What’s coming up – reviews of three Glenmorangie specialty-cask ‘finishes’ of their single malt.
How distillers switch up the casks and hence flavor profiles
There are a few ways a distiller can introduce flavors outside of those provided by the very common ex-Bourbon cask. One way is to age the whisky entirely in specialty cask types (port, sherry, rum or wine casks). The Macallan standard expressions (12, 25) and all Glenfarclas bottlings are aged exclusively in sherry butts. Highland Park uses only sherry-seasoned casks, but employs two kinds of oak to get their flavor profile (American and Spanish).
Or the malt master can vat (blend) flavors from specialty casks in one of two ways:
- They can mix spirit which has aged in bourbon casks with spirit which has aged (roughly) the same time in specialty casks. In this case, casks of both variety have aged the required ‘statement’ of the whisky or longer.
- Or they can ‘finish’ a whisky by aging it for the most part in ex-bourbon casks and then decant that spirit into specialty casks for some shorter amount of time. This approach is used by Laphroaig for their Quarter Cask (bourbon) and Triple Wood (bourbon quarter cask followed by sherry butts) as well as the Balvenie for their Doublewood and Caribbean Cask.
There is no ‘right’ way, though some malt masters feel strongly that theirs is the proper way (Highland Park was very clear there were no ‘finishes’ in their lineup).
The Glenmorangie way
Glenmorangie makes a very consistent, smooth 10-year expression as their standard high-volume release. As reviewed here, I characterized the 10-year as “surprisingly complex for a budget-priced single malt.” It’s also inoffensively neutral, with little or no peatiness either by virtue of water nor peat-dried malt. Hence, the 10-year provides a solid base onto which Glenmorangie has built a range of specialty expressions. The three will be reviewed in series:
- Lasanta – Sherry cask finished ( vs. Balvenie Doublewood )
- Quinta Ruban – Port cask finished ( vs. Cragganmore Distiller’s edition )
- Nectar D’or – Sauternes cask finish ( vs. the Arran Sauterne variation )
For all three of these specialty whiskies, Glenmorangie starts with the standard 10-year spirit and ages for two additional years in the cask for the target flavor profile. Two years is a fairly long finish, and the fact they tell you exactly how long is interesting. These whiskies give us a benchmark for how well the ‘finishing’ approach succeeds. We’ll know soon!