So this is a bit of a departure, both for me and for Glenmorangie, which is one of the few distilleries that I feel comfortable saying puts good whisky in every bottle.
This clearly-aimed-at-the-influencer-generation bottle, named “X by Glenmorangie” (ugh try Googling that successfully) and with the words “Made for Mixing” plastered over every piece of marketing and the label itself, gives a jaded old whisky snob like me the distinct impression that they’re compensating for something. Still, a Brand’s gotta Brand and they sent me a free 100ml sample bottle (not an ad) in the most extravagant packaging I’ve ever seen, so here goes.
“X” is a (shocker!) made-for-mixing single malt. Dr. Bill Lumsden wanted to create a low-cost malt that could challenge ubiquitous blended scotch in the mixing arena. He approached the problem by vatting standard ex-bourbon Glenmorangie malt with some that was finished in new charred virgin oak casks. This resulted in a sweeter and richer profile in order to stand up to strongly-flavored cocktail ingredients. The whisky still carries Glenmorangie’s house style of fragrant and floral malt, but is bottled as a no-age-statement (NAS) single malt at the baseline 40% ABV. This allows them to charge an impressively low $25 – $30 per bottle.
Of course since the focus is on mixing, Glenmorangie is pushing the cocktail recipe angle and you can find a number of recipes on their site. Let’s talk about basic scotch cocktails for a moment. There’s the famous Rob Roy, which is basically just an anemic Manhattan. There’s the Blood and Sand, which is just a too-sweet Screwdriver. And there’s the Penicillin which is hard to make right and frankly sometimes tastes like its namesake. There’s also always the bog standard Scotch on the Rocks and the Scotch-and-Soda, which despite their history are really just watered-down scotch that (to me) often bring out the undesirable effects of grain whisky in blends or the youth in malts. There’s also the Japanese Highball, which I’ve never been able to make taste like anything but a Scotch-and-Soda, so I must not be stirring in the right direction or something. Hot Toddies are good with scotch, but hardly the point here. My point, I guess, is that scotch is rarely able to stand up to strong cocktail ingredients and this means that it’s usually outperformed by bourbon or rye.
I admit to being a little intrigued by the sample bottle of premixed cocktail that was included in the package that I received. It combines grapefruit juice – not an ingredient I often use – with Glenmorangie X and maple syrup, and is meant to be served over ice with club soda. I found the result very nice for a warm summer day, refreshing, with good (but mild) grapefruit flavor. I also followed the directions (repeated below) to mix my own, and found it similarly tasty, but a little on the sweet side. I’ll reproduce the recipe faithfully, but when I make it again I’ll reduce the syrup and increase the grapefruit juice, and add a few dashes of grapefruit bitters:
- 50ml X by Glenmorangie
- 25ml 100% grapefruit juice
- 12.5ml real maple syrup
- 25ml club soda or sparkling water
Fill highball glass with crushed ice. Add Glenmorangie, grapefruit, and syrup. Stir, top with soda, and garnish with a grapefruit slice.
First, though, let’s taste the whisky by itself:
Nose: Gentle, honeyed, very Glenmo. Initial impression is slightly sweeter and more biscuit-y than Glenmo Original. Some pleasant but mild aromatics: citrus (orange peel), honeysuckle, coconut, honeycomb. There’s also a heavy layer of perfume-y vanilla bean. Nice, approachable.
Palate: Syrupy body. Initial impression is, again, honey. Very tame tongue burn, but luckily doesn’t taste watered down. There’s a good amount of sweetness (honey, vanilla custard, sugar cubes) balanced by a little bitter barrel tannin and a slight charcoal note. If there’s any fruit, it’s in the background: lemon-lime and fresh coconut.
Finish: The sweetness continues through the finish, along with the same balancing bitterness. Fades quickly without evolving.
With Water: A few drops of water wake up more citrus-peel notes, but otherwise does not change the experience. Water optional.
Overall: A sweeter, heavier-bodied version of Glenmorangie that somehow doesn’t taste watered down at 40% ABV. The aroma has an excellent array of sweet florals and aromatics, although the palate is unchallenging and the finish unremarkable. This profile is probably exactly what Dr. Bill was going for, although it will be no surprise in the glass for frequenters of ex-bourbon matured Highland malts. I actually liked this more neat than I liked my last bottle of The Original 10 year, so it could even serve double-duty as a mixer and casual sipper or daily dram.
Lastly, regarding the grapefruit cocktail: I found it an excellent way to consume “mixing” scotch like X by Glenmorangie, especially on a warm summer afternoon, and far better than every standard scotch cocktail that I listed above. You could even use leftover single malt or one of the better blended scotches, I won’t tell anybody. Still, for the price I’ll probably keep a bottle of Glenmorangie X around for this purpose.