May 27, 2013
These days with scotch prices rising like lost balloons above an amusement park, one must look harder than ever to find reasonable deals to keep the scotch bug fed. Lately I’ve been surprised to see Glenmorangie bucking the industry trend and keeping their prices more or less stable. This, especially from “luxury” brand LVMH, endears them to me more than ever. A quick review of Internet prices shows that Glenmorangie costs the same as it did when I started blogging two and half years ago: The 10 year-old “Original” below $35, the 12 year-old Quinta Ruban and Lasanta at $46, the Sauternes-finished 12-year Nectar d’Or at $65 (Sauternes casks are expensive), and the 18 year-old at $90 (WAY low for a quality 18 year-old malt, especially now).
While I’ve always been a proponent of the Sauternes-finished Nectar d’Or, I’ve only had a passing familiarity with the “other two” wine finishes from Glenmorangie: Both at 12 years of age, Quinta Ruban is finished in port casks and Lasanta in not-particularly-novel sherry casks. Neither is going to win any awards for best-in-category, but at $46 they present value that’s pretty much unequaled in the wine-finished single-malt group. Consider other port finishes on the market: Balvenie’s 21 year-old port finish is $200, Springbank’s 14 year-old port finish upwards of $90, and even GlenDronach’s 15 year-old tawny port finish is $70, as is BenRiach’s equivalent tawny finish, and neither is available in the US.
Quinta Ruban is, like the Lasanta and Nectar d’Or, aged for 10 years in American white-oak (read: ex-bourbon) casks. (They probably use the same whisky that goes into the 10-year “Original”, which is aged in a combination of first- and second-fill ex-bourbon barrels). This is followed by a 2-year dip in port pipes imported from the “quintas” or port-producing wine estates of Portugal. A port pipe is a lengthened barrel with tapered ends used to mature port. Quinta Ruban is bottled at the perfect strength (46% ABV) and is not chill-filtered. This, or the Lasanta, is pretty much a must for any value-conscious malt drinker’s cabinet.
Nose: The port finish comes through as a bouquet of fruit aromas. While not specifically smelling like port, the malt has elements of fresh grapes, raisins, cherries, and so on. The fruit character is fresher and more tart than the sticky, dried-fruit profile of sherry aging. Some vanilla oak underlies – but does not compete with – the fruit. Well-balanced, refreshing, and thankfully not cloying.
Palate: Medium bodied, with initial aspects of caramel or nougat. A tad on the burny side. The fruit is fainter, but more reminiscent of ruby port.
Finish: Medium-long. Caramel again, and marshmallow. The fruit returns only as a faint candy coating as the whole fades into mild barrel char.
With Water: Water awakens some indistinct tart fruit on the nose, but also something like sulphur. Perhaps it’s the chlorine in the water where I’m tasting (I’m on vacation!), but I don’t enjoy the addition of water here.
Overall: Port finishing is not common, but is always a welcome pairing for a single malt, especially one as well-suited to cask manipulation as Glenmorangie. Unlike other port finishes, Quinta Ruban is priced to be accessible. While it cannot compete with, say, a Springbank port-finish for complexity, at $46 it is a satisfying dram with pleasing flavors and especially aromas. You can do a lot worse with $46.
Note: I’ve upgraded this to a “Must Try” – really, if you haven’t had Quinta Ruban and especially if you’re frustrated by price increases, this is your next bottle.