Glenmorangie Finealta

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.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Glenmorangie has been an innovator in the industry for years, pioneering cask expressions and experimental bottlings of their exceptional Highland whisky. Often cited as the biggest-selling whisky in Scotland, Glenmorangie is also attracting a lot of international attention, winning awards left and right. Among their cask-aged expressions are the Nectar D’Or (matured in French Sauternes casks after 10 years minimum in bourbon barrels), Quinta Ruban (matured in port barrels), Lasanta (matured in oloroso sherry casks), and more. Glenmorangie sources its oak casks in the Ozark mountains and loans them for four years to the Jack Daniels distillery before using them for Scotch. Glenmorangie’s water flows from the Tarlogie Springs in the hills above the distillery, over sandstone (yielding hard water) and picks up flavor components from the clover and heather in the hills before entering the distillery, where 24 very long-necked stills called the “giraffes” make Glenmorangie’s classic Highland malt. Glenmorangie, like Ardbeg, is owned by luxury giant LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy).
Glenmorangie Finealta
46% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $70-$80

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  • Ha! My bad…took me until now to realize that this was the Finealta, not the Ealanta. I was speaking of a different whisky completely. At a whim, they look similar (sounds silly now I suppose). Anyway…the $120 I was quoting was for the Ealanta. My bad. None-the-less, my comment about the ‘great blog’ still seems legit. Have a good one!

    • Hehe no problem. This mistake was likely due to the fact that my Finealta review is fully two years late, and Ealanta is the big news right now. Maybe I’ll get to do an Ealanta review in 2015!

  • Interesting you compare Glenmorangie with Springbank. I just tried Springbank/Longrow’s Tokaji cask finish (something Glenmorangie tried to do and decided not to release), and after doing so, I see why Bill Lumsden held back on that one. Man, was that gross.

  • I haven’t tried it yet, but I found it with no price on it. When I asked what it cost, I was told $52.99, so I took it at that price and ran. I should have bought 2! Can’t wait to try it.