Ahh, Glenmorangie. I can honestly say I’ve never tasted a Glenmorangie that I disliked. Perhaps there have been a few that I didn’t think were worth the money, but they have all delivered superior flavor, consistency, and exquisite craftsmanship. Glenmorangie always tastes… clean; Polished – all imperfections worn away to a crisp, flawless shine. This is in comparison to Springbank, for example, which is (intentionally) full of burrs and switchbacks and rough edges, and has a more… rustic charm.
Finealta, another of a series of “Private Edition” special releases from the distillery, is way past news. First arriving for general release in January of 2011, Finealta is still variously available in 2013, while the “limited edition” liquid lasts. I never claimed to be on top of whisky news, so when I was gifted a bottle of Finealta for Christmas (Thanks Lou!), I resolved to write a review regardless of the delay. Think of this as “The Scotch Noob: Cold Case” and play along!
In an effort (or so the marketing nonsense would have us believe) to re-create the recipe of a Glenmorangie single-malt that was delivered in 1903 to the Savoy Hotel in London, England, Dr. Bill Lumsden combined a few casks from their ‘curiosities’ warehouse. Imagine this guy’s job: wander through a warehouse of experimental Glenmorangie malt, sampling as you go, to find the perfect marriage of disparate styles. Imagine the whiskies in that warehouse!
The 1903 malt would have been peated and likely aged in ex-sherry casks, thus the re-created whisky is “lightly” peated and aged in a combination of American white oak (ex-bourbon) and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. It is bottled without added color and without chill-filtration at 46% ABV, which is music to my ears. Or eyes. Or nose? Whatever. It’s a good sign. The whole thing is modestly priced at $70 – $80, which is really not bad these days for a “special edition” with this level of quality.
Nose: Dried apricots and cherries. A very mild, fruity smoke – like applewood chips just beginning to smolder, or peaches charring on the barbeque. The Oloroso sherry is most apparent in the aroma. After a rest in the glass, there is some bubblegum and vanilla taffy.
Palate: Oh, hey yeah it IS peated! Charcoal briquets and dry garden soil. The sherry is evident here too – cherry lozenges and trail mix dried fruit. The tongue burn is just right – 46% ABV, I love you.
Finish: Medium-long. A touch of dark chocolate, another wave of cherry, a suggestion of tobacco (the aftertaste of a cigar on one’s lips), and a faint lingering echo of charcoal.
With Water: A few drops of water give the nose a minor sour note – cider vinegar? – and livens up the palate. It’s worth a try with some water but don’t drown it.
Overall: I’m not sure if this evokes the era of the Savoy Hotel or the Age of Enlightenment or whatever the website says, but it’s a fine, straightforward dram with a lot of refined flavor. The fruit is in delicate balance with the admittedly mild peat character, and the wood does not overpower. All is in alignment – Glenmorangie continues to know what they’re doing – all is well with the world.