Last year, on my 40th birthday, I treated myself to a bottle of Laphroaig 30 year and had a “scotch party” to share it with friends. That was actually my first birthday as a “scotch drinker.” I decided I liked the idea of celebrating my birthday with a special, limited edition bottling. I didn’t want to spend quite as much this year, but was keeping my eye out for the right whisk(e)y when The Dalmore announced the pending release of “Mackenzie” in March. Priced at around $125 (although not available in the U.S.), Mackenzie is a limited release of 3,000 bottles, all individually numbered with a special molten metal stag on the bottle.
Specially crafted by Master Distiller Richard Paterson, the Mackenzie started its maturation process in American white oak casks in 1992. After 11 years, it was put into fresh port pipes for another 7 or so years and bottled at 46%. Additionally, each bottle comes with a card, instructing the purchaser how to get a free limited edition print (12″x16″) of the famous “Fury of the Stag” painting that is also printed on the box. Finally, a portion of the proceeds go to The Mackenzie Clan, with whome the Dalmore distillery has long been affiliated. You can read more about the bottling, the painting, and the release party in this article at Luxist.com.
Tasting and Comparing
Oh, this is a good one!The nose is rich and fruity, with lots of dried red fruits. The Dalmore citrus is apparently toned down quite a bit from the time in port casks. Not as much sherry sweetness as in the Dalmore 21 year. Actually, this is VERY close in character to Highland Park 18, including a hint of smoke. The HP has an earthy component not present in Mackenzie, but everything else is there. Actually, the nose on Mackenzie is not quite as expressive as the other whiskies I’m comparing it to, but stick your nose in there and spend some time with it and it’s well worth the effort. The palate has good body and retains the fruity character. As it passes towards the back of the tongue, a nice spiciness takes hold. Bottling this at 46% was an excellent choice! On the finish, the spices carry on through, joined again by red fruits, oak and a hint of smoke. When comparing directly to Dalmore 21, I thought the Mackenzie presented cherries on the finish as well. I haven’t read anything about Dalmore using peat like HP does, but I keep thinking there’s some hidden in here. Maybe it’s just the interaction of the oak with the spirit? It lasts every bit as long as the HP 18 and Dalmore 21. A very enjoyable finish.
Comments: This is only my third Dalmore (after the 12 and 21 year bottlings), but it’s now my reference for this distillery. The only negative I took away during comparisons was that I had to work harder to coax out the nose. Overall, I like this better than the 21 year. I think the Dalmore 21 falls squarely in the “dessert malt” category. The Mackenzie certainly can be used in this way, but I think it’s more versatile, like HP 18. Now, between Mackenzie and HP 18, it’s pretty close to a draw, though I’m leaning slightly towards Mackenzie because of the extra oomph provided by the 3% additional ABV. Thank you Richard Paterson for crafting this delightful malt…more like this, please!
- Score: 90/100 (A-) After comparing this directly to HP 18, I might consider dropping my score on that one from 90 to 89. They’re very close, though.
- Bottom Line: Outstanding balance, and great use of Port casks. Maybe it’s the 46% bottling, but there’s an extra kick on the late palate and early finish that I haven’t experienced from other Dalmores. I’m going to miss this bottle when it’s gone.
- Value: Ok, this isn’t cheap, and if you’re in the U.S., you’re going to have to pay shipping from Europe. However, when you combine the nice packaging, contribution to the Mackenzie Clan, and of course, the great taste, I think it’s a treat well worth the asking price. Given all of the $500+ “special releases” floating around these days, I’d be happy to see more like this one.