Category Archives: Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie – Finealta (46%)

FinealtaI’m still a little weary after trying to find accurate information about the Ealanta. I’m skeptical that the label on that one was completely truthful. Were the casks really heavily charred as the label said, or were they heavily toasted as their press release indicated… or was this perhaps, a mix of both of them, toasted casks comprising the dominant share?

With that fresh in my mind, reading the Finealta’s label makes me wonder if the malt is really all lightly-peated, as it indicates, or if maybe they didn’t have a few moderately peated casks they loosened up with a few casks of the Original 10 and some Oloroso stock from the 18. It certainly smells plausible.

Knowing it’s there makes it very obvious, but if the label and ad copy hadn’t indicated this was lightly peated whisky it might have had me contemplating for a few moments whether the phenolic wafts were from the wood or the malt. It’s very light with the peat. It’s classically sweet, too, like most Glenmorangie’s are, almost too sweet. It’s like candied bacon; I’m not quite sure it should exist. I mean, bacon is good, and sugar is good, but together? I don’t know… then again, brown sugar and smokey bacon work just fine in a barbecue sauce, so maybe I’m over-thinking it.

Nose: At moments it has a subtle meatiness and tang, like a grilled hamburger with ketchup. A little papery, but still fruity. I can’t tell if it’s cherry or raspberry in this one… maybe both, but very reserved. Sweetly woody and mildly smokey, like a brand new camping trunk back from it’s first trip to summer camp. Mild iodine with house cat, lavender and memories of blowing into Nintendo cartridges. A tiny bit of melted vanilla ice cream over candied ginger and oatmeal cookies. The apricot is almost cloying in this context.

Palate: Oatmeal cookie concentrate and dark brown sugar rush in with smoked tomatoes en papillote. Savory copper middle notes. Hearts of palm, pinto beans and sweetened lobster bisque while it’s on the tongue. Very sweet for a peated whisky. Lime and a touch of tequila in the finish. Fried bread crumbs waft up from my chest after the sipping has been over for a minute. This would pair well with good Mexican food; maybe some Milanesa empanizada?

Rating: RecommendedI had a hard time choosing the rating on this one. It has a little of that tequila youth to it, but other than that, it smells and tastes great. Peaty whisky can stand a little youth and still be delicious, too. On the other hand, it’s a little unsettling for me to explore a peaty whisky that’s so damn sweet even though peated whisky pairs well with sweet foods. I guess I’m just not used to tasting so much of it in the spirit. In the end, I’d say for it’s unusual constitution, limited status and overall lack of fatal flaws, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but I could definitely recommend it.

Thanks to Gretha Smart and David Blackmore over at Glenmorangie for the bottle.

Glenmorangie – Eleanta (46%)

Glenmorangie EalantaI’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there may have been a mix up here on Glenmorangie’s end, maybe even some deception. Despite sending them to three different people on several occasions, I never received answers to any of my questions so I didn’t bother sending the second wave of them for confirmation. With that in mind, I may be wrong… though there is a clear source of information quoting Bill Lumsden himself, posted on the Glenmorangie webpage that seems to confirm what I’m about to say despite what the bottle says in tiny print on the label.

Lots of well known bloggers accuse this whisky of being aged like a Bourbon and then talk about how Bourbon-like it is. The power of suggestion is strong, but my first few glasses of this left me perplexed. I’ve had a handful of American style malts before, and this was not nearly as bold as I expected. I understand that US mash bills have more room for variation but, in my mind, the casks they used to mature this (allegedly heavily-charred virgin casks coopered from the same forests that many familiar Bourbon labels use) should have made them much more similar to their American counterparts. It does have faint echoes of American whisky; slight grassy notes, cooling finish and it’s a little woodier than most single malts; but it’s still mysteriously different. I think it all boils down to one very subtle distinction that I think got misconstrued (or purposefully obfuscated) and sent down to the labeling department to be aggregated over and over again by bloggers who know better than to bother brand ambassadors with stupid questions.

While Glenmorangie’s webcopy doesn’t say the casks are charred or not, their press release implies that they aren’t using heavily charred virgin oak here; Lumsden comments that the Ealanta came from heavily toasted virgin oak, which won’t make this recognizable to someone expecting an American style Glenmorangie. Toasted and charred are two different levels of burning. Toasting is what sherry makers do to their casks and implies that many wood-sugar caramels are created. The wood will be dark brown and charcoal has not really formed. It makes for a sweeter spirit with more spice and nuttiness, but it can take longer to mature spirit in this type of wood. Charred casks are what Bourbon, Rye and American Malt whisky use. The word implies that they were burned enough to produce charcoal, which gives less spice but more vanilla and smoke. The charcoal acts as a filter, mellows some extra immaturity and darkens the spirit dramatically. Both types of casks are toasted while shaping them, but the charred casks get an extra blast of fire once formed.

Any diligent blogger would have caught this by sight, before even tasting the decidedly not-American-style palate. This is almost two decades old and lighter than most 2 year old Bourbons out there. That was one of the first things I noticed. Sure the climate is different in Scotland, but so much so that 19 years wouldn’t rival the color two years in Kentucky could procure? It’s not a desert; it does snow in Kentucky.

The palate and color considered, it makes me wonder if the Ealanta couldn’t be second-fill or refill ex-Bourbon casks, merely spiked with a few casks of virgin oak. Maybe they were even heavily charred casks, but only a tiny percent of the whole vatting. Those who can say for sure are understandably sticking to their guns.

Nose: The first wave to hit me was a blast of sour apricots and wood glue. Short ribs and balloon rubber. Eventually the whisky opens up to sweet-cream ice cream before surrendering to a horse stable filled with malted barley, obvious plums and unripe bananas. Grassy cinnamon, nutty ginger powder, light cumin and medicated menthol show up and clarify the woods pedigree. Nutty Buddy bars make occasional appearances. It took me a few minutes to figure it out what it was but if I pick up out of the glass a little and sniff, I definitely get a little butane at the back of my nose. 

Palate: Peppery, flat caramel, plums, with a faint tinge of cola and uncanny tarragon. Mild wafts of cumin and nutmeg. Very farmy, slightly drying, and slightly woody for moments. Coppery semi-sweet chocolate in the finish which is cooling on the tongue. Slightly green. It has obvious similarities with a first fill ex-Bourbon cask, but really, I think the Bourbon aspects of this one have been over stated; for me, it shares more in common with the American craft whisky scene, like some of it was finished in a small cask.

Rating: Recommended

The Ealanta is like a tangy, peppery, grassy version of the 10 year Original. It’s a predictably awesome whisky.

Thanks go to Gretha Smart and David Blackmore for the bottle!

Glenmorangie – Signet (46%)

Glenmorangie SignetRecently, I’ve been contemplating a format change. While my friends can certainly verify that my lack of comedic skills is much funnier than my actual comedy, I’ve always written this blog with the intention of being more entertaining than the regular cut-and-dried bloggers out there. Not that there’s anything wrong with being factual and to the point, I just don’t have the attention span for it. Like most Americans, I like shiny things and people being angry about stuff, stuff that validates my inner douche bag and makes me laugh, so in between tiny morsels of actual information that’s what I try to write.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I’ve been getting it all wrong. Perusing Buzzfeed the other day, it became clear what I need to do. Apparently the real money is in articles about lists and celebrity gossip, so here are a few of the amazing stories you’ll be seeing here soon:

  • 6 episodes of Moonshiners you’ll want to drink to forget
  • John Hansell’s 15 raunchiest photos ever
  • 23 whisky labels you didn’t realize were completely racist
  • 10 stupid things checkout clerks have said to me while I was buying whisky
  • 15 bottles affordable enough to throw at family members during your next intervention
  • 18 surprising facts about Oliver Klimek’s cat
Raunchy John Hansell

John Hansell’s 15 Raunchiest Photos Ever

Ooooo! Nevermind. Opening and tasting this bottle of Signet has changed my mind. I want to write about delicious whisky, again… right after I Photoshop this raunchy pic of John Hansell, just in case.

I don’t like to brag, but this year I’ve been lucky enough to sample so many great Glenmorangie’s in a row that “awesome” has almost become too routine to notice. Thankfully, this spleen-explodingly amazing Signet is unusual and delicious enough to keep me very interested.

I think what I like most about this one is that it’s not like the rest of the Glenmorangie line. It doesn’t seem like it’s trying to be as accessible to the masses, which is my one criticism of the brand as a whole, a label which doesn’t make a lot of very risky decisions. It seems like the Signet diverges from the classical vision of the brand here, and makes an atypical move in a slightly bolder direction. This one has a strong psychological hold over me. If most single malts were ales or lagers, this one is a delicious stout.

Nose: There are loads of Szechaun peppercorns and minty pine boughs at first. Spent hazelnut coffee grinds, popcorn and clove. After a few whiffs it clears the way and starts to smell a little bit like refried beans with a lavish, whole-wheat breadiness. For a minute it smells like those wet-naps you get when you order ribs or lobster, then on to milk chocolate covered orange peels like my late great-aunt used to make on holidays. Fruit cake. Rye vinyl, handfuls of fresh torn maple leaves and Izmir Stingers, for those of you who smoked way back in the year 2000. It gets slightly more chocolate-y as you progress.

Palate: Hot, Szechuan peppercorns again, but only for the first few seconds; after a few minutes it completely disappears. Rich and savory with creamy cocoa powder, hazelnuts, buttery popcorn and traces of sweet pipe tobacco. Fig extract and spent apple peels run the middle, but it finishes like a strong cafe macchiato. The nose is definitely my favorite but the palate is great, too. The coffee notes are uncanny.

Rating: Highly RecommendChocolate malt, virgin white oak and a portion of whisky over thirty years old… the rest of their web copy is mysterious about the entire composition but this is definitely a beautiful Frankenstein of perfectly executed, disparate techniques. Young and old, light and dark, white and pendunculate, fresh and used. There is definitely a heavy sherry influence which they don’t explain, but really, there is so much going on here that it’s almost senseless to make assumptions.

Thank you to Gretha Smart and David Blackmore for the sample!

Glenmorangie – 18yr “Extremely Rare” (43%)

Glenmorangie 18I like my whisky like I like my steak; well-aged and extremely rare. I usually hit them with some salt and pepper, and then throw my steaks on a plate in the fridge for at least two days before grilling them. It dries up the outside layer, which is crucial for developing a nice crust, and pushes delicious salt through the cell walls of your cut. As with single malts, good steaks take time and patience, and shortcuts are their undoing.

Why do I bring up steak? Well, extra meaty steak and sherried whisky are a great pairing… plus this one has a subtle black pepper in the finish that makes me think of flame-licked salt crust.

The 18 year spends the first 15 maturing in American white oak casks. After that, a bunch of the casks are transferred to Spanish Oloroso casks. Then, when both parts reach at least 18 years old, they get married and bottled. 30% of the Oloroso finished stuff makes it into the mix and the rest is their normal American white oak matured spirit.

Nose: The nose is so rich on this one that it makes the world smell better after picking your nose up out of the glass. It’s much nuttier, maltier, and with more dried fruit, than the 10. The sherry spice is very obvious… and delicious. Roasted brie with almonds and honey. Juicy plums, jammy figs and hidden kiwi. Bunches of fresh grapes. Milk chocolate. Sweetly woody, like a birch drawer filled with orange mulled wine and banana bread. For moments I almost think I can smell salt and pepper, too. 

Palate:  The less expensive Glenmorangies usually have a gentle palate and don’t dare to be too audacious; this one works out to be considerably bolder. It’s sweet at first, then cooling, tinged with rich, spiced banana, raisins and a drop of bright tree resin in the back of the throat. A touch of peppery arugula bitterness rounded out with some sweet chocolate. Slightly dry finish with traces of  burnt caramel, black pepper and grape bubble gum.

Rating: Highly RecommendThe 18 Years Old Extremely Rare is very well constructed, with just enough sherry influence to make it rich without being rubbery. I do kind of wish it cost less than $95, though that criticism is for purely selfish reasons. There are plenty of other respectable 18 year olds ringing up for around $100 that aren’t quite as delicious as this. Taking some vocabulary from my beer drinking buddies, Glenmorangie is bottling a very sessionable single malt here.

Thanks David Blackmore and Gretha Smart for the samples!

Glenmorangie – Quinta Ruban 12yr (46%)

Glenmorangie Quinta RubanThis is the Port finish in Glenmorangie’s wood finish line. I love a good Port finish. They’re always so rich and darkly fruity. This one is no exception. Like the other two extra-matured bottlings, this one transitioned to a 12 year age statement around 2010.

Quinta is the Portuguese word for the farm where they grow grapes to make Port, and Ruban is Gaelic for Ruby, so Quinta Ruban, more or less, means Ruby Vineyard. Unless you speak Spanish and French; then it means Fifth Ribbon.

A significant detail, Glenmorangie uses the tallest stills in Scotland, which is one of the factors they attribute their sweetly pure spirit to. The idea is that the taller the still is, the lighter the spirit has to be to make it to the lyne arm, so all the heavier congeners stay in the pot and don’t make it into the spirit. The necks alone are only a few inches shy of a whopping 17 feet tall! Between the number of them and the height, their still room looks like a shiny, copper giraffe-orgy.

Giraffe Orgy

Awwww yeah, baby.

After the spirit is distilled, they age it for ten years in first and second fill white oak, like their standard spirit. Then they move it to Port pipes for an additional two years to drink up all the Port influence and infuse it with a hearty red glow.

Nose: I’ve never seen one before, but I imagine this is what a purple gummy bear would smell like… marinated with port in a plastic bucket. Wintergreen pops up in the back of my nose, along with the classic Glenmo’ nutty apricot. Raspberry caramel, and while it’s very dark and fruity it’s also a little earthy. Black licorice opens up as you drink some.

Palate: Grapeheads candy (which were way better than Lemonheads, in my opinion), but overall, this is not as sweet as I though it was going to be. Restrained. Nutty with dried fruit. Raisinets, small oak-y cinnamon and licorice medallions in the finish.

Rating: RecommendedYes, you just saw a giraffe humping a pot still. Sorry…

Thanks, David Blackmore and Gretha Smart, for the bottle!

Glenmorangie – Nectar D’Or (46%)

Glenmorangie Nectar D'orFrench for golden drink of the gods, Nectar D’Or is the standard Glenmorangie release that they then finished in a Sauternes cask. 2011 saw it transition from an NAS bottling to one with a 12 year age statement, but I still see a lot of the NAS stuff around me at the moment. The Nectar D’Or I’m tasting here is the original.

Sauternes, not to be confused with Sauterne, is a sweet wine from an appellation in the Bordeaux wine region, Sauternais. The grapes are infected with botrytis (noble rot), a very fickle type of fungus that under favorable conditions shrivels the grapes, concentrates sweetness and flavors, and adds some extra funkiness to the mix. The wine is sweet, acidic and slightly nutty, usually cask matured for 1-3 years. Though it is difficult to make because the fungus is so hard to control, Sauternes can age for an extremely long time once in the bottle. Noble rot’s difficult cultivation makes after market casks rare and, therefore, expensive.

This cask finish is one of three in their extra-matured line up, along with a Sherry finish and Port finish; Lasanta and Quinta Ruban respectively. Despite the similar base spirit they are all very different, and a great way to explore what a cask finish can do for a spirit.

Even outside of the atypical finishes, Glenmorangie has one of the most involved wood programs in the industry for their own casks. They air dry wood from forests they own in the Ozarks and then use it to cooper casks for Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill. After those distilleries finish using them to mature Bourbon, the casks are shipped to Scotland where they are used only two more times by Glenmorangie. The careful wood selection and high level of involvement along the way helps maintain a high quality of spirit.

Nose: Dessert wine, it almost starts to smell like Oloroso before taking a sharp turn to funky apricot, key lime pie and bamboo chopsticks. Heavily toasted, nutty graham cracker crumbs and cheesecake slide under pomegranate and very prominent ginger powder. 

Palate: The fortified wine is the first to break out here, dancing over waffles and a gingery finish. Balanced lime pith bitterness, wafts of peaches, dried licorice root and a tiny bit of almond extract. I can almost taste a very fruity coffee in the long end of the finish.

Rating: RecommendedAmong many other savory things, Sauternes pairs well with oysters, lobster, foie gras, or blue cheese. I happen to know whisky goes very well with all of those, too, the foie and cheese being two of my favorites. Thanks again to Gretha Smart and David Blackmore for the samples!