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3 weeks agoupdated Mar 26, 2024

The Dalmore Unveils Second Installation in The Luminary Series

Proceeds from the Zaha Hadid Architects-designed sculpture will be donated to the V&A Dundee.

By Kim Ayling

It all started with chestnuts, a select group of whisky enthusiasts and specialists are told in a grand room inside the even grander Gleneagles hotel. We’re sat in front of Melodie Leung, director of Zaha Hadid Architects; The Dalmore master distiller Richard Paterson; and master whisky maker Gregg Glass as they discuss the second installment in The Dalmore’s trailblazing Luminary series – and yes, according to the trio, it all started with chestnuts.

More specifically, the sweet, smoky aromas of roasted chestnuts that swirl from the carts of street vendors in Hong Kong, an evocative scent that unlocked forgotten childhood memories in Leung, who amidst her upbringing in Chicago, spent vacations visiting family in Hong Kong.

What began with street food, however, has grown into a multi-disciplinary tour de force, a marvel that fuses the worlds of whisky and architecture. The second Dalmore Luminary release, which comes just shy of 18 months since the inaugural edition spearheaded by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is made up of two whiskies: The Rare, an aptly named 49 Year Old, of which just three bottles exist, and The 16 Year Old Collectible, which goes on sale on April 2, with 20,000 sets available worldwide.

[See also: The Best Scotch Whisky Brands in the World]

melodie leung and gregg glass tasting the dalmore whisky
Nearly 300 prototypes came before the final whiskies / ©The Dalmore

While the age statements and the rarity naturally set the two aside, what unites them is how much of Leung’s personality has been embedded into both. During our one night with The Dalmore family in Scotland, it was drilled into us that this is not just a bottle-up-and-sign-here collaboration; Leung was involved in every part of the making of these special whiskies. 

Memories were teased out of the now-London-based architect – without her realizing it, the trio’s first-ever phone call became a pseudo counseling session, with Paterson and Glass gently probing on Leung’s likes, her dislikes, her preferences and her personality. “I didn’t even realize it was happening,” she confessed over a dram in Gleneagles’ American Bar.

Nearly 300 prototypes came before the final whiskies, with Paterson and Glass unconventionally tweaking by the teaspoonful to capture Leung’s identity. The Rare was first aged in American White Oak ex-bourbon casks (which Paterson himself was present for when they were first laid), before being finished in a combination of Port Colheita 1963, Apostoles sherry and bourbon hybrid casks, which have been broken down and re-assembled to form one new cask. In testament to the highly personal nature of the entire project, Glass, to the surprise of his colleagues, hand-toasted a bespoke 1951/Virgin Oak hybrid cask for the spirit’s final aging period.

[See also: Take in Scotland on a Whisky-filled Roadtrip]

the dalmore luminary 2024
 The Collectible Luminary Series 2024 / ©The Dalmore

According to Paterson, 49 years of aging equates to 49 seconds of tasting – those lucky enough to try The Rare should hold it in their mouth for a full 49 seconds to experience the full scope of its smoky chestnut palette, which eventually melts into dark fruit and bitter chocolate, with whisps of The Dalmore’s signature orange.

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The 16 Year Old The Collectible, on the other hand, first matured in ex-bourbon casks before a final aging in a combination of Graham’s Tawny Port pipes and Apostoles sherry casks. Unusually for The Dalmore, a tiny amount of rare peated spirit made the final cut – a decision made in order to ensure that the all-important chestnut aroma was smoky rather than sweet. Consider it “seasoning,” Paterson explained.

And then, Leung’s portion of the partnership: two masterpiece sculptures to encase two of the three bottles of The Rare. For this, Leung looked to the fluidity of glass, carefully interpreting the moving, flowing motion of whisky – particularly during its time in copper stills – into an amber-hued creation.

[See also: The Best Whisky Experiences in Scotland]

leung paterson and glass dalmore sculpture
 Gregg Glass, Melodie Leung and Ricard Paterson / ©The Dalmore

“The sculpture we created for The Rare was inspired by our fascinating discussions around the interaction and flow of flavor notes in the whisky-making process,” said Leung. “It mirrors the multiple layers of aging and blending that went into creating this whisky, which is the exquisite product of nature channeled over time.”

Leung’s architectural vision was brought to life by UK-based master glass artist Fiaz Elson, of The Glass Foundry, who combines modern techniques with time-honored techniques to create such intricate pieces. Initially fired for 12 weeks and then gradually lowered in temperature to prevent cracking, the sculpture was eventually fine-polished by hand.

First revealed at the V&A Dundee on March 21, the first complete The Rare set will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in May and is expected to fetch six figures. A second full set will reside at The Dalmore’s Highlands distillery, while a third bottle is being saved to complete a full Luminary series set.

While the first edition saw a portion of proceeds donated to the V&A Dundee, with the 2024 release, The Dalmore has solidified its commitment to nurturing and funding the arts scene in Scotland and beyond with all proceeds from the upcoming auction benefiting the museum.

[See also: The Macallan Teams Up with Bentley to Reveal Horizon Single Malt]

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