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Edinburgh: Oil & Whisky

Edinburgh: Oil & Whisky
Enticing, almost curvaceous wisps of cosy vanilla, crisp red apple and deeply spiced orange emanated the viscous, red-flecked, sticky spirit gliding within my crystal tumbler. With fewer than 500 bottles allocated for the UK’s most distinguished dipsomaniacs (of just 3,000 for the whole whisky loving world) I had flown to Edinburgh to sip master blender, Richard Paterson’s conversion of water from the rapids of the River Averon into one of the world’s finest malts...
The Dalmore Mackenzie was unveiled and uncorked to the disciplined puff of bagpipes at a banquet in the National Gallery. A gastro gaggle of international critics gathered expectantly beneath its biggest canvas, the ‘The Fury of the Stag’. Rescued from the impossible to imagine impact of stray shuttlecocks when it once languished in a town hall, it has taken five years to rehabilitate. However, being too large to move safely, the restoration, which included the removal of varnish and the discreet addition of a missing horse hoof, was carried out in view of gallery goers. It majestically depicts the head of the Mackenzie clan about to spear a ferocious stag intent on goring King Alexander III in 1263. In reward, according to the legend, the King allowed him to bear the Royal emblem of the 12 pointed stag in his coat of arms. In molten metal, it now embellishes every bottle of Dalmore along with the clan motto, ‘I Shine, Not Burn’.
The new malt, which in fact is 18 years in the making, was matured in softening American white oak barrels for 11 years, then ‘finessed by re-filling to fresh port pipes from the Douro,’ according to the dapper Paterson, whose business cards matched exactly the hue of his handkerchief and tie. Despite being 46%, the complex spirit did abide by the Mackenzie motto, shining, rather than burning; quite an achievement considering
Edinburgh: Oil & Whisky
Paterson’s insistence that guests must not nudge it with even a splash of water. Indeed it appeared to complement a starter of thickly cut smoked salmon, then main of heather tinged roast haunch of highland venison.
A Spirited Partnership.
The malt marks the start of a partnership with the Mackenzie Society, whose clan owned The Dalmore distillery for almost a century. Sales of the scotch are intended to help raise funds for The Mackenzie Clan, currently refurbishing Castle Leod, home to chief of the Clan, John Mackenzie, Earl of Cromarty. Indeed, a limited edition print of the Benjamin West painting, personally signed by Mackenzie, is included in every sale.
This is the ‘dawn of a new era in our continued partnership with the distillery,’ said the Earl. ‘As the head of the Clan I speak for all Mackenzie’s to say that we are really excited to be part of this special event which brings to life this iconic painting.’ Following a convincing interpretation of the day of the saving of the King by an actor assuming the role of one of the painting’s protagonists, I stepped into the chilled night. Casting a glance back at the gallery, I only now noticed that the Fury of the Stag was projected on the gallery (for one night only).
Founded in 1839, despite a peaceful location by Cromarty Bay, Dalmore has had a chequered history. In 1917 the navy made deep sea mines in the distillery grounds, leaving it in a ruinous state following an explosion and fire. Nonetheless production continued. Dalmore merged with current owners, Whyte & McKay in 1960. In 2007 at Chicago’s ‘WhiskyFest’, Paterson promoted a bottle said to contain single malts dating to 1868 valued at $68,000.
The Dalmore Mackenzie retails at a more courteous £100, however. UK stockists include The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies, Harrods, Selfridges and Dalmore’s visitor centre. With hourly tours, this is open Monday to Friday, 10am -5pm (admission free).
Douglas travelled by BMI Baby, staying at the five star hotel, The Scotsman, North Bridge, formerly home to the city’s leading newspaper.



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31 March 2010
By: Douglas Blyde
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