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A Glenmorangie quartet

I once read that the only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come.

Having a lot more free time has put me in a “get rid of clutter” mindset; I’ve been drinking a lot more of the expendable bottles in my collection, mostly by making cocktails out of them. Because I buy faster than I drink, I chose about eight almost empty bottles over the course of the past few weeks. Thanks to my efforts, I now have more space again. Less clutter means less effort exerted to separate the expendable bottles from the rare ones. During my searching, I found some old forgotten options placed at the farthest ends of my cabinets. When I saw these bottles, the quote above came to mind.

I bought them a long time ago. One of the bottles I found was one Glenmorangie Quinta Rubin. This, along with Glenlivet 12, Glenfiddich 15 and Glenmorangie 10, which have already been emptied, were among the first bottles of single malts I ever owned back in 2012/13.

I remember myself and others thinking that Glenmorangie and its parent company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) were the pinnacle of quality and innovation. The Glenmorangie core range was considered a great introduction lineup for beginners.

The Philippine single malt market was very, very new and small back then. Anything non-Johnnie or Jack were very new to myself and others. I was enamored with their then-12-year-olds with different ex-wine cask finishing. It was simply all so new and amazing.

How times—and I—have changed! My opinions of LVMH, as well as others’, did not age well. For all the innovation they boasted of years ago, they seem to have run out of ideas—or did the rest of the industry just catch up? Were they not innovative in the first place? Their special releases do not seem appealing or even particularly “special” in any true sense of the word anymore. The use of different ex-wine casks is now all over the place. And using wild yeast is not an uncommon thing in the world of Mezcal and rum.

Because I’m now more into distillates with more character, I have also not bought nor tried any of their core ranges in a long time. The huge prominence of sulfur in ex-wine casks has been a significant turnoff for me. I have also grown to value maturing a spirit solely in ex-bourbon casks, as it lets the distillery DNA shine—if there is something there to shine at all.

I often forget about Glenmorangie as a whole, as well. Their only release that makes good noises is the Signet. Despite having a smaller core range, Ardbeg makes more noise and has more loyal followers in the Philippines. When I’m asked by others what they should buy, I’ve been recommending locally available brands of quality like Glenfiddich, Kavalan, Glengoyne and Glencadam to people who wish to move beyond the usual suspects. (Some of you will disagree with my suggestions, but we don’t have as much variety here as in more mature markets.)

Looking back, I really have turned my back on the brands I liked a lot when I started. Is this just a case of developing a more distinguished palate? Did the marketing BS render me jaded about brands like these? Are spirits geeks really just destined or programmed to dislike or forget about brands they loved at first?

I don’t think I will be inspired to write about Glenmorangie again any time soon, so I’ll throw in reviews of the other Glenmorangie releases in my stash.

Glenmorangie Quinta Rubin 12 year – review

Color: Honey syrup.

On the nose: I get some very pleasant sweet and woody scents. Bread raisins, sultanas, brandied cherry juice, port (of course), chestnuts, ripe bananas and dates.

In the mouth: Hints of sulfur, raisin bread, brandied cherry, banana bread, grape skin and dark chocolate. Hints of cloves, allspice and leather.

Conclusions

Very dull on the nose and in the mouth. Absolutely boring, forgettable and inoffensive. Perhaps losing my sweet tooth and my dislike for “smooth” spirits is a huge factor. I’ll also consider that oxidation may have affected this whisky, but I remember it being even tarter. In any case, I’m glad I don’t buy any official Glenmorangie anymore. They’re overpriced for the quality.

Score: 3/10

Glenmorangie 10, 100 proof – review

Color: hay.

On the nose: Very hot ethanol with scents of coffee, toffee and salted caramel bursting out. Behind those are hints of honey, vanilla and coconut wafer rolls. At the end are hints of orange and lemon peels and some coconut sugar syrup.

In the mouth: Very hot, like on the nose. A quick and initial taste of coconut wafer rolls, toffee and salted caramel quickly gives way to a lingering orange peel and cloves taste. These are followed by peppers, mocha, more coconut wafer rolls, hints of dates and Graham’s crackers.

Conclusions

I’m lucky I was able to buy this for around $100 five to six years ago. I only bought it because I liked the Glenmorangie 10 year back then. I was also following the logic in which Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength was far better than the regular Laphroaig 10.

I put this aside because I thought it needed to breathe. After breathing for a very long time, it hasn’t really changed. True to the ABV, it is very hot: hot to the point that the flavors are essentially incohesive and destroyed by the strength. I see this go for about €280 to €400 online. IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

Score: 5/10

Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX – review

Color: amber.

On the nose: More fiery compared to the Quinta Rubin. A very pronounced sultana scent with hints of cloves, thymes and cinnamon sticks. Raisins, hints of tawny port, Muscat grapes, tobacco, and figs.

In the mouth: Figs, hints of chocolate with caramel, golden cherries, plums, raisin nut bars, cherry liqueur, brandied cherries and rum cake. There’s a lingering orange liqueur taste at the end.

Conclusions

This makes a pretty good everyday whisky for a sherry lover. There is nothing unpleasant about it, with no sulfur or PX notes really out there.

I bet this bottle would cause a commotion today if it were a regular release, but it’s not amazing for a limited-edition release with a higher price tag. I remember buying this for about $100 back in 2014. I was amazed back then that I didn’t want to finish the bottle. Now? I don’t see how this is that different from something like a Glendronach 12.

Score: 6/10

Glenmorangie Finealta – review

Color: hickory wood.

On the nose: Hints of BBQ smoke with apple cider vinegar, pine forest, something like a thick forest soil, dried orange peel with very weak faints of vanilla, and cherries at the end.

In the mouth: A smokey orange marmalade is followed by hints of cherries, dates and figs. A second sip gives burning firewood, hints of vanilla and cinnamon, more faint cherries with cranberries and strawberry candy. At the end are cloves, pink peppercorn, orange peel oil and a mix of dark and milky chocolate.

Conclusions

It’s the most interesting out of all the Glenmorangie Private Editions I’ve tried (I’ve tried the Ealanta, Companta and Milsean before this. The last two I found too sweet). The mix of American oak with ex-oloroso sherry and smoke gives this some interesting flavor combinations, and I’d have given this an 8 if the nose were more expressive. Unfortunately, the BBQ smoke, while not aggressive, is just the most noticeable smell. Once you sip it, everything else comes to life. Quite worth it for the $90 price tag I picked it up for in 2014.

I wish Glenmorangie made more releases like these, but I can see why they might not want to release peated Glenmorangie: it might cannibalize Ardbeg sales. If that’s the case, though, it’s still a waste not to make good and interesting whisky where it could be created.

Score: 7/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Nik says:

    Good review John. I was never quite supremely impressed with Glemo even back when I started. The standard 10yo was decent and perhaps still is. The Fiddichs and Livets were much better. Like you, I discovered a bottle of the Sonnalta PX in my dusty cupboard. A quick check on Whisky base shows me a price of £543! I don’t think I would have paid more than £80 for it. Now I need to know how to convert this into real cash so that I can spend that bounty on a case of Kilkerran.

    Cheers

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Nik,
      I feel the same for Glenmo 10. But the Quinta Rubin was quite ground breaking for me. It was my 1st ex-wine cask influenced whisky. But I never saw Livet above Glenmo.

      Agreed with your assessment on the Sonnalta. I guess I’m lucky to have a bottle so I won’t needlessly lust for it now. Sell samples of the Sonnalta!

      1. Avatar
        CJ says:

        John, how long had those bottles been open? I really enjoyed the Quinta Ruban when first trying it and is a good entry point for my friends that are just starting to experience scotch for the first time.

        1. John
          John says:

          Hi CJ,

          A few years. But I had argon gas up until last year. They only lose effectiveness after a bottle has been opened again. Which I haven’t done until I re-opened these bottles for review.

  2. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    John, nice review. I also thought the Finealta was excellent. Worth seeking out the Artein as well, if you like a wine cask finish. I stopped buying these after the Milsean. If only Glenmorangie could summon some of these prior years’ verve for their everyday range!

    1. John
      John says:

      Thanks, Taylor. At the prices Artein might be in? No thanks. I’d rather use that money to buy more rum and/or Mezcal. I’d love it if they could make Finealta and Companta part of their regular range.

        1. John
          John says:

          Ha. I like your optimism. I would have that too if I lived in the EU or US. But Manila is still quite a dessert for spirits and my house is one of the spirit oasis in it.

      1. Avatar
        Maria says:

        Hallo. I have a 50 bottles collection whiskeys and I want to sell it but I don’t know where and how? Can someone help me please?
        Regards. Maria

  3. Avatar

    Hi John!

    I feel and agree with you. Just 2 things.

    Some months ago I compared 2 Glenmo 10y bottlings with some hardcore Glenmo fans (such people exist!). One from the early 1970s with one from 2018. OMG. What a difference! The 1970s juice (distilled in the middle/late 1960s) was definitely the better one. Miles away from the actual bottlings (“A pale shadow of its former self”). Stuff to watch for at auctions (picture link – cannot be posted, because malt-review’s bot says “spam”).

    And, there is a new smoky version called “The Tribute” (Traval Retail). But I think… Well.

    Greetings from Germany!
    Sven

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Sven,

      I’m not surprised anymore with what brand has hardcore fans. There’s a lot of variety now that it everyone can be accommodated. 1970s Glenmo… that’s something I’d love to try! You’re very lucky to have tried them. I’m one of those who believe that whisky from decades ago is mostly better than the rushed and efficient stuff we get today.

      Cheers

  4. Avatar
    David Wright says:

    John, totally agree with you on Glenmorangie and with bourbon casks. If you ever get the chance, try a Missouri Oak Reserve. It was, by far, my favourite Glenmorangie. That and the Auchentoshan Valinch are solid proof that these light distillates can hold their own in aggresive casks.

    Cheers.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi David,
      Thank you for the recommendation. I’ve never heard of that release to be honest. Speaking of favorite Glenmos, I was quite happy with Duthac a while back but I think it’s only travel retail. It’s been a long while since I’ve last had the Valinch. If I find it at a bar I’ll give it a try!

  5. Avatar
    WJ Baxter says:

    Hey Sven, check yourself. I am an unabashed Glenmo 10 fan. Your comments are interesting. I find the current expressions quite good.

  6. Avatar
    Maria says:

    Hallo. I have a 50 bottles collection whiskeys and I want to sell it but I don’t know where and how? Can someone help me please?
    Regards. Maria

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Maria, whisky auction sites would be a good place to look at. I’ve never put any of my stuff for auction so I dont’ know the steps.

  7. Avatar
    Mr David S Timms says:

    You are supposed to drink a bottle of whiskey within 6 months of opening, it’s not a bloody wooden ageing cask idiots. What a stupid article.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi David, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Whoever told you that whisky needs to be finished after 6 months of opening is wrong. Spirits last for much longer than 6 months after being opened.

  8. Avatar
    bifter says:

    Hi John,

    I’m fresh (if slightly buffeted) from a discussion with Mark about lighter styles (specifically Kingsbarns) and I think you identify the issue with those styles in your article. Malts like Glenmorangie and Auchentoshan are good for beginners as they are approachable and showcase the basics. However they are very refined and consistent distillates so people tend to move on from them to more challenging drams.

    For my part, as with you, Glenmo was a regular in my lineup when starting out. As it’s such a light spirit I think it is the perfect transport for finishing and, of all the malts out there, it lends itself to showcasing different types of cask. (Bill Lumsden was also one of the pioneers of finishing so LVMH were originally ahead of the game there, as you note.)

    The Quinta Rubin was always plagued by sulphur, presumably deliberately or unavoidably so? The best Glenmo I think I ever tried was the Nectar D’Or 15 year old, which was a subtle beauty, the light spirit perfectly complementing the delicate custard tart notes of the Sauternes casks. Light styles aren’t as popular but can, sometimes, be the match for any sherry or peat bomb. I respect what Glenmorangie do, the fact that they have retained age statements and haven’t inflated their prices to ridiculous levels. However it is very much a safe option and they haven’t moved with the times to make basic improvements to the product, e.g. increasing abv a little or ceasing chill-filtration.

    Enjoy your articles, look forward to the next.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Bifter, thanks for commenting.

      I can’t comment on Kingsbarns as I’ve never had anything from them. But I agree with you on lighter distillates being more for beginners. When I was new to whisky, I kept hearing that Springbank was not for beginners. I only thought it was because it wasn’t that readily available or it was more experienced drinkers being snobs. I didn’t get it until I started learning more about the spirits production process.

      I never had sulfur problems with any of the ex-wine finished Glenmos. Maybe you’re more sensitive than me? I’ve not been into sherry influenced spirits because they usually overpower the distillate’s character. There’s the sulfur to worry about too.

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