While Glenmorangie (rhymes with ‘orange-y’) has a solid pedigree (see below) and great affirmation as “the most popular malt in Scotland” (according to DrinkBritain and others), they aren’t above a bit of marketing puffery. They boast “air-dried” bourbon casks. That’s good, as it’s difficult to dry casks underwater, for example. Though I suppose some new-age Gen-Z whisky maker will come out with vacuum-dried casks, just because they can. But no matter, what concerns this writer is the taste, and Glenmorangie is OK there.
First off, they produce a whisky with an honest color. Light straw (see photo), unencumbered by bogus colorant, it’s telegraphing a spirit of honesty and perhaps light, sophisticated drinking. This is no Islay brawler, ready to knock you back with a nose full of diesel smoke. And although the Glenmorangie marketing department promise a spirit that is “soft, mellow and creamy,” you won’ be disappointed by a characterless dram. I was quite surprised by its depth of character, in fact. For a cool $45, I was expecting something like the previously reviewed Cardhu, which is well-made and inoffensive, if not outstanding. Or Aberlour’s 12 which is inoffensive as well but just kinda boring (which their A’bunadh definitely is not). Glenmorangie 10 is inoffensive, but so much more. It is surprisingly complex for a budget-priced single malt.
That, from someone who has a Scotch locker full of island malts. Ah well, maybe I’m growing up.
The sixteen men of Tain
Now we get to the pedigree. We Scotch lovers like a bit of pedigree. That’s probably why distillers will buy an old, shuttered distillery rather that building new. They buy the history (along with the aging cellars). However, with Glenmorangie, you have an original. Not independent, however. Like most brands of scotch, they are owned by a massive multinational, LVMH.
They make the most of their history of course, and it does have a history, back to 1703, at Morangie farm. They, like most distilleries had times when they were essentially shut down but came back in the 70s, and then sold in the early 2000s to LVMH. Since then, the Euro-oriented marketing of LVMH has led to some rather effete-sounding releases, to which I’ll get eventually.
The sixteen men of Tain thing comes from their county, Tain, and the fact their staff was traditionally only 16 guys. So, maybe they rotated as some retired, and over time there were more than 16 people who worked there. It sounds pretty medieval, though, doesn’t it?
Glenmorangie 10-year old Highland single malt, 43% ABV
We’re promised citrus, peaches and vanilla. To me, peach is a pretty heady aroma and I don’t get that. But I remember a friend taught me how to suck the nectar from the honeysuckle flowers that grew near the beach in Southern California, where I spent a few formative years as a beach rat. Honeysuckle is a much more subtle flavor than peach, though similar in tone, and that is what I smell in Glenmorangie 10.
Nose: Honeysuckle nectar, citrus. A touch of white pepper. Oak, air dried 🙂
Palate: Definitely some citrus here and the nectar sweetness promised by the nose. Nicely balanced with gentle bitterness along the side of the tongue. Not harsh, a perfect balance of oak tannin.
Finish: I note a resemblance of an astringent, clean taste, perhaps Listerine. But not in a bad way. I get the vanilla in the finish, a bit like those vanilla flavored pipe tobacco some guys smoke. Again, it is very well balanced. The finish lingers; Glenmorangie is not one of those whiskies that disappears down your gullet without a trace.
Bottom line: This Highlander has a lot more going for it than your basic Speysider. It has character, and though some of the aromas seem a bit pedestrian — Listerine and vanilla — they work together in a whole that is satisfying. For the price of an everyday dram — about the same as price here as Johnny Walker Black — you get something that has a lot more character.