Dalmore’s Cigar Malt Reserve is a whisky that has never fully resonated with me since its relaunch in 2011, its extreme use of sherry putting me off a bit. The recipe appears to have changed somewhat since our last full review 10 years ago, with Dalmore now describing it thusly:
The spirit is initially matured in American white oak ex-Bourbon casks, yielding soft vanilla and honey notes. A proportion of the liquid remains in ex-Bourbon casks whilst the balance is apportioned between the finest Gonzalez Byass Sherry casks, previously holding 30-Year Old Matusalem Oloroso Sherry, and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques. The three styles are then expertly brought together to perfectly combine their unique characteristics and flavours.
I received a sample of a recent bottling — along with chocolates from Vosges designed for pairing specifically with the dram. More on those later; let’s start with the whisky.
Perhaps the name plays mind games on you, because it does come across as smoky. Not peaty, but with more of a chimney soot and creosote character in the mix. Sherry fully overloads the nose — here showing as leathery and dense, with tons of incense and a raisiny, plum pudding character that almost evokes a bit of a Port influence. The palate again pours on the sherry notes, dense with old oloroso character, brooding and austere and, one might suggest, insistent that a cigar be involved in this experience. Burnt orange peel lingers on the tongue as the whisky opens up, with notes of Christmas spice, well-oiled wood, and a gentle perfume character that layers in dried but indistinct floral notes. The finish reprises the whisky’s smokier elements, with more citrus lingering — and a touch of dark chocolate.
All told, it’s a bold and aggressive whisky, so come into it with open expectations that your senses will be a bit battered from start to finish. Ultimately I’m not sure to what degree the recipe for Cigar Malt Reserve has shifted over the years, but whatever’s been done to it, I’m a much greater fan than ever.
The chocolate pairing ($45 for 5 gigantic bombe chocolates, 62% cacao, complete with gold flake on top) works well enough with the whisky — but whisky and just about any chocolate always tend to go well together. The chocolate is quite fruity, the crystallized orange peel in the mix a little on the overpowering side, so it’s best in small bites — which are best achieved by carving off pieces with a knife, rather than your teeth. Still, for novelty value alone this makes for a perfect add-on if you’re already gifting someone a bottle of Cigar Malt.