Last week, , Reserve 101 held a special tasting with guest of honor Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks. At the tasting, Dr. Bill, regarded as perhaps the foremost expert on whiskey creation and barrel aging in the world, introduced six Scotches from Glenmorangie by discussing their creation and his tasting notes. The event was used to roll out the sixth release in Glenmorangie's limited-release Private Edition line, the Tusail. A $20 ticket got patrons a tasting of it and five others, as well as a raffle to enter a drawing for a pour of the Pride 1978, to taste and discuss with Dr. Bill.
At the tasting, I got to try the new Tùsail, as well as five other staples of the Glenmorangie line. Each one was a reminder of why Glenmorangie is one of my favorite distilleries; they rarely, if ever, go wrong with a release they put to market, and still manage to make most of their offerings remarkably affordable.
First, of course, was the ten-year Glenmorangie Original, which I included in my article on starting a Scotch collection. As ever, it's a remarkably light and delicate Scotch that remains the best bang for the buck in single-malt, with hints of vanilla and honey on the nose and citrus on the palate all giving way to an easy finish.
Then the Tùsail was offered. Dr. Bill described it as his attempt to make Glenmorangie in a traditional fashion, with a focus on quality over yield. The Maris Otter winter barley he used, as opposed to the traditional spring barley, yields both fewer usable grains and less of a finish distilled product per pound. Glenmorangie also malted the whiskey with a traditional floor-malting process, as opposed to the more mechanical means of production that are now commonplace.
The difference can be tasted right away; the Tùsail is much richer than the Original, with a softer, creamier mouthfeel, flavors of toffee on the nose and body, and much more pronounced maltiness to the overall flavor. It's a bolder and more unique flavor profile than the classic Glenmorangie, but still one that's tasty and unmistakably theirs.
Each of the three from Glenmorangie's extra-matured line were there as well. (For these, Glenmorangie follows the same process as in the Original, aging for ten years in used American oak, before then adding two extra years in different barrels.)
The Lasanta was finished in Sherry casks (half Oloroso, half Pedro Ximenez). The Scotch is unmistakably a Glenmorangie (as opposed to, say, that other famous sherry-aged unpeated malt, the Macallan) but now it also has hints of the flavors Sherry imparts, like raisins and other dried fruits, hints of berries, and sweets. The nose is very creamy, and the mouthfeel is lighter and more delicate than a Macallan but richer than the Original.
The Quinta Ruban was finished in Port wood, and it's there that the difference is most pronounced. The nose is even sweeter and creamier than the sherry-finished Scotch, with faint hints of the wood and other spices. The body and mouthfeel were big but without being harsh; the mouthfeel was on the drier side but still managed to be smooth and velvety. The Scotch had some sweet, fruity hints, and finished remarkably smooth and narrowly, going down the easiest of any of these Scotches.
The Nectar D'Or was finished in Sauternes casks. Sauternes is a rare and unusual wine, a sweet white French wine that can only be made from grapes that have experienced noble rot. The result of aging the wine in these casks is a flavor profile not available anywhere else: A sweet and sticky nose with flavors of honey and bananas and some floral hints gives way to a juicy, citrus-hinted body. The flavors even evoked certain baked dishes and desserts (Dr. Bill suggested fresh pastries, but I was thinking more like baked apricot and brie). The finish is harsher than the Quinta Ruban, but also finishes with a certain sweet, mouth-smacking appeal that the other Scotches didn't.
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We finished the tasting with one of Dr. Bill's personal favorites. The Signet was inspired by Dr. BIll's love of coffee aroma; as he put it, "The first sip never lives up to the aroma," but he wanted to craft a Scotch, inspired by those flavors, that would. Thus, he roasted the barley in a coffee roaster rather than by the traditional method. This malt is a chocolate malt, much darker than the usual malt used in Scotch; as a result, the flavors tend to be much darker, with coffee and mocha being the key notes. The Scotch maintains some sweet hints on the nose, and the body carries a certain faint sweetness that gives away the time the Signet spent in sherry casks.
Every one of these Scotches is worth trying, and Glenmorangie has something for everyone no matter what your budget. (The Signet is the most expensive of the bunch, retailing for close to $200, but the Tùsail is expected to retail for $99, and the other four should all be available for under $50, the original as low as $35.) It's really a testament to Dr. Bill's skill that the barrel combinations he comes up with consistently work. (The recipes for aging the 18- and 25-year Glenmorangies are even more esoteric.) If you're a Scotch drinker and for some reason you haven't tried Glenmorangie yet, you're bound to find at least one you like.