distillery in the Northern Highlands of
Scotland can be credited with the popularisation of the
idea of 'finished malt whisky' - although I'm not sure if
they were also the first to apply the technique of double
maturation in another cask. Around 1995 Glenmorangie
released three different ' wood finishes' - a Port Finish,
a Madeira Finish and a Sherry Finish. Later on some more
finished 'limited releases' were bottled.
For a few years Glenmorangie was virtually the only malt
whisky distillery to use 'deviant' casks for the maturation
of their stocks, but around the year 2000 more and more
whisky distilleries in Scotland started to experiment with
unusual casks that had no place in the whisky tradition.
Particularly Bruichladdich and Edradour turned into radical
finishing freaks, taking the concept of double maturation
further than Glenmorangie ever did. Personally, I prefer
some of these 'finishes' to the regular product...
But of course, Glenmorangie is more than the premier purveyor of 'finished' whiskies
Their history started not unlike many of its Scottish competitors: in the nineteenth century. Not far from
the site of the Balblair distillery (founded half a century earlier in 1790) William and John Mathesen built
the 'Morangie' farm distillery in 1843. William had been one of the co-owners of Balblair but apparently
he wanted to strike out on his own. The Mathesen brothers selected a site with a long history of illicit
distillation; there are claims about whisky distillation in the area as far back as 1738 and even 1703.
However, actual production of malt whisky at Glenmorangie didn't start until November 1849.
In 1887 the Glenmorangie Distillery Company Ltd. was founded and the distillery
was rebuilt. In 1918 the distillery was sold to 2 partners; MacDonald & Muir Ltd.
and Durham - circa two decades later MacDonald & Muir became full owners.
Somewhere along the way, the name of the parent company was changed to
Glenmorangie plc by the MacDonald family. They decided to sell the company
(that also owned the Ardbeg and Glen Moray distilleries) to LVMH in 2004.
Production-wise, a lot has changed at Glenmorangie over the years.
For one thing, the number of stills was expanded from two to four in 1980,
which was also the time they stopped malting their own barley. Glenmorangie
managed to survive the whisky crisis of the early 1980's with flying colours; in
1990 the number of stills was expanded again to a grand total of eight stills.
Those eight stills enable Glenmorangie to produce a whopping four million
litres of pure alcohol each year. For a long time a lot of the malt whisky they
produced was consumed within Scotland, but now it's a world wide brand .
Glenmorangie (Pronounced: glen-MO-ran-gy)
57°49'24.7764 N, 4°4'37.3944 W
Balblair, Dalmore, Teaninich
1843 (but actual production didn't start until 1849)
6 Wash stills, 6 Spirit stills
6,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Moët Hennessy > Glenmorangie Plc (since 2004)
Tain, Ross-shire IV19 IPZ
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) Together with Bunnahabhain and Isle of Jura, Glenmorangie used to have the tallest pot stills in the industry.
However, different sources quote different sizes - and quite a few stills were replaced in recent years at those distilleries. So, I'll stay away from mentioning exact numbers at this point.
2) The original pair of stills was expanded to 4 in 1980, and doubled again to 8 in 1990. A further expansion to a grand total of 12 stills occurred in 2008 and 2009. All stills are close replica's from the stills that were built in 1887.
3) The Glenmorangie distillery used to be a brewery before the distillery was founded.
4) An unusually high percentage of the whisky that is distilled at Glenmorangie is sold as a single malt.
Circa 70% of the whisky is bottled as SMSW; the rest was used in blends like Bailie Nicol Jarvie & Highland Queen.
The very small percentage of malt whisky that is sold to brokers and bottlers used to be diluted with a few drops of Glen Moray (so it can't be sold on as a single malt) and labeled as 'West Port whisky'.
5) Glenmorangie has proven that it's possible to increase sales considerably while decreasing 'quality'.
Since the early 1990's the profile of the regular expressions had been growing blander and blander, but the changes happened at an even more rapid pace after perfume peddlers Louis Vuitton MH obtained the distillery.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Lasanta' (46%, OB, Sherry finish, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Heavy, late summer fruits followed by tobacco. Touch of smoke? Yes, and some cardamom too.
Taste: Heavy sherry character on the palate; sweet and fruity, slowly powering up into malty centre.
Score: 83 points - although that should probably be 82 points; the finish is a little nondescript.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Quinta Ruban' (46%, OB, Port finish, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Big fruits and a fair dose of spices. In the background some wood, chocolate and smoke.
Taste: Fairly harsh but bland. I like the nose, but I can't recommend it to anybody based on the palate.
Score: 79 points - it's not TOO impressive on the palate, but the nose shows intriguing development.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Sonnalta' (46%, OB, PX finish, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Big and fruity. Gluhwein spices - as well as lots of other spices. A whiff of sulphur? A nice 'full' profile.
Taste: Concentrated fruits. Smoky undercurrent. The palate feels relatively flat after the 'thick' nose.
Score: 83 points - which makes it one of my favourites among the volley of recent finishes from Glenmorangie.
Glenmorangie 18yo 'Extremely Rare' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Flowery with light fruits and a hint of shoe polish. Lots of passion fruits after a few seconds. Very nice.
Taste: I've noticed that flowery notes or passion fruit in the nose can be connected with a perfumy palate.
This whisky is no exception. Smooth start, powering up in the centre. Fruits and some tannins in the finish.
Score: 82 points - but that's just because I'm not a real fan of perfumy whiskies. In itself this is great whisky.
Glenmorangie 10yo 'Original' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Clean. Early summer fruits - mirabelle plums. Maltier after a few minutes of breathing. Whiff of oil?
Lots of pleasant elements, but they don't hang together very well. Very light in style; perfect for summer.
Taste: Malty, smooth and quite solid. Perhaps a tad nutty? It grows quite bitter towards the finish.
Not terribly expressive though - and not sweet enough for me to go much above average. Feels a tad thin.
Score: 76 points - which is a smidgen above average. Oddly enough, I didn't find a trace of apple in the nose.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Nectar d'Or' (46%, OB, Sauternes Casks Extra Matured, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Malty, fruity and quite sweet. Some spices too. A little sweaty. Some farmy aroma's as well.
Grows more complex after a few minutes of breathing; definitely needs fifteen minutes to open up.
Taste: Sweet start, softening up. Light fruits and cheesecake. Seems more complex than the nose.
The fruits grow stronger towards the hot finish. The finish feels a little like plywood. Very heavy legs.
Score: 82 points - which means I'd recommend this one. As finishes go, this 'Nectar d'Or' is quite subtle.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Quinta Ruban' (46%, OB, Port Cask Extra Matured, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Not a lot of nose at first. Dark chocolate. Deep, dark fruits slowly emerge. A hint of smoke.
Marzipan. The profile becomes fruitier over time - but it's the slightly artificial fruits I find in many finished malts.
Taste: Broad fruity profile. Feels a little 'pressure cooked'. Not well integrated. Quite some tannins in the finish.
Score: 77 points - pleasant and better than average, but unlike the old Port Finish I can't recommend it...
Glenmorangie NAS 'Signet' (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Big and expressive start. Polished. Fruits, organics and some wood. Settles down quickly though.
Well, at least as far as the complexity is concerned; the nose burn grows sharper and a little sour.
Taste: Hmmmm… Starts much weaker than I expected, but powers up to a lovely fruity centre.
Medium long, modest finish. It grew on me over time - but given the steep price I won't buy myself a bottle.
Smooth and slightly 'acetonic' like a grain whisky. It's a good and well balanced whisky that lacks personality.
Score: 82 points - it started at 80 points but eventually climbed to 82 points after a second try.
Glenmorangie 1993/2005 Truffle Oak (60.5%, OB, 886 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet. Vanilla. Hint of Chartreuse. Marzipan with water. Not too expressive, I'd say.
Taste: Way too hot at cask strength. Gets fruitier with a splash of water. Quite drinkable.
Score: 83 points - this is a pretty solid offering from Glenmorangie, maybe even topping the 18yo OB?
Glenmorangie 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005, Taiwan)
Nose: Light and grainy, what I would expect in a 'regular' Glenmorangie. Faintly sweet with a hint of apple.
Some chloride in the background - a 'Morangie 'marker' for me. Gains some 'gravitas' over time. Mellows out.
Perhaps a hint of spices behind the general fruitiness after ten minutes. Drops off after fifteen minutes.
Taste: Apple again. The sweetness dissipates in the centre but returns in the finish. And again (dried) apple.
Score: 76 points - I was pleasantly surprised, but it lost two points in the finish; a smidgen too woody for me.
Glenmorangie NAS 'Artisan Cask' (46%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Wow! Very expressive. Fruity with vanilla and a hint of dust. Then some glue elements.
This reminds me a lot of a rye whisky! Clean. Some peculiar sour notes in the background. Vinegar?
Sorrel? Then sweeter with honey. Not complex at first, but very pleasant.
Taste: A slick, smooth sweetness develops into a rough centre. Short, dry finish.
Again, not unlike a good rye whisky or bourbon. Also a hint of blueberries and 'fruits de bois' on the palate.
Score: 80 points - for me it loses quite a few points in the finish, but other maniacs liked it better.
Well, I guess 'Artisan cask' sounds fancier than 'bourbon cask'.
Glenmorangie 15yo Sauternes Finish (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Fruity with a hint of diesel in the background. The wine moves to the foreground. Vinegar? A little odd.
Gravel? Perhaps this is right up the alley of some wine lovers, but it smells too sharp and sour for my tastes.
It opens up and sweetens out a bit with time. Metallic. The spectrum widens a bit, but remains very subtle.
Too subtle for my tired old nose most of the time, but it keeps developing. Copper. Romanian sausages?
Taste: Smooth start, fairly weak centre, simple finish with the tannins marching forward in the end. Very winey.
Score: 78 points - but that's mainly because it's interesting; the winey profile isn't really up my alley.
Glenmorangie 12yo 'Golden Rum Cask Finish' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Lightly fruity with some soft grainy overtones. Something vaguely coastal?
Restrained. Citrus. I had a very hard time picking up any distinguishing marks.
Smoke? More organics with time. It took me some time before I started liking it.
Taste: Blank start - bitter but growing sweeter and fruitier towards the centre.
Plenty of heat, but it remains flat and slightly soapy. Whiffs of smoke. Dry finish.
Score: 73 points - not especially my cup of tea and it loses points on the palate.
Was this a 'rescue attempt' for some bad casks?
Glenmorangie 10yo (43%, OB Bottled +/- 2002, Duty Free, Litre bottle)
Nose: Sweetish. Soft & spicy. A little grainy. Pinch of salt. Rhubarb? Oily & nutty.
Hop. Faint fruits after a while. Heather honey. Chloride. Maybe some liquorice.
Faint hint of something coastal? Yes, absolutely. And is that peat? I think so.
Taste: Sweetish start. Sour & bitter - like Rhubarb? Hops in the finish - beer-like.
Bourbony. Unfortunately, the palate is flat and superficial. Wood. Fresh oak?
Score: 74 points - the nose is fine but the finish is rather nasty. It loses points here.
Glenmorangie NAS Port Wood Finish (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, 100cl)
Nose: Very complex! Subtle, yet expressive. Sherryish and fruity. Great!
Dried apples. Coffee beans? Strong perfumy episodes. Smokier over time.
Taste: Hmmm... Seems much 'flatter' than my previous bottle from +/- 1998. Fruity sweetness.
Fresh episodes; eucalyptus in the finish. Nothing very special, to tell you the truth.
Score: 81 points - great nose, average palate. Not quite as 'porty' as my first bottle, it seems.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenmorangie Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Glenmorangie page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Glenmorangie expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
After the success the 'mother brand' had with finishes, 'daughter distillery' Glen Moray started to release their own finishes as well around the year 2000. For me personally, these didn't work as well as the Glenmorangie finishes. While the fairly clean and subtle regular 10-12yo whisky from Glenmorangie benefited from the extra maturation, the fuller Speyside malts from Glen Moray lost some of their 'edge' after weird finishes like Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.
For my own tastes the PR language sometimes
was a tad too oily, but you can't argue with the
numbers; Glenmorangie is now a top selling malt.
But is it any good?
Well, the 'house style' of most of the
regular line-up is a tad light for my own
tastes, but for 'brand' blend drinkers it
is a perfect 'gateway malt' - a strong
brand they can stick to with a couple of
interesting expressions that could lead
them to new malty discoveries later on.
As for the finishes: they seem to have a hard time achieving batch consistency, so buying a bottle is Russian roulette...
- Glenmorangie buys the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Furthermore, on August 24, 2004 the MacDonald family put their majority share of Glenmorangie Group plc on the market. Within the whisky industry, many expected that Brown Forman (owner of brands like Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Southern Comfort) would expand its minority share, but perfume peddlers
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey took over the company and its three distilleries instead.
2007 - The entire range of official Glenmorangie bottlings is revised. The old 10yo is replaced by the 10yo 'Original' and parts of the range are discontinued. This includes the 15yo, the 30yo (which had just been introduced in 2005) and many of the more exotic finishes. The varieties 'Astar' and 'Signet' are introduced not long afterwards.
2008 - Owners LVMH sell Glenmorangie's 'sister distillery' Glen Moray to La Martiniquaise. LVMH has little interest in whisky production itself and wants to focus on building the brands 'Ardbeg' and 'Glenmorangie'.
2009 - Glenmorangie distillery is closed altogether in October 2008 so that two pairs of brand new stills can be added to the eight that were already in use. When the doors of the distillery are opened again in March 2009, the production capacity has increased from 4,000,000 litres of alcohol per year to 6,000,000 litres of alcohol per year.
Mind you; this is the MAXIMUM capacity - due to the reconstruction and credit crisis actual production is lower.
Is the distillery or