The Winter's Gold is a new single malt that is being introduced to the popular Dalwhinnie core range. Dalwhinnie is Scotland's highest whisky distillery and one of the most remote. It stands at 326 metres (1070 feet) above sea level and is also the coldest due to its location in the Cairngorm mountains - the weather station at Dalwhinnie records one of the UK's lowest average annual maximum temperatures of just 10.2°C (50.4°F)*. This whisky has been designed to reflect this cold environment and is suggested to be served frozen as a result.
The distillery was founded in 1897 by a trio of local businessmen in the central Highlands. They built Dalwhinnie, which was originally named as Strathspey, at the crossroads of the two major trading routes in Scotland at that time - one running from Inverness to Edinburgh and the other running from Fort William to Aberdeen. The name Dalwhinnie translates as from the Gaelic word Dail-coinneeamh, which means 'meeting place'. The village grew up around the distillery, which attracts 25,000 visitors a year despite its remote location.
Dalwhinnie is currently owned by Daigeo and has an annual production capacity of around two million litres. Despite this the brand is in the Top 15 for worldwide single malt sales and the 15 years old expression is one of Diageo's Classic Malts, representing the Highlands region in that series. The Winter's Gold is bottled at 43% ABV and will be available from selected retailers across western Europe from September. The recommended retail price is £33 a bottle.
"This indulgent whisky really comes into its own when served frozen. The flavours become more intense – and aromas are released as the whisky heats up in your hands."
Donald Colville, Diageo's Global Brand Ambassador for Malts.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and sweet. The leading aromas are of candied lemon peel, vanilla and fresh green apples. These are followed by further aromas of golden syrup, fresh cotton, sultanas and hints of earthy ginger and pencil shavings.
On the palate the whisky is again fresh and vibrant with the green apple and candied lemon peel notes to the fore. As these soften the palate becomes sweeter, smoother and more gentle. There is an immediate hit of crumbly brown sugar and toffee, which evolves in to a honeycomb/golden syrup-like note and juicy sultanas. There is also plenty of fresh oak, which is again reminiscent of pencil shavings, a some cinnamon. These elements are backed up by bittersweet malted barley, earthy ginger root and pinches of baking spice and cocoa powder.
The finish is gentle and warming. Drying wood spices, especially cinnamon, and the malty cereal characteristics begin to take over once the soft sultana, brown sugar and honey notes start to fade.
What's the verdict?
Dalwhinnie (the Classic Malts 15 years old expression to be precise) was one of the first whiskies to get us interested in whisky. Because of this and the fact that it is the first permanent new addition to the range for a while, we were intrigued to try it. Winter's Gold is very nice and easy drinking and a good introduction to Dalwhinnie and single malts. It also seems a bit of a bargain in these days of increasing whisky prices.
We have not tried it frozen yet, as instructed in the serving suggestion, but we could see how it could work like that - it has sweetness and spiciness, which would stand out when chilled, and would reveal more aromas and flavours as the whisky returned to room temperature. We must try it ....
* Source - The Met Office Survey 1981-2010.