Whisky Review: The Dalmore King Alexander III

The Dalmore King Alexander IIITales of daring and adventure are not in short supply within scotch whisky marketing departments. Just the name of The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III reads as a CliffsNotes retelling of the early days of Clan Mackenzie. You see, in 1263, Mackenzie founder Colin Fitzgerald saved King Alexander III from an attack by a stag during a hunting expedition. As a result, the king granted the lands of Kintail to Colin.

This hereditary right was further established by King David II in 1362. In addition to these land rights, Alexander III bestowed the honor of bearing a stag’s head to the Mackenzies. This is the origin of today’s stag adorning each bottle of The Dalmore, as well as the explanation behind the name of the dram being reviewed here.

Though currently released as simply The Dalmore King Alexander III the version reviewed today is labeled fully as The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III. Either way you choose to refer to it, the whisky features a bit of a mouthful on the label. This translates into the process utilized in creating this luxurious single malt, as no fewer than six cask types were chosen for the maturation process.

As one would expect, ex-bourbon barrels are amongst those selected for this dram. Moving beyond these more common casks, components of King Alexander III also spend time maturing in Matusalem oloroso sherry butts, Port pipes, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, and casks that formerly held Cabernet Sauvignon. When finally brought together, the rather busy dram is adorned with its appropriately busy moniker.

The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) and features no age statement. Today’s King Alexander III is the crown jewel in The Dalmore’s Principal Collection. Other entries in this lineup include 12-, 15-, 18-, and 25-year-old single malts as well as the revamped NAS Cigar Malt Reserve. A bottle fetches from around the $200 mark to just a shade below $300 in many markets, with some a bit above or below.

Tasting Notes: The Dalmore King Alexander III

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), no age statement, 100% malted barley, available around $180-290 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Reddish-brown, deep amber with bright copper and emerald on the periphery. Thick, strong legs that retreat very slowly.

Nose: Lightly floral and surprisingly restrained. Somewhat buttery and nutty, with subtle fruit notes.

Palate: Thin mouthfeel reminiscent of white wine vinegar. Sweet and bitter in relatively equal measure. Dry. Load of somewhat bitter raisin in the initial tasting. Toffee sweetness, tart cherry, blueberry preserves, bittersweet chocolate, salted almond butter, marmalade, baked clove, overripe raspberries. Exceptionally long yet quite gentle finish, glowing in the rear of the mouth and back of the throat. Spice showing up very late in the finish leaving notes of dark chocolate cake and raspberry ganache.

Final Thoughts: 

This incarnation of The Dalmore is firmly rooted in the luxury whisky category based on the process used to create it and the subsequent price it commands. As the most expensive entry in the Principal Collection, I found the dram to be somewhat of a disappointment. There is a busy quality to the drinking of this which I found to be cumbersome. The layering was suitably complex but lacking in nuance to tie it all together in a cohesive narrative.

As a result, it felt like the ground was simply shifting beneath my feet, when I would have preferred to have been taken on a journey.