April 9, 2012
Glenmorangie has become the king of wine finishes. With their wildly popular Nectar d’Or (Sauternes wine finish), and their continued commitment to limited-edition releases and out-of-the-box experimentation. Their latest, the Artein, is finished in casks of Sassicaia, a red Italian wine – one of the “Super Tuscans”. A vatting of two-thirds 15 year-old Glenmorangie with one-third 21 year-old, both matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, Artein then spends an additional “period of time” (probably less than a year) in the wine casks. Frankly, I’d never heard of Sassicaia or “Super Tuscans” until researching this post. Clearly, I’m not much of a wine guy.
The ‘Artein’ moniker (Scots Gaelic for ‘stone’) refers to both the rocky soil in which the Sassicaia vines grow, and the mineral influence of the natural Scottish spring water used to make the whisky. The story is a bit of a stretch, but it makes for some gripping marketing material.
The interesting thing that I’ve noticed about wine – specifically red wine – finishes (I’ve only had a handful), they typically don’t absorb the kinds of flavors one associates with red wines – deep berries, dark red fruits, licorice, and spices. Instead, these whiskies tend to become somewhat astringent – sour raspberries and an overwhelming aspect of grappa – the Italian spirit created by distilling a mash of pressed grape skins and seeds. The grappa – an unforgettable barrage on the palate that mostly tastes like sour grape skins – dominates here as well:
Nose: Cranberry in droves up front, then grape skins and grappa cover everything like a wet blanket.
Palate: Silky and robust. Red apple, fresh tart cranberries, lots of bright fresh fruits and fruit candies (fruit chews).
Finish: Malty at last, with dried blueberries. Not bitter! Medium long.
With Water: A splash of water dulls the nose and adds some citrus. Rounds out the palate, but seems unnecessary to me.
Overall: Very nice, but nothing really special – just a wine finish Glenmo, and an education in the domineering effect that red wine casks have on maturing scotch. I might pay $60, not $80.