Day Twenty One in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

Back to Speyside. If you’ve been reading, you already know that Speyside is not my favorite region. I usually find them too sweet and light compared to the heavier smokier scotches of my preferred region of Islay.

But I’m an equal opportunity whisky drinker. No whisky need feel ashamed in my presence. However, Dalwhinnie is so far on the edge of the southwest corner of the Speyside region, it’s often considered a Highland even by the distillery itself.

But I think regions have more to do with taste than geography, so I’ll pick a side at the end.


Dalwhinnie is located in the Grampian mountain range and is one of the remotest distilleries in the mainland. It’s also one of the highest at 1,070 feet.

It started in 1897, and carried on in fits and starts consistently from that point until today. It’s currently owned by Diageo, like most things these days. There’s a small chance that Diageo actually owns the chair I’m sitting in right now. I haven’t looked at the label.

Diageo only sets aside a small percentage of the distillery’s product to single malts preferring to use the rest in the Black and White blends.


This is Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold. It’s an expression release that Dalwhinnie says is made with spirits distilled between October and March. They call it crafted with cold. They even recommend freezing the whisky before serving.

That depresses me. If you know anything about how taste works, you know that extreme temperatures have the effect of burying the majority of the flavors. That’s why you market crappy beer as “coldest in the world” and it’s why horrendous coffee can only be consumed when almost scalding hot.

When a distillery says “Make it ice cold!”, what I hear is, “Try not to taste it too much!”

Hopefully that’s the product of some marketing asshat, and for the purposes of this tasting, we’ll just ignore them.

I always say you can spot a Speyside whisky very consistently if butterscotch and caramel are the dominant flavors you pick up in the smell. By that comparison, Dalwhinnie starts as a Speyside with a bit of a grassy undertone.

And it’s a good thing we didn’t freeze it. As you drink it the flavor actually shows up a bit. It’s not dramatic, but it’s nowhere near the kind of blandness that deserves to be buried like some blends I could name.

I think the spicy notes in the taste are mostly cinnamon, and they mostly disappear by the third sip.

It’s a good whisky. It’s simple, but tasty. It definitely doesn’t deserve the marketing schtick of destroying it with the business end of a freezer.