What’s more original than The Original?
Whisky began, for me at least, with Glenmorangie Ten Years Old. Of course, I had tried whiskey and whisky before, but they were mostly mixed with Coke or consumed in a fashion where speed, not savoring, was emphasized.
It was in St. Andrews’ Central pub, perched on a stool covered in threadbare floral cloth of another era, that I took my first tentative steps toward what is now my abiding passion. Though I eventually branched out into different distilleries, regions, and countries, the genesis of my fascination with this elixir will always begin with the Sixteen Men of Tain.
My memories of Glenmorangie include not just the whisky, but the bottle and its label. The crimson text popped out against the yellowy-orange background. An aerial photograph of the distillery floated, cloud-like, in an oval with soft edges at the center of the presentation. Just underneath, the whisky’s maturity was stated boldly, in black text: “TEN YEARS OLD.” While whisky labels aren’t typically in danger of winning any design awards, I always thought this had an outmoded beauty to it that was unique among its peers.
Time went on, as it does. Things changed, as they do. I departed Scotland in 2005 and returned to my homeland, bringing with me the occasional Scotticism as well as a more-than-occasional hankering for Scotch whisky.
Glenmorangie, meanwhile, underwent its own changes. Owner LVMH redesigned the packaging for the ten year old expression, rechristening it “The Original” and reducing the prominence of the age statement. The bottle took on a curvaceous bulge around the shoulders, and gold foil accents were added to the label. Glenmorangie became a capital-B-“Brand,” and bottles of The Original became staples at every bar, every duty free shop, and every supermarket.
I assiduously ignored Glenmorangie for more than a decade. Perhaps it was the ubiquity of the whisky, perhaps my tastes had just evolved, or perhaps I was slightly ashamed at my hobby’s humble beginnings. Regardless, I’m fairly certain I didn’t have drop of the stuff until I decided to revisit the brand through a tasting set of four miniature bottles in 2017. To my surprise, The Original bested Lasanta, Nectar d’Or, and Quinta Ruban, despite their being older and having fancy cask finishes. That day, the simplicity and elegance of the humble ten-year-old was enough for me.
Speaking of surprises: on a recent grocery run to a not-very-distinguished store in a not-very-distinguished part of town, I took a glance at the locked liquor display case. Blinking rapidly, I briefly wondered if I hadn’t inadvertently consumed some hallucinogens. Could it be? It was! An old-style bottle of Glenmorangie Ten Years Old! I frantically waved over the clerk and indicated my quarry. Why this remained in inventory for so long I can only guess, but I wasn’t asking any questions at that point.
So, that brings us to the review. I am hopeful and fearful; I am conscious of simultaneously indulging and tempering my nostalgia. Set your time machine to 2005!
This is single malt Highland whisky, but you knew that. The bottle code of L5 tells us that this dates from 2005. I paid $42 for 750 ml; “The Original” currently runs closer to $34 around these parts. It is bottled at 43% ABV, consistent with the American release of the current incarnation.
Glenmorangie Ten Years Old (2005) – review
Color: Medium-pale straw.
On the nose: This is an incredibly pretty nose. Peaches and cream, lychee, mint. There’s a topnote of malted barley that is absolutely wonderful. A subtle woodiness and even a hint of barnyard appear here, but mostly it’s fresh and lightly fruity. There’s a deceptive simplicity to this, in a way; it presents straightforwardly enough but, given just a little time and attention, there are layers that begin to unfold. If I were training someone to nose whisky, I would start with this one.
In the mouth: This is exceedingly soft whisky, for better and worse. The front of the mouth is a watery muddle of malt and wood. As this moves toward the middle of the tongue there’s a freshly floral flavor along with a more piquant woody mouthfeel that emerges. This reaches its height as it blooms toward the roof of the mouth with a flavor of almonds that tiptoes on the precipice of bitterness. Finishing with a subtly soapy texture and a note of rosewater, this disappears without lingering much.
I can see why I fell in love with this in a prior life; it was so much more interesting than anything else I was tasting at the time. Particularly on the nose, this is complex without being challenging. As I said, it’s the perfect introduction to smelling whisky for a novice. The palate mostly underwhelms, however. Again, I can see this being more interesting to a beginner, as there’s a variety of textures here that engage but don’t overwhelm the tongue. It hasn’t got any flaws, but there’s no flavor interesting or intense enough here to warrant a mark above the median. I could see myself potentially docking a point on this, but I won’t… for auld lang syne.
Funny this was my starter whisky too back in 2000… and I loved it! I worked in Aviation back then and a bottle was brought home by one of the airline captains to the Operations office where I worked at the time. One late Friday afternoon after hours, the cork went ‘pop’. What was this? Certainly something completely different than the Chivas 12 and JW Red I’d sometimes sipped.
I remember the experience as very malty sweet and slightly apple/pear notes with a dash of vanilla… I’ve not has this particular older expression in a long while and my memory may fail me when it comes to the tasting notes. After that, I went out and bought a bottle of my own… after that another bottle and again after that, a bottle of the GlenMo Millenium Malt and the 15 and with that my journey had begun 🙂
But Glenmorangie will always have a special place in my whisky heart as it was my first Malt love… as with many other first loves, probably 🙂
I still have a few older expressions left (1971, 1977, Burr Oak, Older 18yo) for a rainy day and these are going to be enjoyed thoroughly when opened.
All the best from DK,
This has been a trip down memory lane! The old wood finish series were quite fun as well.
Just realised that the Millennium Malt was the last bottle of Glenmoragie I’ve bought! It was spectacular for all the right reasons. Sitting on top of the Campsie Fells, watching the whole of Central Scotland light up at midnight. And, if the world was going to end, well, I had a bottle of Scotch and some good friends to share it with.
David, maybe time for a revisit? In any case, thanks for taking this journey with me. Cheers!
Claus, thanks for the comments. Glenmorangie had some fun expressions back in the day; even some of the Private Edition releases were far more interesting than in recent years. As with you, I’ll always have a sentimental fondness for the whisky, even if we’ve both changed in the intervening decades. Cheers!
I remember Jim Murray saying something like LMVH had to re-call a batch of Glenmo 10 because they just relied on a computer to do the blending based on a formula. Yeah… craft indeed.
John, any idea what year this might have been?
This was Whisky Live Manila… 2016 I think. He didn’t say when it happened though. Or maybe I just don’t remember.
I’ve never been a Fan of Scotch until I was given a ( 5th) Bottle of MaCallan’s 75 year Old Bottle !!
Now, Having no Clue as to what a
Precious Bottle this was ?
I opened it and poured a Good Shot over 1 Ball of Ice and OMG
I’ve never had nor can Ever Experience that Wonderful aroma and Velvet Taste as I took my first Sip….
To explain myself, My Father was a Sommelier, My Mom loved to use liqueur and liquor and anything she could to make cakes to make sauces Anything..
I was taught at a very young age to not Mix Good Liquor with Soda or Drowned it with Water !
So, I’ve stuck to that .
My point of this story is
Does anyone have any suggestions on ‘What Is comprable to Macallan 75 year Old Scotch ?’Please Help Me if
Possible ? I looked up the Price after I was down to a 1/3 of the Bottle and Well you Scotch Connoisseurs should definitely know that it’s a Bit Pricey Cheer’s
The Central? That takes me back. Almost ten years since I was last in St. Andrews.
Glenmorangie is one of those distilleries I just can’t quit. I have an inexplicable weakness for them, despite their “luxury” shenanigans.
The 10 is a relative bargain as far as price/quality goes, IMO.
Tom, you’ve got me beat. It’s almost 13 years since I was back in St. Andrews. In any case, the Ten Year Old continues to hang in there. Cheers!
I too possess a bottle of whiskey of about 100 years old, brought from England by my Grandfather in law.
I’ve always liked your reviews Taylor, but a few things here confused me. Notably, how can a whisky with no flaws “It hasn’t got any flaws” only get 5/10, or possibly 4/10?
Thanks Gianni. I meant flaws in the sense of off notes: odd aromas, bad flavors, jarring textures. There was nothing bad about this one, but the good elements were moderate. This wouldn’t stand out as conspicuously great in a tasting, hence the average score. Hope this helps?
This takes me back… this is the bottle that my Dad left me with when he dropped me off in St Andrew in 2004!
I got this whiskey from a friend. It comes in a tin box. Could you tell me how much it costs?