Despite reviewing just … about … every … recent … Glenmorangie … bottling (and mostly loved them all), I’ve somehow managed to miss the most basic one. To rectify that, I’ve turned my admittedly biased palate to Glenmorangie’s baseline expression, the 10 year “Original”, which retails for around $36 near me, up from $29 only a year ago.
The Original is aged for 10 years in only ex-bourbon casks, both first- and second-fill, and includes some of the “Designer” oak that was sourced by Glenmorangie wood management in the Ozark mountains of Missouri explicitly for the purpose of turning into barrels, sloshing some bourbon in, and then getting to the real business of aging Glenmorangie. Although this is not stated outright, it’s likely that this is the same whisky, aged further, that ends up in Glenmorangie’s cask-finished expressions. We thus get to experience it here, naked, minus cask embellishment.
Nose: The initial impression, similar to malts from The Balvenie, is a slightly citrusy honey with tones of light caramel. Some nondescript floral character, and piercingly young fruit (green pears, tart grapes, etc.). Deeper examination yields a slightly unpleasant antiseptic note which, it should be remembered, seems to vanish in slightly older (or aggressively cask-finished) Glenmorangie malts.
Palate: Medium bodied. A solid butterscotch foundation, with some slightly bitter barrel tannins, and more antiseptic. Nothing is built on that foundation, however.
Finish: Of medium length, with an unfortunate echo of both the rubbing alcohol and the bitter oak notes leading the way. A slathering of vanilla frosting, and a ghost of bitter herbs.
With Water: Water, as usual, amps the floral notes in the nose, revealing rosewater. It brings a hint of orange peel to the palate, and rounds off a few of the rougher edges. I urge the use of water with this one – it patches up a lot of the holes.
Overall: Despite my adoration for older Glenmorangies, I have a hard time loving The Original. While its price must be considered – it’s hard to find decent competition for a $35 single malt – this particular bottle hits two of my three least favorite whisky characteristics: bitterness and “rough” rubbing alcohol (luckily it doesn’t have any of that ‘rotten banana’ aroma that I despise). The nose is noteworthy – showing a lot of promise with honey, florals, and a hint of that Glenmorangie elegance, but it gets shaky on the tongue and then all falls apart on the finish. Luckily, a dash of water improves the malt to the point that I’m interested in a second glass.
If you’re considering a purchase, I would say this falls short of both The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 (an extra $10) and Glenmorangie’s own cask finishes (an extra $12 to $20). It might be, however, a slight improvement over the cheaper Glenlivet 12 and Glenfiddich 12, especially if you’re not sensitive to bitter notes in whisky. My rating might seem harsh, but I just can’t recommend a whisky I disliked this much. Don’t let that dissuade you, though… go find a glass somewhere and see if I’m wrong.