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Sunday, 3 August 2008

'Mor(angie) than meets the eye??


Firstly- apologies for the puns.  Perhaps this one was a step too far but in this instance it feels like we're writing the lyrics to a song and nothing rhymes with 'orange'!!
A few reviews ago, our guest caskstrengther' Tim gave a glowing write up to the new Glenmorangie Astar and we wholeheartedly agreed with his findings- the marvelous sweet marzipan and spicy ginger on the nose, followed up with the spicy and peppery palate- a worthy successor to the discontinued Artisan Cask.
Recently, Caskstrength attended a tasting of 6 'Glenmorangie expressions, led by the incredibly knowledgeable  and passionate Dr Bill Lumsden. The depth of Bill's search for the finest wood was enormously impressive and gave weight to his expectations from the new Astar.  But would it hold its own against some of the more established bottlings? lets find out...

Glenmorangie 'Original' - 10 years old - 40% vol - 70cl
As this is essentially a relaunch of the 10 year old, one wouldn't expect that much difference to the original bottlings we have previously tried:

Nose: Mandarin oranges, followed by hints of marshmallow, lemon and lime boiled sweets, backed up with nice light notes of vanilla, lily and lavender.  

Palate: An opening of oak sets the scene with coconut, honey and a slight spiciness of paprika grabbing your attention.  

Finish: More sweetness with a fine note of vanilla ice cream, ginger and honey nut cornflakes developing as the finish subsides. 

Overall:  A cracking start to the tasting- this 'entry level' 'Morangie does not disappoint.

Glenmorangie 'Lasanta' - no age statement - NCF- 46% vol - 70cl 

Our second dram and we're onto Lasanta- in Gaelic meaning 'Warmth and Passion'- strong words to follow??

Nose:  Immediate sulphury notes, mandarin orange, dry sherry and rubber.  Sure it's obvious that this has been matured in sherry, but it's a fairly unpleasant start.

Palate: Dates, spices and cereal notes- a better development from the nose, but the rubberiness returns to dominate.

Finish: More of the dry sherry on the death. Neither particularly long or enjoyable.  

Overall: A very disappointing dram- we're fans of great sherried whiskies - Aberlour's A'bunadh shines with sweetness and depth, (albeit at cask strength) but this isn't on the same playing field. 

Glenmorangie 'Quinta Ruban' - no age statement - NCF - 46% vol - 70cl 

You'll notice a similar theme emerging here- in this modern day of marketing and strategy, the relaunch has proved popular at re-introducing us to the same products we are already used to. In this instance, 'Quinta Ruban' represents the relaunch of the old 'Glenmorangie Portwood finish.  we weren't particularly a fan of this the first time round, so will we be inclined to change our opinion?

Nose: Musty notes immediately dominate (ever held your cat up close and given him/her a good snuggle?- a similar wiff is apparent here) then hints of rum, coffee and chocolate become more prevalent - not unpleasant but strange.

Palate: Big sweetness, in a dark brown sugar way, then punching through with cedar, dryness and spiced dried vine fruits.  More dark chocolate flows onto the tongue at the death.

Finish: Lighter, more herbal notes become apparent here, followed by some more of that cedar'y dryness.  

Overall:  A step up from the first time we tasted the portwood.  This is a very drinkable whisky, but you can't help wondering what it would be like if bottled at a slightly higher %?

Glenmorangie 'Nectar D'or' - (10 years ex bourbon barrel, finished 2 years in sauternes cask) - no age statement - 46% vol - NCF

Another re-branding excersise here with this bottling essentially replacing the old Sauternes finish.

Nose: Licorice, delicate spiced notes and a very pleasingly fragrant nutmeg aroma.  Pretty much all the best characters of a superb sauternes then...

Palate: A slight touch of coffee about the arrival, followed by by dry flavoursome vine fruits, macaroons and fresh and fruity white wine.

Finish: Swift and light, but not at all unexpected.  

Overall: An fairly enjoyable and light dram - with hints of hidden depth, especially in the very pleasing nose.

So, onto our last tasting of the night and it's something a little of piste- an older expression which promises to round out the evening with aplomb!

Glenmorangie 25 year old ' Quarter Century' bottling - 43% vol - 70cl

We're given a slight insight into this rarity before diving in- part of the maturation process has been accomplished in Burgundy barrels, hopefully giving this the delicate spiced notes of a first-class grand cru.

Nose: Fragrant rosewater mixes with cinnamon, cedarwood, luscious creamy chocolate, dried cherries and marzipan.  Pretty much all our favourite aromas in one glass.  

Palate: More of that cinnamon but backed up with juicy cherries and other berry fruits. The presence of great wine notes are very much in evidence here. 

Finish: Very smooth, rich and lengthy, with a creaminess coming through.  Also more surprisingly is the feint notes of Japanese plum wine and ground coffee on the death.   

Overall:  This is an incredibly well balanced whisky, that shows no signs of excess age and only the craft of bringing together an extremely good spirit and quality wood.  


All and all, a mixed evening.  The quality of the original, coupled with the great experience of the 25 year old balance out the disappointment the other repackaged expressions which just don't hang together as well as they perhaps should.