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Everything You Need To Know About The Dalmore Luminary Series

In March 2024 The Dalmore revealed the second installment in its famed Luminary Series. The Dalmore Luminary No.2 comprises a 49 Year Old called The Rare, and a 16 Year Old named The Collectible. 

The Dalmore Luminary No.2 The Rare 49 Year Old is currently under the hammer at Sotheby’s. With a starting bid of £75,000, it is safe to assume that the bottle will sell for a staggering price. 

So, what is The Dalmore Luminary series? Why are the bottles so expensive? And, what can we expect from future releases? I delve into the concept, the whiskies, and the art that creates The Dalmore Luminary series in this ultimate guide. 

What Is The Concept Behind The Dalmore Luminary Series? 

V&A Dundee was designed by Kengo Kuma. Credit: Dezeen.com

The Dalmore Luminary series is an ongoing, three-part collaboration between the Highland distillery and the V&A Museum in Dundee, Scotland. V&A Dundee is a design museum that opened in 2018 and was designed by Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma.  

The partnership has, so far, brought four exceptional whiskies to market, as well as striking packaging designed in collaboration with award-winning architects. 

A ‘luminary’ according to the Collins English Dictionary, is “a person who enlightens or influences others.” Or, “a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others”. It is apt, then, that four people (all of whom are luminaries in their fields) joined forces to create this series. 

These people, who worked on the first installment of The Dalmore Luminary series, are: Kengo Kuma – the architect behind the V&A Dundee, Maurizio Mucciola – Kuma’s protege and project architect for V&A Dundee, Gregg Glass – The Dalmore Master Whisky Maker, and Richard Paterson OBE – The Dalmore Master Distiller

The series was created with the distinct aim of “showcasing excellence in design and craftsmanship on a global stage.” 

For the second installment, The Dalmore teamed up with award-winning architects from Zaha Hadid Architects, including director Melodie Leung. 

The Make-Up Of The Luminary Series 

Each release in the series comprises one ultra-rare, high-age statement bottling (The Rare), and one younger and more accessible bottling (The Collectible). 

The older whisky, aptly named The Rare, fills just three decanters. One of these decanters is auctioned via Sotheby’s to raise money for the museum, one is displayed at the museum itself, and the other is kept by the distillery. It is thought that, once the series is complete, The Dalmore will hold a vertical of each Rare Luminary release. 

The Collectible edition (the younger whisky in the pair) is released publicly but in limited numbers. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at each bottle in the series so far. 

The Dalmore Luminary Series No.1 

The Rare (left) and The Collectible (right)

The first release in the Luminary series was a 48 year old whisky and a 15 year old whisky. 

The 48 Year Old The Rare whisky, carefully curated by Richard Paterson, is “a unique assemblage of rare and aged Dalmore whisky with influences from Oloroso and Apostoles Sherry, Vintage Port and American White Oak. The assemblage has been finished in Scottish Tay Oak and Japanese Oak casks, air-dried at the distillery for years.”

Kengo Kuma designed the packaging – a striking sculpture made of 48 (one for each year of maturation) hand-crafted diamond shapes of Scottish oak, Japanese oak, and polished metal. 

As mentioned above, only one of these bottles was publicly available via Sotheby’s. It sold in November 2022 for a staggering £118,750 (~$151,000). 

Gregg Glass and Maurizio Mucciola oversaw the creation of 15 Year Old The Collectible. 

The whisky was matured initially in American white oak and then finished in Italian Amarone red wine casks and ‘Kintsugi’ casks. The ‘Kintsugi’ casks, specially crafted for this whisky, were coopered from Scottish Tay oak, Japanese Mizunara oak, and American white oak. Using these different oaks constituted a “nod to the heritage of each luminary”. 

Mucciola’s packaging reflects the diamond shapes seen in Kuma’s sculpture for The Rare release. 

Only 15,000 bottles of The Collectible were released, retailing for £250 (~$317). 

The Dalmore Luminary Series No.2 

The Rare (left) and The Collectible (right)

Recently, the second release in the Luminary series was announced: a 49 Year Old The Rare, and a 16 Year Old The Collectible. 

The 49 Year Old was curated by Gregg Glass and Melodie Leung, director of Zaha Hadid Architects. Initially matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, the whisky was then finished “with an unparalleled combination of rare Port Colheita 1963, 30 year old Apostoles sherry and select Bourbon, then completed in a 1951 virgin oak hybrid cask, which was air-dried and hand-toasted by Gregg Glass himself.” 

The whisky is presented in an exquisite glass creation by Melodie Leung. The sculpture, which took 12 weeks to kiln and 500 hours to polish, was designed to reflect the fluidity and artistry of whisky-making. It is also reminiscent of the dark amber liquid inside the decanter. 

Only three of these exceptional whiskies were created. As with the first Rare Luminary whisky, one of these is being auctioned via Sotheby’s. Bidding starts at £75,000 and closes on May 31st, 2024. One bottle is being displayed at the V&A Museum, and the other is at The Dalmore Distillery. 

The Collectible 2024 Edition is a 16 year old single malt that was also crafted by Glass and Leung. Containing a small proportion of exceptionally rare peated Dalmore spirit, the whisky was matured in American white oak ex-bourbon and finished in Graham’s Tawny Port pipes and 30 year old Apostoles sherry casks. 

Leung’s carefully designed packaging represents a bird’s eye view of the sculpture that houses The Rare 49 Year Old. 

20,000 bottles were produced, retailing for £275 ($349). 

US-based Dalmore fans can currently find the 16 Year Old on Wine-Searcher for around $299.99

What Will The Next Release Be? 

If The Dalmore continues its current pattern of releases, we can expect the series to be rounded off with a 50 Year Old expression, and perhaps a 17 Year Old ‘Collectible’ in 2025 or 2026. Richard Paterson OBE, one of the foremost figures in the scotch whisky industry, is sure to have a hand in the creation of the expressions. 

At this time, The Dalmore’s compendium of Luminary The Rare whiskies will be complete. Whether or not this will be kept at the distillery, retailed, balloted, or auctioned is not yet clear. So, watch this space for news. 

I, for one, cannot wait to see what The Dalmore and V&A Dundee have in store for the big finale. 

Lighting The Way 

The Dalmore Distillery has long been a famous brand in the world of luxury whisky. Credit: The Dalmore

The intersection of whisky and art is being explored more and more as the whisky market continues to evolve with the release of luxury products and collaborations with luxury brands

The Macallan, specifically, has ventured into numerous collaborations with artists such as Peter Blake and Valerio Adami, and brands such as Bentley. Such collaborations open up entirely new markets for whisky distilleries that are looking to ‘premiumize’. 

Whilst the debate surrounding whisky for drinking vs. whisky for collecting/investing will inevitably rage on, there is no doubt that releases such as The Dalmore Luminary series have a place in today’s market. In releasing a more accessible version of each Rare Luminary, the distillery is also ensuring that the brand remains within reach for long-time fans of The Dalmore. This is a balance that many luxury scotch whisky distilleries, such as The Macallan, strive to strike. 

And, of course, the funds raised at the Sotheby’s auction from the sale of The Dalmore Luminary No.2 The Rare 49 Year Old will benefit one of Scotland’s most beloved design museums. 

The Dalmore Luminary series highlights the incredible dedication, craftsmanship, and time that is poured both into whisky-making and the creation of art. 

Check out Phil Dwyer’s review of the 49 Year Old here, and the 16 Year Old here.

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Beth Squires

Beth joined Mark Littler Ltd full-time in October 2020 following the completion of her university degree. Since then she has gained wide-ranging knowledge of all things whisk(e)y, and has written extensively for both company and external publications. Beth is passionate about industry innovation, marketing, and sustainability. With a particular affinity for independently bottled rare scotch, Beth is also a whisky bottle investment specialist.

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