Introducing Dràm Mòr: Ben Nevis, Glen Garioch, BenRiach & Glenrothes
If you’re in the whisky industry, you may well have heard of Dràm Mòr Group. And if not, then you might be familiar with co-founders Viktorija and Kenny MacDonald. Both have been involved with several brands over the years, either in export, business development, brokering, brand building or ambassadorial work. As a consumer though, chances are this is the first time you’ve come across either of them. However, if all goes well, this certainly shouldn’t be the last time.
First Brexit and now COVID-19, this is far from the most opportune time to start an independent bottling company, but that’s what Viktorija and Kenny have done. Their inaugural release is comprised of four different whiskies, three of which I’ll be tasting: Glenrothes 10yo, BenRiach 11yo and Glen Garioch 8yo. The latter is the product of some straightforward refill bourbon maturation. The Glenrothes and BenRiach have spent time in bourbon casks first, before being transferred into oloroso sherry casks. In the case of the BenRiach for about two years, while it is unknown how long the Glenrothes interacted with a sherry cask.
But before we move on to the inaugural releases, let’s take a closer look at Dràm Mòr’s Ben Nevis. A cult-ish distillery that has shown very well as of late, with many excellent releases from the mid-90s. This release from Dràm Mòr is from that same period, but was bottled almost 10 years ago. These are the remaining bottles from a private individual. A valiant effort was made, but a decade in he realised he was never going to drink all the bottles by himself — there’s a lesson here for many of us.
Viktorija and Kenny bought the remaining 160 bottles. You’ll soon find out that was a smart decision, as it is delicious.
Nose: Yep, there’s that classic Ben Nevis dirtiness (not completely my cup of tea). Slightly sour, a few copper coins. Trademark stuff. Wholegrain bread, giving it a somewhat malty vibe, balanced by tangerine and a whiff of candy hearts, but there’s also just a touch of cumin.
Taste: Big and rich. Really good and very much in line with other Ben Nevis from the mid-90s. Bright fruits (oranges galore), honey, a touch of aniseed, peanuts and a spicy encore. A whiff of oak.
Finish: Lingering oak, spices and peanuts.
Nose: Vanilla at first, followed by olive brine, lemon peel, crème brûlée and a touch of wood glue. Maybe a touch of bay leaf and other herbs. Naked and balanced.
Taste: Touches of charred oak and a sliver of chalk, but also nectarine, ginger, dark spices, and macadamia nuts. There’s even a bitter hint of espresso. Quite a 180 compared to the nose, which certainly keeps it interesting.
Finish: Lingering spices and a touch of milk chocolate.
Nose: Dark and brooding, with notes of cherry, roasted peanut skin and coffee, brightened up by a touch of raspberry, but mostly just rich and intense notes. Tobacco leaves are there too, as well as damp oak.
Taste: A whiff of gunpowder to start, followed by a hint of furniture polish and leather. Warming spices (cinnamon), but also burnt caramel and rum-soaked raisins. Finally, a whisper of menthol.
Finish: Spicy and savory. Long.
Nose: Honeyed lemon yoghurt, loads of caramel and some buttery biscuits as well. Hints of dried red fruit and raw sugar too, with just the perfect amount of influence from the sherry cask, leaving room for crisp apple notes.
Taste: Very creamy and inviting. A hint of struck matches quickly makes way for spice cake, lemon peel, figs, and cherry syrup. Some wood spices too. Quite modern in a way.
Finish: Lingering spices with a syrupy sweetness. Pretty long too.
Four very different whiskies. The Glen Garioch is probably the least approachable, but offers an interesting insight in the spirit from this Highland distillery. Shows similarities too this one from Douglas Laing, albeit with a bit more cask influence.
I liked the Ben Nevis best, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the top notch quality of other Ben Nevis from similar vintages. They are some of the most sought after bottlings on the independent market.
The Glenrothes and BenRiach both offer interesting perspectives on sherry maturation. The first offering some brightness to offset the sherry cask influence, the latter a full on dark and intense sherry bomb with some sulphury notes. Different, but equally good in my book.
Samples provided by Dràm Mòr
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.