Actually, this version of the 12 year old was bottled before the three-dimensional silver plastic stag head was glued to bottles, before the ABV was lowered, before the price doubled. Yes, this was back when Dalmore 12 cost $25-$30. And it looked like this:
Rather than going through a list of Dalmore gripes, I'll give you some background to this particular sample.
Ownership: Whyte & Mackay (United Breweries Group)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ex-sherry casks (likely American oak), possibly some ex-bourbons too?
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Once upon a time, Florin (a prince) gave me one-third of his bottle of Dalmore 12 (bottled 2005). We had tried the stuff the evening before he gifted the large sample, but I didn't remember what it was like. He had found it to be noticeably peated. Before I started into my 8oz, I sent 2oz of it to My Annoying Opinions in a sample swap. Yes, you read that correctly: I swapped part of someone else's sample for a sample. Yup. Moving on...please see MAO's review here. Though he did not find any peat in the whisky, MAO had some nice stuff to say about it. There was further conversation about its peat levels in the post's comments.
Many months later, I finally tried the whisky and...... yyyyuck it was all rotten eggs with a hint of orange peels. I let it sit in a half full bottle for a week before trying it again. Things had changed.
The color is rosy gold. The first notes on the nose are hot hay and moss. The rotten egg element while still present has mostly vanished. LOTS of orange peel, though. There are smaller prune, beach, and sweat (yes, with an 'a') notes. Also some toffee and cherry lollipops. The mild palate gradually grows sweeter with time. The sherry stays subtle. Some orange candies, raisins, salt, and moss. A wormwoody bitterness and maybe some mold on the sherry casks. The sherry ramps up in the finish, as does the sweetness. Small notes of sea air, orange candies, and raisins. Not much else.
WITH WATER (approx. 40%abv)
The farmy hay note remains in the nose, as does the orange peel. More moss. Buttery toffee and caramel. Seaweed and canned peaches. The palate gets bitterer, while the rest of the flavors flatten out into a blur, like a sherried blend. Maybe also some burnt white bread crusts, stone fruits, toasted grains. The finish has some sherry, tobacco, stale dried fruit, and grass.
It's definitely not boring, seeming to change with every sniff and sip, sometimes off-putting, sometimes fascinating, good and bad elements firing at the same time. Thank goodness that rotten egg thing slipped to the background.
Next, I left the final ounce in a 2oz sample bottle for ten more days to see what a little more oxidation would do...
The nose is much fruitier now with raisins, prunes, pears, and green apples. No eggs! But also, no orange peel. Hint of moss, soil, and wet sand. The palate remains mild. The nice bitterness is still there. More sherry. A little pepper in the throat. That pepper remains in the finish, along with the bitterness. Some salt, sherry, and celery(!).
The more it oxidized, the better it got. It basically went from an F to a C to a B-. I don't really recommend adding water to it as the whisky is already light. That rotten egg issue appears to be unique to my experience, so discount it (if you dare!). While I would not say this is peaty whisky (probably a 2 on Serge's 0-9 P scale), there were mossy notes repeating in the nose and palate.
As MAO concludes, this was a reasonable whisky at $25. Can't get much sherried malt (especially with an age statement) at that price. Plus as I mentioned above, it gets points for amusement value. I've seen a number of these older bottles on shelves in this neighborhood. But at $50. For half that price, I might bite.
Availability - Random corner liquor stores
Pricing - $25-$30 once upon a time, almost twice that price now
Rating - 80 (with oxidation)