It used to be you had to go to one of the Daniel Boulud restaurants in New York City or travel to Maison Boulud in Beijing to sample the world's first single-malt Scotch to be created in collaboration with a Michelin Star chef. Now that opportunity may be coming to a retail liquor store near you.
The Dalmore Selected by Daniel Boulud is described as a "bespoke" whisky and Richard Paterson, master distiller of The Dalmore, personally partnered in the assemblage. Boulud has said that he relished the opportunity to participate in a whisky creation. "It's rare that a chef gets the chance to craft a single-malt Scotch based on his own palate and flavor profile."
The world-renowned chef also saw as it as a way to bring extra value and uniqueness to the dining experiences at his restaurants. "I was looking for a fusion," he said. For that privilege guests pay $50 a glass. At retail, the malt will be available at $200 a bottle. However, the supply is limited to 1,000 bottles. Sherry Lehman Wine & Spirits of New York, Binny's Beverage Depot of Chicago, Spec's in Austin, Texas, and Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles are some of the few outlets.
Boulud recently said in a seminar with Paterson that he "was taken by how complex it is to marry whisky." The custom malt was created over a period of six months and three individual tastings as Paterson selected 10 cask samples in 10 different woods with an eye toward matching the restaurants' cuisines. Of those, Boulud chose three samples, which had been variously aged in Muscatel, Madeira and Port wine casks.
Paterson then blended those casks in a number of different ways with different percentages from each sample. Bould then made his selection for the final whisky. The ratio was a quarter Muscatel, a quarter Madiera and a half Port cask aging. The whisky was further married in a cask for a year before bottling.
The Dalmore is widely known as a dessert malt, and Boulud describes his assemblage as a perfect complement to fine cuisine, dark java coffee or bitter chocolate. However, we decided to pair it with cigars.
(Cigar pairings on next page)
The Dalmore Selected by Daniel Boulud (88 proof, or 44 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $200 for a 750 ml. bottle)
APPEARANCE: Deep amber, almost red color. Very fat legs that reluctantly stroll down the glass.
NOSE: The aroma speaks of a restaurant environment with savory notes of olive oil, nuts, caramel, some meaty fruits and truffles. However, there's a modicum of flowers or peat.
PALATE: The hearty nose gives way to dessert flavors in the mouth as tangerine, orange, a hint of cherry and some praline fill the palate. Then comes a rush of chocolate and toffee, followed by another pass of fruit, this one meatier with pears and peaches.
FINISH: On the finish, all that fruit and chocolate blend and are joined with the nuts and savory, hearty character of nose. Then there's a surprise burst of vanilla as though it's crying out for some crème brulee to top off the experience.
CIGAR PAIRING: Fonseca Cubano Exclusivo Robusto (Dominican Republic, 5 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge; $7.20; 91 points, December 2013 Cigar Aficionado) Box-pressed with a tawny-colored wrapper that's silky to the touch. The smoke is rich and nutty with a cocoa sweetness that overlaps subtly spicy ground red pepper notes and a hint of cedar. We chose both cigars for their chocolate qualities in lieu of an actual dessert-and neither disappointed. It was the spice quality, however, that was the bonus to this pairing. The peppers on the cigar elicited even greater depth to the whisky, drawing out some rounder, deeper notes that The Dalmore was only flirting with before. The whisky paid off the debt by boosting the chocolate flavors on the Fonseca to new levels, turning it into a chocolate sundae of a cigar with sprinkles of nuts and a hint of vanilla. A win/win bargain of flavors.
Juan Lopez Selección No. 2 (Cuba, 4 7/8 by 50 ring gauge; £15.17; 94 points, December 2013 Cigar Aficionado) Dark and alluring in appearance, the lush draw of this cigar leaves clear, distinct impressions of licorice and coffee bean balanced by a complex interweaving of leather, earth and chocolate notes. Again the spice was the surprise. The licorice of the Juan Lopez beelined to similar flavors previously latent on The Dalmore, making the coquette more worldly-wise and complex-the touch, if needed. The whisky succeeds in turning the cigar into an even more perfect end to a perfect evening, affording its lush tones extra meaning and sweetness. Save this one for that special occasion when perfection is required.