Liquor Nerd: Taking the idea of luxury to the next level, Dalmore whisky serves up a collection for the ages

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      Assuming your name isn’t Jimmy Pattison, Jeff Bezos, or the newly liberated Elon Musk, the beginning of this week’s liquor nerd isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream.

      And as anyone who has ever wasted five bucks on the tax on the stupid known as a lottery ticket knows, sometimes dreaming can be enough. Who hasn’t purchased a Lotto Max ticket after the jackpot has climbed to $70 million and then started mentally spending the money. A house on the beach in Tofino, complete with floor-to-ceiling glass for storm-watching season.

      A robin’s egg blue ’57 Chevy, a Vanishing Point-white Dodge Challenger R/T, and Smokey and the Bandit black Trans Am, complete with the gold eagle on the hood. Sashimi-grade seafood for dinner every night of the week, not just when it’s on sale at T & T—hello fresh B.C. Dungeness crab, flash-frozen Nova Scotia sea scallops, and sustainably-harvested Chilean sea bass!

      And let’s not forget the Dalmore Decades No. 6 Collection, which, conveniently, is about to go up for auction on October 8 in Hong Kong. The expected price for six bottles, each representing a decade starting in 1951 and ending in 2000?

      “We’re hoping that it’s going to be the highest at auction yet on record,” says Dalmore spokesman Louis-Jérôme Doise, interviewed by the Straight at the Fairmont Pacific in Coal Harbour. “The estimate is $500,000 US dollars.”

      Which is to say a mere fraction of your upcoming Lotto Max win. And money well spent from a collector’s point of view: there is only one Dalmore Decades No. 6 Collection in the world.

      Should that be a little too rich for even you, the options for the deservedly fabled Scotch whisky don’t stop there. In the coming months 15 five-bottle collections of Dalmore will be put up for retail sale around the world, including stores in Beverly Hills, the U.K., and France. The No. 5 Collection will likely run somewhere around $300,000, the good thing being that’s in Canadian currency.

      Dalmore is also making 25 sets of four-bottles available around the world. Six will be held back at the distillery in Scotland, meaning there are only 19 to get your hands on around the planet. One of those Dalmore No. 4 sets, comprised of whiskies from ’79, ’80, ’95, and 2000, will land in Vancouver.

      “We were lucky to get one for Canada,” Doise says. “The collector’s world in Vancouver is really quite unique—there’s a higher draw to these high-end collectible whiskies in Vancouver than there is in say Montreal or Toronto.”

      At the end of October BC Liquor stores will open an online draw for the Dalmore No. 4 collection, where the winner will get the green light to pony up $200,000 for the set.

      “Your putting your name in a hat,” Doise says with a laugh. “It’s interesting because you essentially don’t know what your chances are, or how many people will have their names in there.”

      The official story of the Dalmore distillery with the famous stag logo goes back not just decades, but in fact centuries, to 1839. And, unofficially, even further back to a time when whisky production was like something from a U.K. version of the wild west.

      “A major pillar of our DNA is our royal heritage,” Doise notes of the Dalmore story. “Although we were founded in 1839 by a fellow named Alexander Matheson, the claim to fame of our stag logo and our royal heritage dates back [further].”

      The Coles Notes version is that King Alexander the Third of Scotland was out on a hunting party with Colin of Kintail of the Mackenzie Clan in 1263.

      “Out of nowhere came a raging stag,” Doise relates. “Colin killed the stag which was heading right for the King. Out of gratitude the King gave the Mackenzie clan the right to use a 12-pointed stag. The Mackenzies came into the picture at Dalmore in the 1860s, and put their family crest and emblem on the bottles and into marketing materials before marketing was even a thing.”

      While most distillers were busy making whisky in their washtubs in the mid-1800s, Dalmore was already serious about the business.

      “It was around the 1860s that we rolled out our first 12-year-old age statement,” Doise says. “Back in those days, no one was really doing age statements at all. It was still about bootlegging because it was illegal to produce whisky. That really shows that, early on, we were putting quality, time, and effort into the scotches that we were producing.”

      Over the past 180 years Dalmore has had just five master distilleries, including Richard Paterson who retired after a 50-year run in 2020. (The No. 6, No. 5, and No. 4 bottle collections hitting the market in the coming months are partially inspired by his legacy.)

      The big question for recent Lotto Max winners new to the collectible whisky game is what they’re getting. Given the price tag, an obvious one is quality. If you’ve ever tasted even a 30-year-old whisky then you’re well aware it comes from a different place than what most of us buy at the liquor store, even for special occasions.

      “One of the goals and tasks of Richard, and his predecessors, was travelling the world and finding some of the best casks in which to lay these spirits to rest,” Doise relates. “The casks we use accentuate and develop the spirits. When you’re talking whisky production, it’s not ‘You put it in a cask and let it sit for 25 years.’ You need to nurture the whisky. Sometimes you play with whisky by putting it into sherry casks, and then port pipes and maybe even a red wine casks.”

      Whoever walks away with the coveted Dalmore Decades No. 6 set will contribute to the pursuit of excellence in another way. Fifteen percent of the auction sale will go to the Scottish design museum V&A Dundee which Dalmore has had an ongoing relationship with.

      “Some brands are partnering with luxury cars,” Doise observes. “In our case we’re with the only design museum in Scotland in Dundee. This is a multi-year collaboration where we’ll be creating and ideating on ‘What is the future of luxury? What is the future of design? And how do those integrate into each other’s worlds?’ It goes far beyond the packaging. It’s about the steps of time, about mastery and vision.”

      For those who’ve yet to cash in a winning ticket, Dalmore also has options that fall under the umbrella of relatively budget-friendly, including the brand’s Sherry Cask Select 12 Year Old ($119 at B.C. Liquor stores), and a 12 Year Old that punches in at $99.99.

      But remember that there’s also nothing wrong with daring to dream. This week’s Lotto Max jackpot sits at $70 million. And you’ve got a week and a bit before the Dalmore auction in Hong Kong. Good luck. 


      Mike Usinger is not a professional bartender. He does, however, spend most of his waking hours sitting on barstools.