The Glenmorangie, oh woe is me. Chatting to whisky enthusiasts in North America its a very popular brand across the Atlantic along with Balvenie and the Macallan. I’ve reviewed several entries in the Glenmorangie core range during 2016 and it was all fairly inoffensive and dull stuff. My favourite remains the Signet by a country mile although its price continues to creep skyward.
Across my Glenmorangie reviews you’ll see the general trend of how its received a fashion make-over from its new French owners. The 16 men of Tain have been shuttled off into a warehouse and the boutique visuals rule supreme. It’s sadly the way of things and sales as continue to boom for Glenmorangie abroad its clearly working.
The whisky itself as I’ve stated is a little benign and destined for tumblers with ice. Normally to experience the true essence of Glenmorangie you would turn to the independent sector but its an incredibly rare malt to see bottled under its original name. Instead what Glenmorangie you will see from the indie sector is a tea-spooned malt. By adding a teaspoon or two of another whisky such as Glen Moray, the cask cannot be sold as Glenmorangie instead it becomes Westport. This process protects the brand and the name of the distillery as once the cask is sold on, the distillery has no real control over it.
The downside of this restrictive practice is that you’re limited to official bottlings which often featured artificial colouring, chill filtration, reduced alcohol strength and the retail price that comes with the boutique approach. Even more shameful is that Glenmorangie as a younger malt with a higher strength can be absolutely delightful as shown by the Scotch Malt Whisky Bottlings. These were the only avenue to find a naked Glenmorangie.
Until recently Glenmorangie did own the Scotch Malt Whisky Society so bottlings although sporadic did appear. With the SMWS being sold on, it remains unclear whether we’ll see any more natural examples from this distillery or if the deal included casks being returned to their original host. Your other option to experience what Glenmorangie can truly offer is to go back in time and track down older bottlings at auction or lying around on a dusty shelf, in a rickety shop in deepest Fife.
Controlling the supply of Glenmorangie means you can manipulate the price. Several bloggers have reviewed the recent 1990 Glenmorangie Grand Vintage release to widespread acclaim seemingly. It’s 26 years old, an unspecified edition in terms of numbers and will set you back £490. Ok, some may think that’s reasonable but let me point you towards the Glenmorangie 25 year old Quarter Century bottling; remember that? A recent entry in the distillery range it’s now been officially discontinued, prior to this deletion the bottle generally sold for around £200-£250.
I actually purchased my bottle for £199 a couple of years ago and visually it still fits nicely into the existing range. So why remove it? Simply because it was being squeezed by the rising price of the Signet and Glenmorangie knew a completely new product could ramp up the price more than any revamp or repositioning of the existing Quarter Century. That’s a heck of a price increase for an extra year.
This whisky comes to me courtesy of Claus over at The Malt Desk as a thank you for picking up the Glenfarclas 26 year old Spirit of Speyside 2016 Festival bottling. This is the limited edition bottling from 1995 of whisky distilled in 1979 and bottled at 40% strength and comes from oak casks. So we’re tasting a pre-Moet bottling that will give us a flavour of an older style Glenmorangie that no longer exists. I’m always willing to help out fellow enthusiasts when I can and this sample is a very nice gesture, so time for the review!
Colour: a light caramel
Nose: very sweet with syrup, white grapes and then those chewy wine gums. There’s a herbal note best summed up as thyme in the background. A huge dollop of honey, a little white chocolate and some char from the cask. A touch of water transforms those wine gums into Granny Smith apples, peaches, custard cream biscuits with lemons now noticeable.
Taste: more apples and lemons with pancakes thrown in. There’s a tinge of alcohol around the edges, which I wasn’t expecting at this strength. Kiwi Fruit and a slight waxiness takes us into the buttery finish.
Overall: a lovely gentle example of a Glenmorangie free from cask tampering and left to display the characteristics that are good enough to stand on their own. A great experience but given the prices at auction, I won’t be purchasing a bottle of this nor will I be partaking in the 1990 whatever its called.