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Why this bottle of whisky costs more than $60,000, and what it tastes like

The Dalmore 50 Year Old comes in a special Baccarat decanter, a case by Linley furniture and a solid silver stag created by Hamilton & Inches. It has a price tag of more than $60,000.
(The Dalmore)

“Was that a $1,000 sip?” That may be the foremost thought racing through your mind if you’re ever lucky enough to sip a dram of the Dalmore 50 Year Old single malt. That and “Wow, this stuff is pretty incredible.”

Dalmore, the Highland distillery in Scotland, has just released the limited bottling to celebrate master distiller Richard Paterson’s 50th anniversary in the whisky business. It’s a bottle whose journey from still to glass spans more than 50 years and involves four different types of casks from four countries, and a more than $60,000 price tag.

And this isn’t the distillery’s most expensive bottle, not by far. There’s a 12-bottle Paterson collection that costs $1.2 million and a couple of 62- and 64-year-old bottles that will run more than $100,000 a piece.

But the Dalmore 50 Year Old is a single malt Paterson has been working toward for the last 50 years, one that he has personally styled, and something he likes to call “liquid gold.”

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“It is handled like a baby, like a child,” said Paterson, who on a recent trip to Asia brought a pair of white gloves with him to handle a bottle. “It needs to be revered in the proper way. I would hate to think this would be drunk with ice — or lemonade.”

The Dalmore 50 Year Old single malt started in American white oak ex-bourbon casks from the Missouri Ozarks in 1966. Then in 2013, the whisky was transferred to Matusalem Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. In 2012, the whisky was put into Port Colheita pipes, then back to bourbon barrels in January 2016. It was finished in Domaine Henri Giraud Champagne casks for 50 days before bottling.

Master distiller Richard Paterson checks out a bottle of the Dalmore single malt.
(The Dalmore)

“It’s only a very small amount in the Champagne casks, but it’s enough to give it that creaminess,” said Paterson, who had his first experience nosing whisky when he was just 8 years old.

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The Dalmore 50 Year Old is bottled in decanters made by French crystal house Baccarat, each adorned with a solid silver stag created by silversmiths from Hamilton & Inches, and presented in a case designed by the furniture company Linley.

The bottles are held in temperature-controlled boxes inside a warehouse in Scotland, where they will sit until they’re claimed by buyers. And with all that work and time spent on just 50 decanters, Patterson is particular about how one should enjoy the whisky.

“When you get the right moment and you want to drink it, maybe with a crème brûlée, serve a coffee, maybe a Nicaragua java coffee and take two mouthfuls of the coffee,” said Paterson. “Then take the whisky and hold it in your mouth. You need to keep it in your mouth for at least 50 seconds at the top of the tongue, the back of the tongue, underneath and in the middle. The longer you keep it in your mouth, the more you’ll extract the flavors.”

On the first nose, the whisky smells of burnt chocolate and orange; on the second, it sweetens to deep maple. With that first sip, notes of coffee and jam will drift over your palate, then the whisky finishes with a flavor reminiscent of chocolate licorice almonds.

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It may have a more than $60,000 price tag, but Paterson insists he wants people to actually drink the whisky — not just look at it.

“When you open this on a special occasion with people you love, you will have a memory of that occasion for a lifetime,” said Paterson. “And in my mind, that’s priceless.”