The Dalmore Gran Reserva

So I really enjoyed The Dalmore 15-year and I thought The Dalmore 12-year was a great bargain, if somewhat on the rough side. So what’s this Gran Reserva thing? Originally intended as a value-priced replacement for the original Dalmore Cigar Malt, the company aimed for a lighter and softer malt that would better complement a wide range of cigars. Why doesn’t it have “Cigar” in the title? Because customers apparently thought that it was suited only for pairing with cigars, and sales suffered! They have since reversed that thinking, and released the excellent (if pricey) Cigar Malt Reserve. Confused yet? I am.

At any rate, the Gran Reserva is still kicking around at a price point slightly below the 15-year, and it’s still a little mellower than the 12- and 15-year. It’s a vatting of malts between the ages of 10 and 15 (probably 12-14 on average), 40% of which is matured in first-fill American oak ex-bourbon casks, and 60% in first-fill oloroso sherry butts. The vatting is married in ex-sherry for 6 months and bottled at 40% ABV (boo). To be frank, I didn’t think it stood up to either of its siblings, although I’m sure it’s lovely with a cigar. Regardless, this review is based on my tasting it in between the 12 and 15.

Nose: Lighter than the 12 year. Honey and somewhat lemony. The Dalmore orange peel is present, but comes across as thin and insubstantial. The sherry does not assert itself, instead remaining soft and subtle.

Palate: Thicker body with less orangey goodness than the usual Dalmore. There’s a taffy quality to the flavor: sweet but not nuanced. It tastes like it’s predominately bourbon-matured, with both less sherry flavor and less character in general, despite the 60% sherry maturation. Frankly, it’s not as good as the 12, and not nearly as good as the 15.

Finish: On the short side, and a bit rough? Less orange. Some citrus like sweet candied lemon.

With Water: Adds a little more lemon. Otherwise no effect that I can determine.

Overall: I hate to dismiss a supporting character in an otherwise standout cast, but if The Dalmore was going for softness and subtlety here, they went too far. I’d even be worried that it wouldn’t stand up to a robust, full-bodied cigar. If you have money to spend on a Highland malt with orange notes, buy the 15 or the 12.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Founded in 1839, The Dalmore sits on the eastern coast of the Scottish Northern Highlands, north of Inverness, at sea level. Its waters run from Loch Morie, in the hills above the distillery, and is diverted from the Alness river which flows over heather-covered peat. As The Dalmore’s whiskies age very well, older bottlings are prevalent on the auction scene. Several recent record-setting auction sales have been old bottles of The Dalmore. The distillery’s characteristic dark orange flavor is said to be present across the range. The two pairs of stills at Dalmore are of differing shapes and sizes, and some are cooled by water jackets, a modern innovation. This combination produces a complex, eccletic mix of distillates which contribute to both the house ‘citrus’ character, and its ability to age for a long time in oak; Bottlings in excess of 50 years old have been released. The majority of the whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks, but some in ex-sherry. It is all married in ex-sherry casks. The distillery is owned, along with Isle of Jura, by independent bottlers Whyte and Mackay.
The Dalmore Gran Reserva
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $50-$60
Acquired: (1/4 oz pour) K&L Spirits Tasting

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  • Hey there.

    Really enjoy your site, and I agree with most of your postings, but I just can’t get behind this one. The Gran Reserva is one that I truly enjoy, is not a price buster, and is what i would consider “Easy Drinking”. I suggest you give it another try, and as we all know one mans garbage is another mans treasure. This is a good Scotch to me and I would hate to see others avoid it when so many I have introduced it to have really enjoyed it.


  • Live in new england ans so far haven’t ran across
    This blend. I have just purchased the 18 year old
    Omg I love it. Maybe more so than king ed 3rd