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.
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.
Glenmorangie 10, 100 proof – review
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.
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.
Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX – review
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.
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.
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.
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.