Mar 282014
 

Glenmorangie Finealta239

46% abv

Score:  88/100

 

Glenmorangie are fairly reknowned for experimentation and creativity.  Interestingly enough though, through all of their artful concoctions, they don’t often fiddle around with peat.  This ‘Private Edition’ release, Finealta, is as exception to that unwritten rule.

Call it a mental block, if you will, but my mind immediately leaps to Ardmore or BenRiach when I think of mainland peated whiskies.  Certainly not to Glenmorangie.  However, whether through lightning in a bottle or adeptness at practice, Glenmorangie have managed to craft a rather remarkable dram.  Great mix of sweet and savoury here.  I imagine this is what it would be like to nose Glenmorangie 18 next to someone drinking lapsang souchong tea beneath the breeze-driven puffs from a smokestack.  Or somehting to that effect.

Either way, the mix of cask play and a very atypical profile for this Highland distillery make for a fun ride, and one of the most immediately endearing and interesting Glenmo’s in quite some while.  Like far too many great drams of late though…sadly, this is also a limited edition expression.  If you can find one, grab it if for no other reasons than seeing the morphology this light and estery spirit is capable of.  Chameleonic, really.

Nose:  Earthy with some salty play-dough.  More peat than expected, but not huge by any means.  Leather and horse blankets.  Slightly ashy.  Orange and pear.  Rather more farmy than expected.  Cinnamon and mint.  The peat influence is massive by no means, but pleasantly over-arching.

Palate:  Ashy and smoky again.  All of those farmy notes coming through here too.  Flinty and mineral-rich.  Peppery.  Wet rock.  Some wine notes.  Lemon rind with orange influence.  Like a drying tea in terms of effect, if not flavour.  Decent, if not quite synchronized, connection between nose and palate.

Thoughts:  Neat, if unexpected nose.  A quirky offering that outshone most other Glenmorangie releases in a recent expansive tasting we held locally.  Definitely a top three pick from the men of Tain.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:42 am
Mar 082014
 

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban221

46% abv

Score:  83/100

 

Quinta Ruban is the port finished variant in the Glenmorangie core range.  For this lovely pink-hued l’il honey, Dr. Bill Lumsden and co. have taken their 10 year old Glenmorangie and re-casked it into port pipes for a couple extra years.  This additional step serves to knock back some of the creamy vanilla and orange notes a step or two and brings forth a rather bold, albeit very ‘manufactured’, fruitiness.

As always, the big question with whiskies like this is whether or not the extra maturation actually enhances the drink or if well enough should have been left alone.  I’m a bit of a purist at heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have 1) an insatiable sense of curiosity and 2) an open mind if it actually works.  In point of fact Quinta Ruban does work if you like bold sweetness.  It’s a well put together dram with a fairly singular profile.  Having said that…it really doesn’t work for me.

I can’t help but think that maybe 6 months or so is really all that is needed to sweeten this up a tick instead of letting it stew for two full cycles ’round the sun.  Glenmorangie, in its more naked state, is a light and pure whisky, owing much to the incredible degree of reflux in their towering stills, so why weigh it down with the heavy cloakings of fortified wine?  Six months would have been an enhancement, much like a simple diamond necklace against the throat of a beautiful woman.  Two years is more like the gaudy tonnage of gold rope chains ’round the neck of Mr. T.  Hope this makes some sort of sense.  Elegance through restraint.

I concede it’s always fun to try the variants, but at the end of the day…I’ll take the Glenmorangie Original 10 y.o. over this bad boy any day of the week.  Quinta Ruban gets passing grades, but not a lot more.

Nose:  Cinnamon.  Jam or jelly, sugared fruit notes.  Orange…maybe blood orange.  Shortbread.  Passion fruit with lemon.  Almost a cotton candy note in here.  Very fruity, but in a synthetic fruit kinda way.  Danishes with jammy fruit filling.  Butter cream.  Maybe raspberry coulis.  Some florals as well.

Palate:  Not as overtly pleasant as the nose, but quite alright.  Very sweet, but it dries out the inner cheeks and back of the tongue in relatively short order.  Quite wine rich.  Kinda plummy.  A touch of ginger.

Thoughts:  All in all, a little too sweet for my liking, but that doesn’t mean a bad dram.  Contrarily, it’s nice enough and would likely be a good gateway drink between the world of wines and the world of spirits.  Ultimately though – if you’re considering a bottle from the extra-matured Glenmorangie range – stick with the Nectar D’Or.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 6:39 pm
Mar 082014
 

Glenmorangie LaSanta 217

46% abv

Score:  76/100

 

It’s a good thing and a bad thing that whisky has to be made in batches.  On the one hand, it does mean there is inevitable variation.  On the other hand, it means there is a chance for redemption after tasting a dram that falls far from the mark.

Unfortunately this is just such a one.

Lasanta is ten year old Glenmorangie that has been finished (“extra-matured”, in their parlance) in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts.  Generally speaking, this works quite well for the distillery.  Most of their ‘bourbon meets sherry’ marriages are rather decent.  In fact I’ve quite enjoyed this particular expression of Glenmorangie several times over the years.   Sadly…this most recent batch doesn’t even come close to living up to the reputation.  This bottle of Lasanta was opened as part of an extensive line-up of Glenmorangie for our whisky club, and even the ambassador at the front of the room noted it was ‘off’.  That ‘off’ note, I hate to say it, is sulphur.

While I can – to a degree – overlook a touch of sulphur, I have to agree with Jim Murray on this one (and that in itself is a frightening thing): sulphur is a flaw.  It is not simply another note in the whisky.  It is a defect in the maturation process through poor barrel selection.  I certainly don’t agree there are as many tainted casks as he suggests, but when I do find one…well…nine times out of ten I’ll not be finishing my dram.

Now for the good news: I’ve tried likely a half dozen bottles of Lasanta over the years, and never had a dud like this.  Let’s hope the next batch is back up to par.  (I’d expect maybe an 85 or 86 or so in terms of average score)

Nose:  Oh dear.  Sulphur-spoiled.  A fair bit of spice (cinnamon, damp cloves and pepper).  Putty.  Bread dough.  Burnt caramel and stretchy toffee.  Raisin.  Orange and sweet red chewy candies.  Touch of clove and dried apricot.  There is a fair bit of ripe fruit behind that sulphuric influence.  Suisse mocha.

Palate:  Tart and wine-heavy.  Tight, dry l’il black currants.  Spice.  A bit of that sulphur burns the tongue here too.  Somewhat bittering, to be honest.  Don’t really want to drink anymore to suss out further flavours.  Sorry.

Thoughts:  This could have been great.  Not sure if they thought they could bury a bad cask or three in this vatting or what the deal was, but…no dice.  This is definitely flawed, unfortunately, as I don’t recall any notes of brimstone on previous batches.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:39 pm
Mar 062014
 

Glenmorangie Quarter Century246

43% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

I have a handful of new Glenmorangie reviews coming up here on ATW in the next few days, but let’s get things started with the grandaddy of the family. 

While this may not be not the oldest malt the distillery has ever bottled, it is certainly the oldest in the current stable in terms of being a fairly regularly available offering.  It seems Glenmorangie just isn’t sitting on a lot of really mature stock.  Let’s hope this is something that is being corrected through proper cask management and warehousing now.  Personally, I’d love to see a Glenmo 35 at some point.

Quarter Century is, quite obviously, Glenmorangie’s 25 year old offering.  It’s price, while perhaps a tad extravagant for most wallets, is reflective of its coveted status at the top of the line.  I can’t help but think, though, that LVMH could have knocked about $100 off the price if it wasn’t served up in this ornate ‘perfume bottle’ snugged inside a beautiful massive glossy wooden box, complete with hard foam lining and a snazzy l’il booklet.  Yes…we all like good presentation and sexy aesthetics, but at the end of the day – when the bottle is empty – I can’t drink the box.  It simply becomes landfill.  Or an expensive (and really big) paperweight.

But let’s talk about whisky now, and forget about the baggage (even if it is a Louis Vuitton).

This is whisky with an almost universal appeal.  It is smooth as silk and almost as sweet as a first love.  Technically flawless, really.  There’s a balance here that could ensnare the non-whisky drinker and also please the discerning palate.  It’s a simple drink, but it’s very well made.  Sounds great, yeah?

Well…yes and no.  Infinite respect for the craft that went into creating this whisky, but I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed with the lack of real personality and multi-dimensionality.  Big money should be rewarded with a big whisky.  We’re not quite there with this one.  Not too far off, but also not quite there.  I think the 43% abv is probably the major Achilles heel.  At 46%…now we’re talking.  At cask strength…I can’t even imagine.

Good dram though.  I certainly wouldn’t refuse a drop.  

Nose:  A neat profile built on orange and peach.  Vanilla and clean hardwoods.  Putty.  A touch of wax.  Good white chocolate with mild cranberry notes and some lemon.  Soft white-fleshed fruits and green grapes.  A smooth white dough note across all of it.  Very mild spices.  Maybe some muted lemon.

Palate:  Sugar cookies or vanilla cake.  More soft fruits with syrup or honey.  Mild ginger and faint dustings of allspice.  Oranges.  Very light (too light, actually) but…still tasty.

Thoughts:  The best Glenmorangie I’ve yet met (and certainly kicks the hell out the Pride release which retailed at about 10x the price).  This is very much an easy drinker, but is almost a little too easy.  I’d hoped for a bit more complexity and challenge.  Oh well.  A lovely drink either way.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Jun 052013
 

Glenmorangie Ealanta016

46% abv

Score:  80.5/100

 

Straight off…this is one of the most contrived of malts I’ve ever tasted.  And while that in and of itself is absolutely forgiveable, I’m not finding myself in a very charitable spirit with this one (no pun intended). 

Let’s face it…there are a lot of rather ‘manufactured’ whiskies out there (cask finished, re-racked, aesthically enhanced, added to, etc).  No issues.  Really, these are nothing more than variations on a theme that play within the rules of their jurisdictions.  It all hinges on how well the integration of these factors works and how natural the finished product ends up to be.  I can’t stress how important that is. 

Now here’s the rub…while it irritates the f*ck outta me how plastic and synthetic the Ealanta is…at the same time I can’t really say it’s a bad whisky.  Damning with faint praise, I know, but it happens to be the reality of the situation.  It’s fresh…certainly vibrant…absolutely unique…and not really poorly crafted, I’d say.  Maybe it’s a case of too much of a good thing.  Like a malt that is over-cooked from a very active sherry cask, here we have far too much of the American virgin oak influence.  We’re now blurring lines between something we’d expect out of Kentucky and something we see labeled as from Scotland.

For the record, this is a 19 year old single malt from Glenmorangie, the fourth release in their ‘Private Edition’ range, and was matured in…as mentioned…American virgin oak casks.  Man…19 years is a looooooong time for that sort of massive active oak influence.

The reality is that this malt is not principally far off from GlenDronach’s 14 year old Virgin Oak.  But to be fair to the ‘Dronach, which I rather liked, this one is way more perfumed and olfactorily cloying.  That simply reinforces the idiom that concept is not all, and the proof is in the execution.

Apparently ‘Ealanta’ is Gaelic for ‘skilled and ingenious’.  Hmmmm.  Ok.  If you say so.  Very modest, I might add.

One last note:  We – my mates and I – for the most part really like Glenmorangie.  I’m not sure if that is an ‘in spite of’ or ‘because of’ all of their tomfoolery type of situation.   The Ealanta, however, is a ‘miss’ in my books.  Not quite on par with the ‘Pride’ debacle, but still a miscalculation (in my ‘umble opinion, anyway).

Nose:  Very redolent of perfume and floral-y alcohol.  Massive notes of bourbon.  In fact…if tasted blindly…I might actually think this was a bourbon.  Spice.  Lots of spice.  Wine-y fruit notes.  Cinnamon hearts candies.  Cherry.  Citrus pith.  Pumpkin scones.  Pastry.  Sugary white chocolate.  Not sure how I can better put it than to say it is a very synthetic nose.

Palate:  Again…this is almost bourbon territory.  Cinnamon and cherry.  Like chewing on wood shavings.  More on the white chocolate.  Some slightly tangy notes as it develops.  Some more fruity ones as it fades.

Incredibly smooth, but too much so.  Like Bambi on ice.  The smoothness is causing the fall.  In short…perfume meets bourbon.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 

 Posted by at 12:50 pm
May 302013
 

Glenmorangie 18 y.o. Extremely Rare246

43% abv

Score:  86/100

 

Gotta hand it to LVMH.  Their bottles are sexy.  Nice contours…nice labelling…nice colors in the glass.  But, hey…this is malt whisky, not handbags, luggage or jewellery.  Since I’m not one of those folk who think presentation amounts to extra points when assessing or scoring whisky, let’s get on to the stuff that actually matters.

Just an introduction:  Glenmorangie is a Highland distillery from the Northern reaches of Scotland that boasts some of the tallest stills in the industry.  Possibly the very tallest.  This, by nature, lends the spirit a lighter, more estery profile (think fragrant and sweeter on the fruity notes).  The distillery is also famous (or infamous, perhaps, would be a better word?) for their bold pioneering of whisky ‘finishing’.  They have taken the concept to an extreme art form.  Rather successfully too, I might add.

Speaking to this, the 18 year old, in particular…

It’s a rather sad fact that there is not a lot of aged Glenmorangie out there, ergo the ‘Extremely Rare’ on the label.  Hmmm…not sure if that quite aligns with my idea of extremely rare, but…for the sake of getting along…we’ll give ’em a pass, I guess.

This malt whisky spent the first 15 years of its life in bourbon casks, before being re-racked into ex-Oloroso butts, rounding out the light floral nature of the spirit itself with a bit more depth from the sherry influence.

I hate to say it, ’cause it feels kinda like a cop out, but there’s really not a lot more to talk about with this one.  A rather nice whisky with not a lot of fanfare, backstory or personality.

Nose:  Florals up front.  White chocolate sauce.  Kinda perfume-y.  A touch of dust.  A rather blunt dough note.  Ginger.  A touch of peach and mandarin orange.  Vanilla cake with cream icing.  Almost Lowland-ish.

Palate:  Some weedy notes, and rather sharp for an 18 year old.  It’s kinda fruity on the palate, but I’ll be f*cked if I can pick ’em out.  Not as smooth the nose hints at.  Unsweetened grapefruit.  Barleys at the end.  Fades into a slightly bitter grassy note with some over-steeped tea.  Somewhat surprised there is Oloroso at play here.

Not bad, but rather boring.  Would never peg this as an 18 year old either.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:11 pm
Dec 312012
 

Glenmorangie Signet

46% abv

Score:  88.5/100

 

Ever seen Terry’s Chocolate Oranges?  Those sweet little baseball-sized chunks of orange-infused chocolate you hammer on the table to break into slices?  Imagine that delectible little confection distilled and sensuously wrapped around threads of fine old scotch whisky.  Decant that all in a snazzy over-the-top and over-seized perfume bottle and…voila!  Glenmorangie Signet.

A mate of mine referred to this as the dram he would pour non-whisky drinkers.  I can see why.  Much like the vast majority of the Glenmorangie line, this is a whisky that seems to be serupticiously sneaking over the fence into dessert territory.  No shame in that really.  Sweet and refined suits the palate at times.

I’ll not dither away on the marketing hype here, but very quickly…this is said to be built on a bedrock of ‘chocolate’ barley malt and ‘designer casks’.  (Sigh…only LVMH would term soemthing ‘designer’ in regards to whisky production).

Nose:  Terry’s Chocolate Orange.  Coffee and biscuits with marmalade.  Smells bigger than the abv admits to.  Wine and some rather bold perfume-y notes.  More chocolate and ground nutmeg.  Soft fluffy white baking notes.  Sugary.  Millionaire’s shortbread.  Framed in oak.  Very smooth and sensual.

Palate:  Creamy milk chocolate meets otherworldy spice (clove, maybe?  Nutmeg?).  Think Wonka’s waterfall.  Wine-soaked fruits.  Vanilla cream and orange liqueur.  Coffee again.  VERY drinkable.  Rather pleasant through the gentle denouement towards finish.

Age?  20ish, if I had to guess.  (Though I’ve heard maybe older stuff in here too.  In it’s 30s, even)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:08 pm
Dec 302012
 

Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or

46% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

One of the titans of whisky Wonka-ry (think Bruichladdich, Edradour, Arran), Glenmorangie has managed to build nearly their entire core range around the concept of cask finishing.

Finshing can be looked at as simply another tool in the artist’s (read: whisky maker’s) repertoire or as a somewhat disingenuous way of glossing over blemishes in the product.

Let’s grant benefit of the doubt here.  We’ve tried enough of the unadulterated ‘Morangie’s to know that the whisky itself (prior to franken-engineering) is pretty darn good.

Nose:  Sweet caramel and toffee notes are cushioned in wine.  Strawberries and champagne.  This is all set with mascerated fruits, nut and chocolate.  Hints of salt water and a gorgeous tobacco smoke, almost like a mild cigar.

Palate:  Creamy, oily and coating.  Bit o’ lemon.  Bit o’ wood.  Sooooo wine-rich.  Much like an over-the-top French dessert.  It lingers with warmth and a tangy appleskin note on the palate.  The wine edge from the sauterne cask finish is deceptively enticing and alluring.  Sweet and sensual.

This really is a pretty little wine-finished whisky.  One of the best honestly.  Gotta be careful with sweet wines and good malts as a rule, but when they do click…nice…very nice.  I can imagine serving this with a bowl of strawberries and cream.  Being as sweet as it is though, it is one I have to be in the mood for.

         

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:57 am
Mar 092012
 
Glenmorangie Original

40% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Glenmorangie is a Highland distillery situated in Tain.  For some interesting reading, do some research on the 16 men of Tain.  I can’t do all of your homework here, so go have some fun.  Think Highlander.  Anyway…the distillery boasts the tallest stills in Scotland.  If you are not too familiar with stills (either having read the articles here on Liquorature or elsewhere), let me explain what this means.  As the spirit condenses in the stills it travels up and out the lyne arm.  The extra height in Glenmorangie’s stills ensures that much of the distillate runs back down before exiting the lyne arm.  This is known as reflux, and means that said spirit will benefit from longer distillation, giving us a more pure spirit.

Generally this means that the end product will be lighter and smoother.  This is most certainly the case with Glenmorangie.

Historically this whisky has often been considered as an entry level malt.  Though I understand why it is a great gateway, the negative connotations associated with this are unfair and unwarranted.  The Glenmorangie Original is my ’house’ bottle at the moment.  One I find myself going back to often, and consequently have just opened my second bottle of the year.

This is truly an easy drinking whisky.  It is a beautifully balanced dram that is complimentary to any situation and any drinker.  Great for breaking in the novice or for those with a somewhat more refined palate.  I find I most enjoy this early in the evening or before dinner.  There is no specific note that leaps out as a dominant flavor, but hints of fruit, oak and mild spice vie for the senses, both nose and taste.  It is creamy and syrupy across the tongue, with a thin to medium body.  It is full of sweetness and warmth which make up for any lack of density.

There is a subtleness here that belies the depth of this whisky.  Spend some time with it.  I find dissection of this one to be a little difficult to be honest.  Enjoy it as the sum of its parts.  We don’t always need to know how the motor works to enjoy the ride.

My harshest criticism would be that the finish here doesn’t linger as long as I would hope for, but I suppose that means one need sip a little more frequently .  There is a bit of heat that comes along towards the latter part of development, but when it fades…it’s gone.

I should note that this is the 10 y.o.  It has since been re-branded as ‘Original’.

 

A final note from the reviewer:

Please, folks…if you take anything form this site, these whisky reviews or any of my thoughts or opinions here…let it be this:

Let your nose and palate guide you.  Do not be fooled by packaging, marketing, age, abv, or anything other than what your senses tell you.

I have conceded many time that I have a preference for cask strength whiskies which are neither colored nor chill-filtered.  These are personal preferences, but in no way stop me from enjoying a great whisky that doesn’t fit this profile.

There are countless whiskies on the market that fit into the branded mold.  They are bottled around 40-43%, tend to have E150a coloring added, and are chill-filtered to ensure clarity and consistency.  This allows for simplicity in marketing and a level of consistency otherwise lacking.

Do not EVER discount these whiskies without trying them.

         

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Pat at www.standstillphotography.ca

 Posted by at 9:03 pm