You've just got to love your neighbours, when they present you with a bottle of a masterful Scottish whisky for your milestone birthday. And boy, did they hit the nail on the head with The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve.
The Cigar Malt, a north highlands whisky produced in Dalmore, north of Inverness, has an interesting recent history.
The whisky was originally designed to be enjoyed with a fine cigar, something that doesn't appeal to me. I used to dread my dad lighting up his cigars while growing up and was much relieved when, for a while, he took up pipe smoking, which seemed to have a sweeter smell.
So, with smoking of all types on the nose, Dalmore stopped manufacturing the Cigar Malt in 2009, only to spark relative "outrage" among whisky drinkers in the US.
The result, was the brand being reintroduced soon after, and all whisky drinkers should be happy with the result ... cigar smokers and non-smokers alike.
This single malt is matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry casks and Cabernet Sauvignon barriques, the final product being a blend of 10 and 14-year-old Dalmore single malts.
My amateur observations (trying unsuccessfully to sound like I know what I'm talking about) are as follows: Nose - spicy, think cinnamon or cloves; with some sherry coming through. Taste: Apple pie with cloves is the closest I can get, but I definitely can taste the sherry coming through. Overall drinkability (and here I am an expert): Bloody beautiful, mate!
The professionals, of course, tell the story differently. Here's how the distillery describes this fine whisky. "The Aroma: Cinnamon, vanilla and red fruits; On the Palate: Tropical fruits, banana toffee and vanilla ice cream; Finishing Notes: Orange zest, dark chocolate and crushed spices." So there! I will have to remember the phrase "finishing notes" - it might help me sound more intelligent at the end of a boozy night screaming at football on the telly!
Whatever! This whisky is just brilliant and I am so glad I was given the chance to try it by my neighbours. It's now officially one of my favourite highland whiskies and I will definitely be getting it again at some stage.