monarch granted the clan the 12 point royal stag emblem which can be found on every bottle of Dalmore. The scene was depicted in a painting called ‘Fury of the Stag’ by Benjamin West, a print of which was included in a limited edition bottling from last year, our review of which you can read here.
So that’s the name sorted. Not quite Goal Keeper whisky, but there you go... But what about the important bit, the juice inside the bottle? Well, this whisky is a real feat of blending, as it brings together whiskies from six different types of casks. You heard correctly, SIX. In the bottle you’ll find Scotch matured in Bourbon casks, Port pipes, Marsala barrels, Sherry butts and Madeira drums as well as a portion of whisky matured in French wine casks.
Dalmore - 1263 King Alexander III – NAS – 40% abv
Nose: the nose gives notes of orange blossom, some hard toffee fresh from the fridge, a little spiced marmalade. Then a big hit of sweet cure bacon fresh from the packet and finally a note I’ve not used before: ‘distillery warehouse’. By this I mean a mix of slightly damp earthen floor, but then that rich air full of a melange of maturing spirit. It’s inviting and pleasing.
Palate: the thick cut sweet cure bacon, possibly cured with maple syrup is the first thing that hits though. A heavy spirit with a good oiliness, this carries flavour well across the mouth. The meaty weighted tones drop as you hold it in the mouth to leave the sweetness of the maple syrup and then some orange dipped in dark chocolate. Slightly drying towards the end.
Finish: The drying nature continues in the palate on the finish like high coco chocolate powder (maybe Green and Blacks Dark Hot Chocolate Powder) a hint of coffee and dried apricots.
Overall: My cabinet contains an open bottle of the Gran Reserva, but this trumps that to the medal for the Dalmore I’d most like to drink. It’s not cheap at over £100 a bottle (over twice the price of the GR) but it is a complex and characterful whisky which I’d be proud to pour at home after dinner. A bit like my goalkeeping ‘skills’, this goes down a little too easily.
Having now looked around to find any other amusingly named whisky products which may reflect the man that I am, I’m pleased to report that this next Dalmore, discovered on the same website as the Goal Keeper whisky, in no way reflects any aspect of my person:
Having had one great mix with the Dalmore, let's leave you with our favourite mix of the year so far: