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Pairing cromarty firth

The Dalmore 15 Year Old with Chuao's Gran Cacao Bonbon and Rocky Patel Renaissance Cigar

Our June featured pairing spotlights The Dalmore 15 year old core expression with Chuao Chocolatier's Gran Cacao bonbon and a Rocky Patel Renaissance cigar.

dalmore distilleryLocation, history and alchemy have conspired to produce a malt whisky that is as rich in tradition as flavor.  Near the city of Alness in Ross-shire, the distillery looks across the beautiful Cromarty Firth to the Black Isle.  The Dalmore name translates to mean "big meadow".  This is perhaps a reflection of the fertile silted fields in this prime barley growing region of Scotland.  Certainly Alexander Matheson thought this setting idyllic when he founded the distillery in 1839 and acquired the sole rights to draw water from the River Alness fed from the Loch of Kildermorie, once thought to have mystical powers of healing.

The Dalmore boasts some of the oldest existing stills in the Highlands, with one dating back to 1874 when the distillery was managed by the Mackenzie family, who subsequently purchased Dalmore in 1886.  World War I intervened on the Mackenzie's successful operation when its warehouses were requisitioned by the British Royal Navy and turned into a factory for the manufacture of deep-sea mines.  All maturing whisky stock was moved to other distilleries in the region but returned without incident after war's end in 1920.  The distillery was not so lucky having suffered damage by fire due to an explosion, delaying return to production until 1922. Continuing on, the Mackenzie family retained sole proprietorship until its merger with Whyte & Mackay, Ltd. in 1960.  Whyte and Mackay was subsequently acquired by United Spirits in 2007.

rpatersonThe Dalmore distillery produces some of the finest malts to come from the Highland region.   The richness and complexity of spirit is often credited to chunky copper stills, irreverently tagged the "big bastards".  It is believed that these curiously short necked stills result in a heavier, fruitier malt. Generations of tradition and experience of the small band of local stillmen minding the operation, certainly also contribute to Dalmore's golden whisky legacy.  But it is flavor maestro Richard Paterson at the helm to soley make all critical decisions for this brand. Paterson himself is a third generation master distiller who is renowned for his olfactory skills and four decades of expertise. His talent and passion for the craft is legendary. For an entertaining and rare insider's perspective on whisky art and industry, you may want to read his recently published autobiography aptly titled "Goodness Nose".

dalmore 15 400The Dalmore 15 year old is a core expression and winner of the double gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  The nose is perfumed with chocolate and rose jelly immediately present, with further developments of vanilla, toffee and subtle sherry.  Its finish in three different types of sherry butts produces an inviting flavor profile.  Matusalem sherry is known for its toffee, raisin/prune and Christmas cake clove, cinammon and ginger spices all of which are truly present in this malt.  Amoroso is a sweetened Oloroso sherry and maturation in these casks are probably responsible for the characteristic orange citrusy notes.  Apostoles sherries are typically aged 30 years or more, giving a depth and maturity to the seasoning of their Spanish Oak butts.  The overall finish to this malt is long and nutty with an interesting musty grape note at the end.  Despite the low alcohol percentage, this expression is full bodied with a silky almost chewy texture.

gran cacao bonbonWhile it was supremely easy to pair The Dalmore 15 year old with many bonbons, the Gran Cacao was a standout as the most taste indulgent match. There is something about its creamy bittersweet ganache enrobed in 73% cacao that provides a simple decadence beyond compare and the silky texture of the buttercream filling repeats the wonderful textural richness of this dram.  

rp renaissance bandWhisky and cigar matchups work best when one complements the other without being too similar, otherwise the tastes just merge together and the cigar gets lost in the whisky or vice versa. After tasting the Dalmore 15 and enjoying the spice notes, I went looking for a cigar that would continue with the spice, but bring some other flavors to the table as well. While a vast number of cigars are spicy, those utilizing the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper also have a sweetness you can't get from other wrappers.  So narrowing my focus to that wrapper, one of the best cigars (and most popular) was Rocky Patel's Edge cigar with the Sumatran wrapper.  The Edge Sumatra quickly became very popular when it was released, and was awarded #24 of the Top 25 cigars of 2007 by Cigar Aficionado.  The Edge was a powerhouse with deep leather, chocolate and coffee flavors and that fabulous spice note in the background. Unfortunately for us though, the wrapper leaf was also being used by Rocky in his excellent Decade cigar and the Edge Sumatra was discontinued.

rockypatel renaissance flatThe good news is that the wrapper is back (albeit a lower priming of the leaf) in the Rocky Patel Renaissance cigar. And while it is not quite as powerful as the Edge Sumatra, that may be a good thing for smokers who don't like that strong of a cigar. The same flavors are all there in this medium body, moderate nicotine smoke.

The Renaissance, released in 2008, is a gorgeous cigar cloaked in that oily, dark brown Sumatran wrapper. The roll and construction is firm and perfect, as is the draw. This cigar begins with a mild pepper/spice that teases the palate awake, and then transitions to a sweet creamy vanilla and chocolate flavor which is very pleasant. When sipping the Dalmore with this cigar, that vanilla sweetness is also brought forward in the malt. Cinnamon appears in the back note of the Renaissance, and matches up with the spice in the whisky as well. And as the cigar deepens from the roasted nutty flavor into the earthy coffee range, it contrasts well with the long and nutty finish of the Dalmore 15 year old. This combination is elegant, smooth and very enjoyable.

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