As promised, here is the first of three reviews of Glenmorangie special expressions, each of which has been finished for two years in a specialty cask. In this case, the Lasanta (Gaelic for ‘warmth and passion’) takes the basic Glenmorangie 10 for a two-year ride in sherry-seasoned (Oloroso and PX Sherry) casks.
What do we get for an additional two years? Is the Lasanta able to challenge all-in sherry aged drams like Macallan’s Sherry Wood, Glenfarclas 12 or Highland Park’s 12? And how does it fare against another ‘finished’ whisky, in this case the very nice (and more expensive) Balvenie Doublewood? That’s what we’re here to find out.
The packaging is conservative and classy with a dark maroon label, an echo of sherry’s ruby tones, and you will see significant color in the spirit (see photo below). What does Glenmorangie say about its whisky? They are quite up front on the bottle about the extra two years maturation, so kudos for clear messaging. There are no claims of ‘craft’ techniques like non-chill filtration or avoidance of added coloration, but at the price point, $50 in Oregon, that’s not expected. On their website, we don’t get much more info than tasting notes, to wit: “the sherry casks bring rich raisin intensity, toffee and spices to Glenmorangie’s renowned smooth style”
Fair enough – the Glen 10 has a pretty laid back, smooth sweet nose with a touch of peaty mineral that would not upset anyone in your knitting circle. It’s also a light straw color (see right) whereas the Lasanta is light amber with a wash of ruby. Not surprisingly, nosing the Lasanta brings more depth than the 10: I get the same mineral and malt as the 10 plus crème brûlée, strawberry, red Anjou pear and a little white pepper.
The Glen 10’s palate is like a Lyle’s Golden Syrup for grownups with a well balanced tannic edge and finish that keeps it away from cloying. The extra 2 years in sherry cask for the Lasanta adds a more luxurious mouthfeel (that crème brûlée), less edge to the tannins, and a different spice profile (likely from European oak used in the sherry-seasoned casks). It’s not a sherry ‘monster’ by any means, as the fruit notes contribute but do not dominate. The finish brings out a fairly long lasting aroma that definitely has the claimed raisin notes but reminds me of French polish for some reason. An aromatic wood aroma, I would have to call it.
The Balvenie comparison
There is no secret I like the Balvenie, we had a great tour there and their Doublewood is always in my drinks cabinet. At a modest premium (about 15% more than the Lasanta) the Doublewood is not so far out of reach, it is also sherry finished from primarily ex-bourbon aged casks, and is also bottled at 43% ABV – a good comparison.
On the nose, the first distinction is the Balvenie’s creaminess. It just edges out the Lasanta on the crème brûlée. There’s a bit less mineral in the Balvenie, else they are fairly comparable. The palate of the Doublewood is more caramel and a lighter fruit delivery than the spicier Lasanta, so the Doublewood wins on smoothness. The Balvenie feels like an older spirit than it is, and perhaps there are older casks in the vatting. The Lasanta is livelier, and I would say while they are not the same, they are of the same quality of finish and balance with the Balvenie winning by a nose.
Parking in the Highlands – full sherry
How about a full-sherry comparison? Glenfarclas also makes a very good whisky at comparable prices. Sadly, I don’t have a Glenfarclas or Macallan to compare and my budget was maxxed out this month (getting in a stock of favorites before the tariffs hit) but I always have Highland Park 12, a fully sherry-cask-aged whisky. It’s not a direct comparison, as the HP12 has some peat, but from the nose, you can tell the difference between full sherry aging and a finish. Instead of toffee creaminess, the HP12 has a full-bodied nose that is fruitier and floral, and though it has a similar spiciness it’s more citrus than woody. The fruit flavors continue through the palate to the finish, where the Lasanta is a caramel predominant palate with the fruit being an added note.
Glenmorangie Lasanta Single Malt, 12 years, 43% ABV
Nose: Mineral peat, crème brûlée, malt, plus strawberry, red Anjou pear and a little white pepper.
Palate: Plum, raisin, caramel and red delicious apple. Very well balanced and unique blend of oak – not your typical tannic ex-bourbon finish; the wood notes are aromatic and spicy but not intrusive. It all works well together.
Finish: The apple, raisin and over all the aromatic woodiness lasts quite a while. There is enough tannin to clean up but just enough. It does not dry you up as the Glenmorangie 10 can.
Bottom Line: Frankly, LVMH know what they are doing. They produce pretty large quantities of good single malt and sell them for reasonable prices. Their main expressions are not super-crafty by any means, but they deliver on flavor with exquisite balance. The Lasanta adds interesting notes to the standard caramel and tannin of the bourbon finish, and while it has some aspects of a sherry flavor, like its sherry finished competitors, the Lasanta is clearly a hybrid. Worth a buy.