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Get to know The Dalmore Decades whisky collection auctioned off for $1.5 million

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 6 min read
Get to know The Dalmore Decades whisky collection auctioned off for $1.5 million
A quintessential highland Scotch whisky with a long storied pedigree, The Dalmore produces spirits for serious collectors
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The most valuable whisky lot to go under the hammer in Asia is The Dalmore Decades No 6 Collection, which achieved a record sale of $1,522,813 at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong last October — the highest sum for a whisky sale in 2021.Featuring six exclusive decanters from milestone releases 1951, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1995 and 2000, The Dalmore Decades No 6 Collection is the only set of ultra-aged whiskies available in the world, and was snapped up by an Asian private collector at the auction.

Each single malt bottle captures moments in Scotch history and for the distillery, showcasing the passion, dedication, and expertise that has been the hallmark of The Dalmore for over 180 years. From the first whisky distilled in the new millennium to a rare Mackenzie-era sherry casked 60-year-old, the collection represents over six decades of the distillery.

Every set is presented on a pedestal in a bespoke box where each decanter is housed in individual compartments with each whisky’s unique story engraved upon the door. Each bottle you own is also engraved with a set number to mark its exclusivity and rarity.

Alongside the truly unique No 6 Collection, The Dalmore has extended the opportunity for collectors: through 15 one-of-a-kind Decades No 5 Collection sets (1967, 1979, 1980, 1995, 2000) sold exclusively through the finest retailers in the world, including Harrods (UK), Wally’s Wine & Spirits (US), Le Bon Marché (France), and CDFG Hainan, at a recommended retail price of GBP200,000 ($367,770).

The final Decades offering is the No 4 Collection of 25 covetable sets, each containing four Decades whiskies (1979, 1980, 1995, 2000), to be sold exclusively through retailers including Selfridges (UK), Annabel’s (UK), and La Grande Épicerie (France), and to view at Waldorf Astoria (Netherlands) from GBP100,000.

Each Decades is a showcase of exceptional craftsmanship and pursuit of excellence by master distiller Richard Paterson, who has been with the company for well over six decades. With his deft hands, he has perfected the art of creating ultra-aged whiskies that offer both flavour and smoothness as well as complexity.

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“Over the past 50 years, I have kept a watchful eye over our superlative inventory of rare whiskies, giving them the guidance to mature and reach their full potential in the finest casks sourced from around the world. Each bottle marks a very special milestone in the brand’s history and has a unique story to tell. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that life is to be enjoyed now,” says Paterson.

The Dalmore Decades is master distiller Richard Paterson’s personal selection and a culmination of his custody of the exceptionally rare casks the distillery enjoys

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Stag beginnings

A quintessential highland Scotch whisky with a long storied pedigree, The Dalmore has been ranked among the largest distilleries in Scotland. Legend has it that its famous antler logo was bestowed to Colin of Kintail, chief of the clan Mackenzie, when he saved King Alexander III of Scotland from a charging stag. As a reward, the grateful king granted Colin of Kintail the lands of Eilean Donan, and the right to use the 12-pointed Royal Stag as the Mackenzie clan crest.

The distillery was established in 1839 by entrepreneur Alexander Matheson, who after 28 years decided it was time to hand the distillery back to brothers Andrew and Charles Mackenzie, who owned and operated The Dalmore from 1867 to 1960. Today, The Dalmore is managed by alcohol distributor Whyte & Mackay.

The Dalmore is also famous for having bottled some of the most expensive Scotch whiskies ever sold. In 2010, the distillery produced three bottles of Dalmore Trinitas, two of which were sold for GBP100,000 each, while the third went for GBP120,000.

In 2013, The Dalmore created the Paterson Collection, a 12-bottle collection that went on sale in Harrods for GBP987,500 — the most expensive Scotch whisky collection ever offered for sale outside of an auction.

Milestone sales of The Dalmore, like the Decades No 6 Collection, highlight a growing appetite to acquire collective group sets of ultra-aged whiskies. The Dalmore is also the only prestige brand to have grown share both domestically and in travel retail in 2020.

These accolades come at a time when, according to the 2020 Knight Frank Wealth Report, a 582% increase in value makes rare whiskies one of the most lucrative in- vestments for consumers.

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Formula for success

The Dalmore’s appeal really lies in the nuanced flavours of its spirits — borne through an extremely complex combination of distillation techniques and casking. Achieving this fine balance between flavour, aroma and texture takes experience and time, and one that master distiller Paterson has perfected over the decades.

A significant feature of the Dalmore distillery is the use of traditional flat-top copper stills with different-sized water coolers in the necks to control the level of reflux during the distillation. The water used, taken from the river Averon, also give The Dalmore spirits smoother floral notes unlike the more robust favours of typical Highland whiskies.

The gourmand aromas come from the cask (or combination of casks) they are aged in. The Dalmore 12-year-old, for example, is aged in American white oak bourbon barrels for the first nine years, after which half of the remaining spirit is aged for an additional three years in González Byass sherry butts, while the balance continue their ageing in previously used bourbon casks.

It’s all a very complicated and tedious process, but this method is what gives the spirits their candy-like aromas and rich mahogany shade with the characteristic reddish orange hue of fine antique wood.

“The partnership between The Dalmore and rare, antique sherry casks, is a question of the exceptional flavour we aspire to produce. Our house style of chocolate, orange and subtle spice is perfect to enhance with a cask that has borne exceptional sherry, especially from our friends at González Byass,” says Paterson in another interview.

When it comes to ultra-aged expressions like The Dalmore Decades No 4, 5 and 6, optimising the aroma and taste profile of the single malts is a far more complex dance of casking, warehouse conditions and maturation length — all culminating in perfectly aged Scotch whisky.

The 1979 single malt is aged in a Matusalem Oloroso sherry butt and then transferred to a Graham’s Port Vintage 1952 barrel

The 1980 is matured in a Bourbon cask and moved to a Matusalem sherry butt, and then transferred back to its first-fill bourbon cask for a minimum of five years before bottling

Opened two minutes after midnight, the 2000 single malt spent all 20 years of its life in a Matusalem Oloroso sherry butt in a radical departure from the distillery’s practice

For more details about The Decades Collection, visit

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