Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Score: 80/100
ABV: 43%
Region: Western Highlands/Speyside, Scotland
Body: Light-medium
Texture: Medium-oily 
Best served: Neat
Theme(s): Fresh, lush green, orchard fruits, honey, an entire mountainside!
Likes: Orchard in a glass, crisp, marvelous finish, vibrant!
Price: $65
This whisky is an orchard in a glass. An orchard is land that is planted with fruit trees, and when I put my nose into a glass containing Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old the gentle aroma of peaches and oranges waft up with lush green leaves, damp twigs and a gust of fresh air that carries the scent of a nearby lake and its surroundings; green grass, fruit trees, even some mineral saltiness and berries. In my picture above, I tried to capture the lush green freshness of this whisky.
The Dalwhinnie distillery is one of the highest in Scotland, situated in the Highlands at over 1,070 feet. It is fitting, then, that this whisky seems to represent its origins in a bottle! That is exactly what I pick up in this whisky, it bursts with everything I detected on the nose and finishes with impeccable form; glowing on the tongue with perfection.
This whisky even brings back lovely memories of my time in the mountains of Europe, sipping berry tea in a cozy little lodge on a mountain top at an incredible height! The wooden lodge against the mountainside and dewy grass on the rocks is also a feature in the character of this whisky, absolutely beautiful. It is reasonable to believe that a whisky may absorb the character of its surroundings, just like most island malts have characteristic sea saltiness. The Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old reflects an entire mountainside of nature, and that is something very special.
You should appreciate this whisky over the lifetime of a bottle, as it is so complex and evolves beautifully. It also retains its character after being opened (mine was open for four months).

Light and fresh, this whisky releases a spritz of lemon and orange peel that cuts through the gentle breeze coming from the orchard, as all the fruity character merge with vanilla and bakery spices to subdue the oak that is barely noticeable (but no doubt playing its very important role in balancing the sweetness etc). That is what I love about this whisky;  it is so complex that an ripples in its character are barely noticeable and because it is not dominated by any one feature they all work in almost perfect harmony to produce one stellar performance. There is no heavy or pungent smell but rather a strong gust of delightful character that does not overpower the senses. This whisky is a pleasure to nose because it has complexity and many layers. I can keep my nose in this glass for a while! Do I now scent almond and vanilla? Pines and forests, trees and wood. This is brilliant!
After letting the whisky rest for about 20 minutes with a cover, it opened up and released some magnificent scents. Lemon zest joins the orange peel with dried apricots and figs, and then melon adds a twist. This has all the hallmarks of a traditional marmalade, with big juicy shreds of orange peel!
So wonderfully smooth! On the palate the sharp citrus is more dominant than on the nose as an array of spices burn brightly, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, pepper, anise seed, cocoa and cardamom. The oak also plays a bigger role on the palate, and in addition to bringing those spices adds its own bitterness and vanilla to balance against complex layers of citrus (lemon, lime and orange) and honey. The crisp burst of fresh almonds from the tree also brings a mild earthiness with lush green grass at the crack of dawn soaking with icy dew.

The flavour lingers on my tongue for a very long time, retaining its impeccable balance as notes of licorice develop from the spice and what is left is the dry bitterness of oak that morphs into the vapour of grapefruit rising from the citrus. It is gentle, and the warm glow travels down and remains.

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