In his debut column, one of our whisky writers, Andy Clark, talks us through some of his favourite drams over the past 12 months.
What a time of extremes these past few months have been. Lockdown, the horrors of Covid. Uncertainty. Worry.
Yet at the same time the joy of family, new priorities. New perspective. I finally achieved a dream, and launched my own whisky blog, which led me here to the fantastic opportunity to write this column for you.
And I discovered something that has turned my perception of whisky upside down.
Of all the drams I tried in the last year, every one I loved – my whiskies of the year – was under 10 years old, that imaginary age when whisky is meant to become “good”.
Young, beautiful expressions from the wonderful Glenglassaugh distillery, the excellent first single malt from Ardnamurchan, the unforgettable debut dram from Nc’Nean, the spectacularly smoky Wee Beastie from Ardbeg.
These drams – and a few more – were bursting with personality and quality. Young upstarts that ran rings round the old guard. But above them all stood something very special – a three-year-old from a similarly young Speyside distillery, Dalmunach.
It was an expression by those masters of the single cask, Duncan Taylor, and it had been given the “Octave” treatment, where a dram spends the last few months of its maturation in an Octave cask, one-eighth the size of a normal butt, allowing the flavours to intensify.
This one was so good, all sweet pastry and frangipane, that it left me wanting more – wishing, in fact. And that wish came true just a few days ago when Duncan Taylor released a new, four-year-old Octave Dalmunach.
Bottled at 54.2% ABV and available only in the UK, this is a serious explosion of decadence. On the nose, there’s deep sweetness and an almost buttery richness – and to me there’s a lovely air of coffee chocolates. The kind that used to star in a box of Milk Tray but seem to have disappeared in recent years.
The palate is smooth, sweet and creamy with hints of wood and light spice swirling around in the background. A super-satisfying finish makes me reach for the bottle to pour another.
Now, normally something as special and rare as this – only 99 bottles will ever be available – would carry with it a pretty special price tag. But this dram is just £55-£60, and that transforms it from a luxury to a must-have.
If you’re quick enough to get your hands on a bottle of this young beauty, why not help me drink a toast to the future – a time when whisky WON’T come of age?
For more about the Octave range go to duncantaylor.com
The Octave Dalmunach is on sale at Drink Finder, Master of Malt, Regal Whisky and Whisky Online.
Andy Clark is author of the Dr@m whisky blog. For more, go to dram-whisky.com
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