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The 1983 Tasting Series #3: Dallas Dhu

In the two weeks since this tasting series began, almost as if on cue, there have been new rumblings about the Dallas Dhu distillery. As I said in the first piece in this series, the 10 distilleries closed in 1983 that have never reopened were unlikely to reopen again. Many of them share similar fates in being demolished or substantially renovated, but one of the exceptions is Dallas Dhu.

In 1988 after being closed five years, Dallas Dhu was opened to the public; it’s been operated as a museum since the early 1990s. Two weeks ago, Historic Scotland (the agency which oversees the Dallas Dhu site) was revealed to have commissioned a feasibility study to see if Dallas Dhu could resume production. The desire as stated is to have it produce as it was when closed so that the distillery museum has more of the sights and the smells and sounds of a working distillery.

In the whisky-nerd land, this is a crazy and potentially exciting update. I’m not familiar enough with these sort of processes to know how far it is from the feasibility study to the point where stills are producing whisky again, but assuming it’s like the US, I wouldn’t expect to see anything happen for the better part of this decade.

I’ve had a number of Dallas Dhus and generally found them pretty enjoyable, with nice, fruity and floral character. Unlike some other distilleries, I don’t generally feel like I need to do a lot of research on a particular bottling of Dallas Dhu before having them as I’ve found them generally agreeable.

Today’s Dallas Dhu is a Signatory decanter, distilled in 1979 and bottled in 2005 and weighing in at a whopping 60.6% ABV – guess the angels missed this cask!

The nose is light, slightly floral and honeyed, with a bit of chalkiness. There’s some white pepper as well. The palate leads surprisingly woody, with a fair amount of spiciness and verges on having too much oak for me. There’s a real abundant malt, tons of heat, and a touch of honey – and surprisingly, a sour note late.

The finish leads off very warm with pepper and malt, and has the mouth-numbing feel of Sichuan pepper. More wood on the finish as well as malt; it hangs around forever in a huge, long-lasting resolution. After a while it starts to get a little bitter.

My impression was that this was a little too hot at cask strength so I added some water to see if this would go in a more familiar Dallas Dhu direction. There was some more overt fruit on the nose; the palate had some tropical fruit, but also a confectioner’s sugar type sweetness – very sharp and pronounced.

As far as Dallas Dhus go, this one was an unusual miss for me. A little too hot at cask strength, a bit too sweet with water, and probably a touch too much wood.

Dallas Dhus have been creeping up steadily in price, but you can still find them for a fairly reasonable amount if you hunt. Then again, if the distillery reopens, in several years this may all be a moot issue.

At a glance:

Dallas Dhu 1979 Signatory – #1390 (d:8-6-79, b:4-4-05) 60.6% ABV
Light, slightly floral and honeyed, with a slight chalkiness. A little white pepper. Water adds a little more overtly fruity note.
Palate:  Wood up front with a fair amount of and spiciness, verging on too much oak. Abundant malt, lots of heat, a touch of honey. Vaguely sour. Water brings up a little more tropical fruit – but it almost gets a sugary sweetness too.
Finish:  Warm to lead, leaving pepper and malt, a little sichuan pepper and wood. Malt hangs around for quite a while. Huge, lasting finish. Dries a touch bitter.
Comment:  Hot as hell at cask strength, a bit too sweet diluted down. A lot of promise but not the best Dallas Dhu I’ve had.
Rating: B-