This is the second of three reviews of Glenmorangie special expressions, each of which has been finished in specialty casks to elicit different flavors. The Quinta Ruban builds on the standard Glenmorangie 10 with two additional years in Port pipes (large casks). Let’s see what Glenmorangie is saying about this spirit:
The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal.
Extra maturation in these port pipes develops Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban into a voluptuous spirit with a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours and an intriguing contrast of smooth and crisp, cooling textures. Non chill-filtered for additional aroma and mouthfeel
Well then, that’s a mouthful. They’ve kicked up the rhetoric for this expression. As with the Lasanta just reviewed, the packaging is conservative, classy and even darker than the Lasanta’s, with a near-black label. The spirit is a deep ruby color (see photo right comparing it to the basic 10-year) which implies added flavor.
At $60 a pop here in Oregon, we’re looking at a significant bump ($10) in price from the Lasanta, which pays for the extra marketing muscle. And what does Quinta Ruban mean? Over at Whisky Wash they’ve sleuthed it out: ‘It seems that “Quinta” is a name in Portugal for the place where grapes are grown, especially grapes for Port wine. “Ruban,” on the other hand, is Gaelic for “ruby.”‘ The author is into etymology, and the review is worth a read for his discourse on the name. (Kirk is another Portlander, some coincidence, eh?) Kirk considers this an ‘entry level’ whisky. My opinion: at $60 a bottle, it’s got to deliver more than an entry level experience. I’m expecting a good, solid sipping whisky, if not mind-bending like the Tun 1509.
How does it build on the Glen 10?
Glenmorangie has upped their game with the construction of this whisky as well as their marketing. The ABV (46%) is a tad higher than the Glen 10 and Lasanta which are both bottled at 43%, and they’ve chosen not to chill-filter the Quinta Ruban, reaching for that craft-distilled vibe.
How does it compare to the standard? The Glen 10 has a mostly smooth and sweet nose (a little grainy) backed by modest mineral peat notes. The palate presents the Chardonnay of whiskies: nothing to upset the apple cart, sweet with a well balanced tannic edge that cleans up the finish.
The Quinta Ruban’s two years in Port smooths the nose and fills out the aroma with a fuller bodied midrange. There is nothing specific to challenge you, just pleasant fruit and toffee notes. For spice I’d say you get some cardamom, but muted. The Glen 10’s treacle-and-tannin palate is developed in the Q.R. with more structure. The toffee is dominant and you get some spice—cinnamon, plummy fruit and peppery oak that is quite lively along the side of the tongue. It’s sweet but you don’t wait long for the tannins to clean up. The finish is unremarkable: the plum does not last and you get a mostly dry, oaky, slightly harsh finish. If Glen 10 is a gateway whisky for the cocktail crowd, Quinta Ruban is a modest first step towards dealing with a drier, more structured dram. Interestingly, when we had our Great Glenmorangie Taste-off with my (casual) whisky group, the Quinta was the favorite of the three specialty casks, the ’10’ and the 18-year. People thought it more grown-up.
Does Cragganmore have more?
There are not a lot of port-finished single malts to compare to, but I found a Cragganmore Distiller’s edition which is also a port-finished whisky. The Crag is 20% more expensive ($75 to the Quinta’s $60 in Oregon) so I had high expectations for it. After all, I could buy a Bunnahabhain for seventy-five bucks.
This Cragganmore Distiller’s edition (there are several by the way) is bottled at 40% with no age statement, though the label says ‘distilled 2005, bottled 2018,’ implying 13 years. This is a Diageo brand, another multinational like the LVMH-owned Glenmorangie. We see the packaging (photo above) is quite different. LVMH’s designers have a flat, modern esthetic to their Glenmorangie graphics, while the Cragganmore loads on some old-timey chrome to convey the value of their offering.
As you can see in the photo, the Cragganmore’s color is a bit lighter than the Glenmorangie. But for all we know, that difference is down to some e-150 in the Q.R. On the nose, the Cragganmore is flatter, delivering more malt and less toffee-and-plum than the Q.R. Indeed, the Distiller’s Edition’s nose sits between that of the Glen 10 and the Quinta Ruban. It is more refined than the Glen 10…no graininess, no sting, with subtle hints of oak, red apple and mineral peat. But it is not as robust as the Quinta Ruban.
On the palate, the Cragganmore is sweeter than you would expect given its nose—no toffee as in the Quinta Ruban, more syrupy. There is less oak to clean up and surprisingly little fruit, but more spice and herbal elements. Though the finish is smoother than the Quinta Ruban, the Quinta delivers more character with less syrupy presentation, a heavier fruit presence and super-lively oak counterpoint. A win to the Quinta Ruban.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Single Malt, 12 years, 46% ABV
Nose: Good body with fruit notes, some cardamom, on a toffee base.
Palate: Toffee, plum, raisin, cinnamon. Fairly aggressive, spicy and lively oak.
Finish: Not particularly remarkable and a little harsh, as those lively tannins hang around unaccompanied.
Bottom Line: When compared to the competition—Cragganmore Distiller’s Edition Port finish—I’d give the Quinta Ruban the nod on complexity, with bonus points for higher ABV, lower price and a clear age statement. Given the differential in price, it’s a no-brainer compared to the Cragganmore. The Q.R does build on the fairly innocuous Glenmorangie 10’s base and brings more to the sipper’s experience. I applaud Glenmorangie for being up front about the construction, compared to Cragganmore’s coyness. But overall, given the non-chill filtration, two year’s added maturation and higher ABV, I expected more, especially considering the 65% cost premium over the basic 10-year-old. It is let down by the treacly Glen 10 which forms its base, and it could use a smoother finish.