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.