Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dalmore tasting at Selfridges

Tasting season is in full swing. August was painfully quiet, hence the silence on the blog front. My diary was a barren wasteland of blank space, but the dog days are over - September has saved my social life!

Never one to pass up an opportunity to try something new, when an invite for a Dalmore whisky and chocolate tasting at Selfridges pinged into my inbox, it took me all of a minute to reply.

I'm not a huge whisky fan, but I was excited to try the 45-year-old single malt master distiller Richard Paterson was unveiling for the first time. Six whiskies were on show at the Wonder Bar, which will soon play host to a series of Decanter World Wine Awards trophy winning wines. Each was matched with a different chocolate.

First up was the 12-year-old. Cue sniggering from the male members of the group. Dalmore mature their whiskies in old Gonzales Byass Matusalem casks, imbuing the final blend with an attractive nutty finish. The 12-year-old was incredibly approachable, with notes of orange, citrus and aromatic spices, which worked well with the marmalade fueled chocolate.

The 15-year-old had developed further, and was showing hints of dried spices, cinnamon and ginger, which were enhanced by the salted caramel chocolate. Next in line was the 'Gran Reserva', which sounds more like a Rioja than a whisky. It had an opulent nose of roasted coffee and Christmas cake, which fused wonderfully with the ginger dominant Madagascan chocolate.

Soon it was time for the 18-year-old – a whisky with a driving license. Matured in American white oak for most of its life, it's finished off in Sherry wood for the final furlong. Smooth and rounded, it had a potent nose of almonds, vanilla and spice. Having sipped on these bad boys and nibbled copious squares of chocolate, we were summoned to hail the arrival of the master distiller himself, known as 'The Nose'.

A small mustacheod man with a big personality, Paterson oozes charisma and has the mouth of a sailor. He leaps up on a chair and launches into an impassioned speech about his new arrival - the 45-year-old single malt he's christened Aurora, after the goddess of the dawn. Dalmore, he says, is distinguished by the shape of its stills, which he refers to as 'the big bastards'.

At the point of exploding from his own enthusiasm, Paterson uncorks Aurora and pours us all a wee dram. 'Caress it', he urges us, 'make love to it'. At £3,200 a bottle, Paterson puts it in the same quality league as Lafite. 'It's probably the most expensive thing you'll ever have in your mouths ladies', he says with a smirk. Someone nearly chokes, and I'm close to spraying the man next to me. This guy is a riot.

Aurora is seriously good - an attractive amber colour, it has an intoxicating Sherry-like nose of marmalade, maple, caramel, cedar and spice. Paterson tells us to keep it in our mouths for as long as possible to maximise the flavour development. It has a creamy, textured palate layered with citrus and sweet spice, and a cigar-like finish so long it goes into next week. It may have been the chocolate, or Paterson's oratory skills, but I walked out of Selfridges a whisky convert.

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