The Dailuaine distillery (pronounced “doll-you-inn”) was founded in 1852 and has gone on to be a mainstay of the scotch industry, even if it’s own name isn’t that regularly adorned across the shelves of the whisky world.
In its 170 years, the distillery has been through its fair share of ups and downs with closures, fires, and numerous changes of ownership. Dailuaine’s main successes however lay with Johnnie Walker.
Nowadays, sitting within the Diageo group – much like alongside its neighbouring Speysider, Cardhu – the vast majority of the distillery’s output goes toward blending, including the various Johnnie Walkers. As little as 2% of its production is actually set aside for bottling as a single malt scotch whisky.
The Dailuaine distillery also holds its place in the history books: it became the first of its kind to feature the now-iconic Charles Doig pagoda over its kiln chimney, back in 1889. A symbol now synonymous with scotch whisky distilleries.
Since 1992, a Dailuaine 16 year old has featured in the United Distillers / Diageo range of single malt releases, globally referred to as the “Flora and Fauna” series. Though never originally branded as such by United Distillers at the time, the series’ name came from revered whisky writer Michael Jackson, based on the hand drawn pictures featured on each of the uniformly labelled bottles. Originally standing at 22 bottles across the series and reaching 26 different whiskies in all, the Dailuaine entry is now 1 of just 11 bottles in the remaining series, and sits at the darker, sherried end of the spectrum. Sporting a roaming badger within their Flora & Fauna emblem, the 16 year old is matured in sherry casks and bottled at 43% ABV. Currently available ca. £66 RRP at the time of writing.
This is classic sherried malt at play. Dark caramel, raisins, boozy cherries, drizzles of honey, baking spices, and ginger all meld for a lovely fruitcake nose, complemented with good oak, hazelnuts, and a little wisp of smoke. These all read as fairly heavy tasting notes but there’s a little citrus freshness that manages to keep this light and balanced.
The rich flavours roll out with a dark toffee-meets-fudge-meets-treacle sweetness, and more raisin and sultana fruitiness. That honeyed fruity profile now has more of an orange peel flavour too, reminiscent of a classic old fashioned but without needing the extra ingredients! There are cinnamon and ginger spices, joined with tobacco leaf, and a hazelnut tang at the back.
The orangey notes play out with the cinnamon and ginger spices again, and there’s a final twist in the tale with a grapefruit-style bittersweet touch and a marzipan almond sweetness and nuttiness.
A stone cold classic. This is classic Speyside through and through. When I was first getting into whisky, this is basically what I expected all good whisky to taste like. A good body full of fruit, spices, nuttiness, and touch of smoke. Magic.
It has a lovely nose and the palate delivers big on those promises. There’s not much deviation from nose to palate to finish, just solid delivery. All the classic Speyside fruitcake notes are there, backed by good oak flavours which have just been steeped in sherry and then whisky. There’s just a slightly tart / citrusy flavour that stops it from being a “Sherry bomb” or just an outright sherry overload.
Other than this release and the odd rare indie bottling, I have not ever really seen or heard much about Dailuaine. Whilst I know that most of their whisky goes into Johnnie Walker blends, I would be really keen to taste further editions. It must be a real fruit-and-nut style spirit, which has been enhanced by those solid sherry cask influences from there on in.
That said, this is regularly cited as one of the best entries in the current Flora & Fauna series. I can’t comment on the original full 22 bottles of the series (look out for the white caps on the First Edition bottlings!) but I’m sure it would have featured pretty highly. That doesn’t take into account collectibility of course, as there are some entrants to that original line-up from distilleries that have since closed (Rosebank and Pittyvaich, for example), and some which have been sold off from the group (Aberfeldy, Bladnoch, Speyburn). I have seen some of those discontinued bottles going for crazy prices recently, sold by those who managed to keep the seal on. [ed: I actually saw a Pittyvaich going on auction recently which still had the £30 sticker on the back of it – headed for nearly 10x that at the final hammer!]
The Flora & Fauna series also holds bit of a special place in my heart as it featured (heavily) in one of my favourite whisky trips: a visit to the Fiddichside Inn near Craigellachie. We put a short note together about the legacy of its long serving publican Joe Brandie here – but amongst the flowing conversation and good times, it was our journey through the Flora & Fauna bottles from left to right on the bar that helped fuel the whole experience. Inchgower, Mannochmore, Mortlach, and Dailuaine were particular highlights.
One nice additional touch is that the Fiddichside Inn is alongside an old railway line and the Dailuaine distillery used to get all of its supplies in via steam train – the Dailuaine No. 1 steamer is preserved on the Strathspey Railway.
Whilst the memories from that trip are rather fuzzy, the Flora & Fauna series has featured in numerous others and, of the ones that I have tried (and can remember) to date, this has been the one that I have probably gone back to the most. When stumbling over how to pronounce it properly when asked which of the Flora & Fauna series I wanted to try, I will happily repeat my bad joke of pointing and saying: that’s the badger!
Sample disclosure: this bottle was bought for me as a gift. (We all need friends like these!) All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.
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