Think whisky and what comes to mind is this golden honey colored liquid in a glass. But when whisky is distilled, it is actually clear; the color comes from ageing it in oak casks. The final flavor and smoothness of a whisky has much to do with the casks it was matured in, something Glenmorangie is very well known for.
Glenmorangie also boasts of the 2 tallest pot stills in Scotland standing at 5.14 meters, and no one has yet managed to take over that throne in 167 years. The distillation process requires the fermented liquid to be heated, condensed and heated again to extract alcohol. This distilled liquid, also known as spirit cut, is then stored in American oak casks for 10 years to mature, resulting in Glenmorangie Original.
What wine or spirit an oak cask held before it matures a whisky makes all the difference. Ex-Sherry casks were the original choice for maturing Scotch whisky but when availability became scarce due to the Spanish Civil War, Scottish maltsmen turned to Kentucky. Since Bourbon casks can be used only once, they are lapped up by Scottish distillers for their whiskies. According to The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR), Scotch whisky needs to be matured in oak casks for a minimum of 3 years. Similar to wines (read more here), naturally found chemical components of an oak barrel add depth to whisky, topped off by the residual notes of the previous distillate or wines. American oak is known for its expressive vanilla, coconut and spice flavors.
The concept of cask-finish is a relatively a new one compared to long history of the spirit itself. Glenmorangie’s barrel finish process has been mastered over 20 years to create their 3 distinct expressions – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, Glenmorangie Nector D’Or and Glenmorangie Lasanta. It’s taking the house style of Glenmorangie Original with its vanilla, floral and citrus fruits palate and further adding new dimensions of flavors and complexity.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
Quinta means wine estates in Portugese and Ruban is ruby. This whisky is matured in Port casks or ‘piper’, it is also the first whisky to be aged in port wine casks. Ruby Ports are rich fortified wines which are usually aged for 2-3 years in oak and with intense flavors of cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant. There are several unique things about Quinta Ruban, first being the color. There is a slight blush tint to the whisky thanks to the ruby color of the port. Then comes the nose – walnuts, nutmeg and orange rind along with mint and dark chocolate. The mint or eucalyptus note is something one wouldn’t usually expect and carries on to the palate as well, along with sweet spices and orange on the finish. The body is well textured, exceptionally smooth and has a Port sweetness towards the finish.
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or
This is our favorite Glenmorangie expression. It has spent 2 years in Sauternes barriques from Bordeaux, making it a very unique combination. Sauternes are wines made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which have been infected by a fungus called noble rot. It may sound strange but it results in wines which are sweet yet very rich and complex. The inspiration for this whisky was a French pâtisserie and the flavors have been nailed beautifully. This finish gives the whisky notes of raisins, dates, lemon rind, butter and spice on the nose. The palate is incredible. The first notes of the whisky are slightly sweet, with hints of lemon, immediately moving on to spices like cinnamon and ginger and then comes vanilla and oak on the finish. It is rich and luscious, and you can immediately relate of the Sauternes finish. This is also a whisky which opens up with a bit of time and can be enjoyed at leisure. The sweet and spice balance is outstanding.
Lasanta is Gaelic for warmth and passion, which does prepare you for what flavors to expect. The nose has notes of hazelnuts and caramel along ginger and spice, thanks to the two years Oloroso Sherry casks. The palate is consistent with the nose, with the same notes coming through, along with marzipan and almonds. Warm spices and orange rind have an underlying presence right from the start and become more prominent towards the finish. Lovely, complex and warm, this whisky is ideal with some post dinner chocolate or a cigar.
All three whiskies are non chill-filtered which ensures subtle flavors are not lost during the filtration process. What we really like about all three expressions is that you can really make out the difference of the finishes while they still have the Glenmorangie house style without being over powered by oak in any way.