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Friday, 11 February 2011

Wax On Wax Off

Remakes are a difficult thing to get right. In fact, most people really would rather watch the original. We’ve spoken on this blog before about remakes of British TV shows for the US market, some with disastrous results...

However, when it comes to films the choppy waters of remakes are very difficult to navigate. Take, for example, the 1980’s classic Karate Kid. A seriously iconic piece of film history which, for people of my generation, holds a special place woven into the fabric of our youth culture alongside other amazing films such as Back To The Future, ET and Star Wars. Surely not a contender for a remake then, as the original was so damn fine?

Well, no.

Some bright spark in Holywood decided that 2010 and 1984 were worlds apart and what the Wii-wielding generation of today needed was a newer, more up-to-date version of this film classic.

Oh, dear.

The brightest spark from this episode was for Karate Kid 2010 to take the heat off the even worse film adaptation of The A-Team... Ouch.

Despite these travesties, things may be looking up when it comes to remakes. This year sees the release of the Coen Borthers remake (or retake) on True Grit. The original film from 1969 starred John Wayne, a role for which he won his only Oscar. In the remake this role is played by Coen Brothers stalwart Jeff Bridges who is also nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

As an audience it is easy for us to compare and contrast the new with the old; to watch two films back-to-back and rate the comparable performances, the lighting, the special effects and overall feel of the film. But what if we didn’t have the original to watch, to compare with? What if we only had a script with some production notes to go on? What if the film was remade, not to updated specifications, but to reflect the era it was intended for?

Remakes are something that whisky companies seem to be very keen on with The Macallan being the most famous, having released a series of replica bottlings over the years. We also expect Whyte & MacKay to have a good stab at recreating the famous Shackleton’s frozen whisky from 100 years ago. These experiments are always welcome as it gives an insight into the drinking tastes of different generations, all drawn from actual stocks from that era.

The new release from Glenmorangie however is a remake with a slight twist. The Finealta has been developed using a recently found order, when The Savoy Hotel ordered some Glenmorangie for their American Bar in 1903. Not the easiest of tasks, as Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Head Of Distilling and Whisky Creation explained to us:

“There was no old samples of Glenmorangie from the early 1900’s so we have to do a bit of research and think and imagine what it might have tasted like.

I also spoke to a few old chums in the industry, people who had done a lot of research, and they came to the conclusion that whisky would have tasted slightly different from the whiskies we have today. Certainly more smoky as distilleries would have all had their own floor malting.

We then found some wonderful dusty old leather ledgers in a space opposite Glenmorangie which detailed every vatting of Glenmorangie from over the last 100 years or so.”

This new expression was made using some medium peated Glenmorangie which was laid down “prior to the mid 1990s”, according to Dr Lumsden. You can here him explaining the cask selection for this release on our Audioboo site here.

So, how does this whisky stand up? Well, before we look at this recreation, let’s try the Original...

Glenmorangie – Original – 10 Years Old – 40% ABV

Nose: There is a large hit of vanilla and freshly cut oak, a hint of green grass and some mint tea. Fresh without being too zesty, this nose carries just enough character to tempt you in. Improves with time in the glass.

Palate: The vanilla notes from nose are enchnaced on the palate and the freshly cut oak develops more in to fresh pine. Slight hints of coffee and ginger, this palate has easy drinking written all over it. Not challenging, but then it isn’t supposed to be.

Finish: The wood notes linger, but not for a huge length. The ginger becomes more pronounced and finally the vanillas smooth the passage.

Overall: As with Karate Kid, this holds a place in the fabric of my “whisky youth” and still remains a stable Scotch in my cabinet today. A real solid drinker which delivers with astonishing consistency bottle after bottle.

Glenmorangie – Finealta – Private Edition - NAS – 46% ABV

Nose: This Glenmo really benefits from the extra ABV over the Original. This whisky gives off greater liqueur notes which add a rich texture to the aroma. Ginger pokes though backed with the heavy engine of rich wood spices. Difficult to spot the smoke, but it is there. An Ardbeg this certainly isn’t. However, more robust and masculine than any other Glenmorangie I’ve had it certainly is.

Palate: A complex palate gives plenty of ginger dipped in dark chocolate, zesty but bitter. The official tasting notes say “breakfast marmalade” which is on the money, but the flavour is much more intense and less sugary, more akin to blackcurrant jam with cracked black pepper and some wood spices. With water, the whisky opens up to reveal more citrus notes and spices. Good with and without a splash.

Finish: This is where the smoke really hits home with a waft through the back palate, leaving chewing tobacco notes, a hint of wet wool and some dark red fruits (plums?).

Overall: It must be noted that despite using some medium peated whisky, this is not a peated whisky. If you’re expecting Ardbeg, go and buy a bottle of Ardbeg! This is a Glenmorangie that has been bulking up down the gym. Bags of flavour, if not a touch unbalanced at times, this really improved with greater time in the glass. Get the air in and let the flavours out. The perfect drink for 1903. And by that we mean 19:03 in the evening, on a Friday, in your favourite chair at home. A great way to see in the weekend.

The Glenmornagie Finealta was developed by Dr Bill Lumsden and Rachel Barrie, who you can hear talking about this whisky on our Audioboo site.