Taste Review #74 – Dallas Dhu 10 (G&M)
Many among you will know that I am employed in the oil industry. I come from Aberdeen where it seems every man and his dog is involved with the oil industry. From the late 60’s to the early 80’s, Aberdeen was awash with American accents as the nascent oil industry found its feet and local people started to take over more and more jobs that had been the preserve of Americans from the oil patch in the Gulf Of Mexico. Aberdeen grew to be the oil capital of the UK, and it also proclaims it is Europe’s oil capital, although I have my doubts. Aberdeen has a nasty habit of bigging itself up a little too much and the reality is often different when outsiders visit. I don’t mean to disrespect the town of my birth, but for those of you have lived there all your lives you certainly notice a difference when you move out and look back in. It can be laughably joked that that’s all Aberdonians do – look inwards.
Don’t get me wrong, Aberdeen isn’t a bad place and has plenty of things to do for a city its size. It has felt the resultant oil crashes quite badly, but yet the place muddles on. One of the other global oil centres in the world is the city of Dallas in Texas, USA. Now, I’ve never been there, but I have passed through its airport. I wonder how many Dallas residents knew that when working in Aberdeen they were less than 80 miles away from the tiny village in Morayshire that gave their city its name? Rather than oil / black gold / Texas Tea, this Dallas in the midst of whisky producing Speyside was more likely to give them a sweet golden spirit than a similarly coloured sweet crude.
Dallas Dhu was one of the distilleries that was built in the late Victorian whisky boom. It was owned by Alexander Edward, a Victorian businessman on who’s estate it was built on. Originally the distillery was known as Dallasmore. Alexander Edward also had connections with Benrinnes, Craigellachie and Aultmore. Some people say that he founded Benromach as well, but from my research, the only tie to this distillery was that it was founded on land he owned as part of the Sanquhar Estate. The Dallasmore distillery was designed by Charles Doig, of the pagoda style ventilator fame. Edward soon sold the distillery prior to starting full production to Glasgow based blenders Wright and Greig. The distillery was probably given the ‘dhu’ suffix after it was sold because Wright and Greig produced the popular blended whisky Roderick Dhu, named after a character in Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. Dallas Dhu is Gaelic for ‘Blackwater Valley’, though the distillery lies six miles from the small village of Dallas. This village gave its name to the somewhat less sleepy Texas oil city in 1845 by way of US vice president George Dallas, a descendant of William de Ripley, who owned the Morayshire settlement in the 13th century.
The distillery was served by what was the main railway route between Perth and Inverness, leaving Aviemore, then heading to Grantown on Spey, then over the Dava Moor to Forres. The Dava Moor route was treacherous in winter with trains often getting stuck in snow. Just before the distillery opened, the main Aviemore to Inverness Direct line opened also, reducing the line over the Dava Moor to a branch status, later closing altogether in 1965, although the distillery retained the short length of branch line from Forres station until 1967.
The distillery changed hands a few times before ending up in the hands of DCL by 1929, leading to it becoming part of Diageo. The distillery had a major fire in 1939, and due to the second world war, did not restart until 1947. By 1968, malted barley was being supplied by the maltings at nearby Burghead, leading to the malting floors being closed. In 1983 the Scotch Whisky industry was in trouble due to lower demand and oversupply. With Dallas Dhu having an unreliable water supply the decision was made to close the distillery. The distillery filled its last cask on the 16th of March 1983, then fell silent. By 1986, the distillery was sold in its entirety to the predecessor to Historic Scotland, and by 1988 was alive again in a new role as a distillery museum.
The licence to distill was withdrawn in 1992 and it is doubtful if whisky will ever be made at Dallas Dhu commercially ever again. There have been rumours, especially tied in with the re-activation of Port Ellen and Brora, though the major difference is that Diageo still own the sites, whereas Dallas Dhu is in the hands of the Scottish nation, and I am not sure that Historic Environment Scotland would give up that site easily.
Dallas Dhu has been one of those malts that you just don’t see as an official bottling, apart from a couple of Rare Malts releases – 1970 and 2 from 1975, and two rarer releases, one being a centenary bottle which will have an age at least of 16 years, and a 1983 bottling from the last cask filled on the 16th of March 1983. I have both the centenary and last cask filled bottlings, and was very relieved to see that the bottles themselves survived my flooding accident in August this year. It is most commonly seen as an independent bottling from Gordon and Macphail, and it is a ten year old bottling that we will be looking at today.
Dallas Dhu 10 (Gordon & Macphail)
Region -Speyside Age – 10 years Strength – 40% Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – Most likely sherry for this bottling. Colouring – Not known Chill Filtered – Suspect yes, not stated. Nose -rich and sweet, dark fruit, plums, raisins, caramel. After a couple of minutes this faded and became a lot lighter and more floral, with hints of sour apples and walnut. Had an odd solvent note in the background. Palate – oily, but perhaps not as much as could have been due to evaporation. Cask notes give a subtly spice but drying sensation on the tongue. Musky cardboard, honey and vanilla, pineapple. Finish – Medium. Bit of dried fruit and cold tea. Slightly astringent.
It is a bit of a shame that this sample has suffered from a little bit of evaporation from the bottle and it will be quite obvious that I am not getting the full hit of the original whisky. However I don’t think it lost that much in terms of flavour and mouth feel as there was a distinct oily mouthfeel. The nose was fantastic with lots of the flavour profiles I like such as dark fruit and solvents. I guess I am going to have to be careful how I phrase this in the future, as I do not want be known as a glue sniffer. Glue isn’t my solvent of choice anyway, I much prefer 3M’s ScotchKote, a coating used on electrical insulation tape and has a colour of a wine finished whisky.
I think that even with my less than perfect sample I have taken a great glimpse into a slice of whisky history and this is one of my goals on my whisky journey as understanding the past helps us interpret the present and imagine the future. Alas, we will see Dallas Dhu no more, so if you see a bottle within your price range, grab it. Even independent bottles can reach several hundred pounds. If not to drink, it will certainly provide a decent investment opportunity. It goes without saying if I could afford a full bottle or spotted another miniature, then I would buy it.
Dallas Dhu is open as a museum, but at the time of writing is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However their website is here: – Dallas Dhu Distillery, so you can perhaps plan a visit in more suitable times. I know I will be.
Yours In Spirits,
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All Bottle and Dram Photos – Authors Own
Distillery photo – S. Gardiner / Rotorworx