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A tribute to wood

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SINCE it’s the wood casks that lend color to whisky, it’s no surprise that they go hand-in-hand. The Dalmore Luminary No. 1, a special edition whisky by The Dalmore, is a tribute to wood.

The Luminary No. 1 Collectible 2022 edition (to differentiate it from the Luminary No. 1 Rare, which sold for $150,000 at auction) is a collaborative work by architect Kengo Kuma, designer of V&A Dundee and his protégé Maurizio Mucciola, in hand with Master Distiller, Richard Paterson OBE and Master Whisky Maker, Gregg Glass. For all the things to inspire whisky, it’s a museum with remarkable wood architecture.

George Schulze, The Dalmore’s appointed Whisky Expert in Asia, told BusinessWorld during a tasting on Nov. 15 at Rustan’s Makati, “For architects and whisky nerds, wood is huge.”

The whisky has been aged in Amarone red wine casks, and bespoke virgin kintsugi casks crafted from Scottish Tay oak, Japanese oak, and American white oak (which we will get to later). Mr. Schulze took us first through Dalmore’s 12 and 15 single malts first, while teaching us to nose and swirl whisky properly.

First of all, you’re not supposed to whiff your whisky so emphatically. “We want to make sure that we aren’t nosing too aggressively. When I hold a flower in front of you… your instinct is to take a breath of that flower,” he said.

Not quite so with whisky: he said that since whiskies usually have an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 40% or higher, “All of the flavors are already on the glass.” He said to tap the glass against the lips, and to breathe normally. He also said to move the glass from left to right. “Depending on the time of day, you might have a different dominant nostril.” As an added tip, he said that one may open the mouth slightly so that the ethanol’s harshness may sit on the mouth instead. As for swirling (in the mouth, that is), he made a wave-like motion with his hands. A reach above meant over the tongue, a dip of his hand meant under the tongue, and another motion meant more aggressive swirling across the palate. “Because we’ve spread that whisky throughout the palate, it’s usually smoother on the throat.”

We did that with The Dalmore 12, aged in American white oak ex-Bourbon casks and finished in aged Oloroso sherry casks. Spirited and spicy, it had a warm slow heat like sticking your face slowly into a fireplace, with very obvious hints of vanilla and caramel, and an effect that left the mouth quite dry. The Dalmore 15, finished in different sherry casks including Apostoles, Amoroso, and Matusalem Oloroso, had hints of ginger and nougat in its scent, and a more elegant spiciness and heat to it than the first whisky, akin to the dying embers of a fire.

Finally, we came to the star of the show (it should be, at P25,888 a bottle, according to the display in the store). We’ve mentioned the woods in which it was aged, and the result was a complex, savory scent, with a heat that tingles the inside of your nose. It was very spicy, and its heat travels well within the mouth.

Mr. Schulze makes a case for the connection of architecture and whisky, which gave birth to the collaboration: “Whisky and architecture have a lot to do in terms of trying to express yourself through creativity and a craft that you’re passionate about,” he said. “This is just a collaboration of mutual respect.”

“These are white woods,” said Mr. Schulze, as he discussed the qualities of the wood that aged the Luminary No. 1. “You’re going to get layers and levels of wood spice, vanillas — these white oaks have qualities in them called vanillins.” Vanillins are the compound that gives the vanilla bean its flavor, and we note that while vanilla is now one of the world’s most prevalent flavors, most of the vanilla flavor available around the world has been synthesized, natural sources of vanillin being ever so rare.

Speaking of rarity: at Rustan’s Makati, there are only eight bottles of the Luminary No. 1 Collectible 2022 edition. There are 60 bottles in the Philippines out of 15,000 in the world, with the other bottles found in Solaire and The Dalmore flagship in BGC. — Joseph L. Garcia

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