Handle The Proof: Dalmore Scotch
Of course, the distillery's "nose" (or master blender), Richard Paterson, says the idea that Scotch peaks at 12 years "is marketing shite"--he's Scottish--"that annoys me."
The 'quality for price' target date varies from brand to brand, but no matter. Dalmore is just now hitting North Texas shelves again after some time off due to, well, business transactions. Don't want to get bogged down in the details, but United Spirits (of the UB Group) began a purchase of the Whyte & Mackay brand's U.S. distribution rights from Jim Beam Brands (of Fortune Brands) in 2007--or something like that.
Knowing Dalmore was leaving, JBB allow support to lapse. As a result, the barrel stock dwindled, at least according the the folks at Whyte & Mackay.
...Dalmore's 12 year used to consist of whisky stored in sherry barrels (30 percent) and American oak from bourbon distilleries (70 percent). In the new iteration, they've gone to a 50-50 split, creating a spirit with greater depth: honeycomb, coffee, bitter chocolate and smoke in one long, smooth sip.
What was once referred to as Dalmore Cigar Malt has been re-branded as Gran Reserva. Aged about 14 years, it shows candied citrus peel, ginger and grain on the nose, with a flowering of spice as you begin to taste. Their 15 year resembles the Gran Reserva, though developing more floral and caramel aromas and greater depth on the palate.
Downsides? Well, Dalmore 12 year once cost around $32 at Goody Goody. With a renewed marketing push, the price will jump a bit, to $40 or $45.
That's about it. These are still a good way to experience the elegance of Highland single malts while saving a few bucks.