Whisky and Words Number 49: Glenmorangie Nectar D’or

The golden nectar on an unusually golden Fall afternoon.

The final Glenmorangie ‘specials’ review! Today we take on Nectar D’or, which takes the standard Glenmorangie 10 and ages it for two additional years in Sauternes barriques (a fairly small barrel). Sauternes being a sweet wine (think noble rot), we expect the Sauternes treatment to result in a sweet and smooth spirit. Glenmorangie telegraphs this expectation with their moniker for this expression – Nectar D’or. So, is it really a golden nectar? Glenmorangie thinks so:

Our sumptuous, special reserve whisky is aged first in American oak bourbon casks for smooth, fruity notes. We then finish this single malt in hand-selected wine casks from Sauternes, the most famous and ancient sweet wine-growing region of France.
These rare casks bring layers of mellow sweetness to Glenmorangie’s renowned smooth style. Non chill-filtered for enhanced aroma and texture, our Nectar D’Or is enjoyed around the globe.

That’s some beautiful packaging. And dig the color of that spirit!

On the packaging we see descriptions like “rich, spicy and dessert-like,” “lemony, honey silkiness” and on the website, “sweet and sumptuous.” That’s impressive as the standard 10-year is already pretty sweet. I’m expecting the Sauternes of whiskies Also note the website mentions this spirit, like the Quinta Ruban, is non-chill-filtered. That and the ABV of 46% shows that the distiller is aiming for a premium presentation. Premium it is: as you can see from the photo, this bottle comes in a heavy-duty presentation case. The packaging is classic LVMH, restrained, modern and consistent in the palette (gold). Another sign that LVMH is going for premium is the price. From a modest $50 for the Lasanta, we’re up to $68 for this bottle (Oregon state pricing). By no means is that expensive for an outstanding whisky, but for Glenmorangie, that’s pricey.

The Glen 10 is a downright bargain for those who enjoy a smooth, sweet dram. I found the Lasanta interesting and a decent value for the price, and thought the Quinta Ruban all right, though no barn burner. Does the flavor of this dram measure up to their own marketing and a solid competitor? Once again, we’ll start with a comparison to the spirit that Glenmorangie builds on, their 10-year old.

How does it build on the Glen 10?

The Nectar D’or (l) adds some light amber to the Glen 10’s (r) light straw

How does it compare to the standard? As mentioned in the previous two reviews, the Glen 10 is innocuous, sweet, and has modest peat aroma from the water (no smoke here). Although sweet, Glen 10 has enough tannins to leave a balanced finish. At 46%, the ABV of the Nectar D’or  is higher than the Glen 10 so we expect a more intense flavor.

The Nectar D’Or makes a statement right off: wine! Right on the nose, you get a frontal note of that Sauternes wine – the fruity and slightly sour reek of white grapes – on top of Glenmorangie’s mineral peatiness. The wine is taking the fore, however. I get floral notes as well (rose, honeysuckle), and even though it’s higher ABV than the Glen 10, the Nectar is easier on the nose. The Nectar D’or is less likely to sting, but it can still bite when you dive into your Glencairn glass. The palate is indeed sweet but brings a lot of other flavors as well, so it is well-structured. The astringency of the grape adds to the oak’s tannic balance.

Oddly, the Nectar D’or is not as smooth as I expected from the company’s tasting notes. The finish is begins with honeysuckle sweetness but ends quite dry for such a sweet whisky, due to both the oak and grapes bringing their own. All in all, not as cloying as Glenmorangie’s tasting notes imply. Is it a dessert whisky? Sure, but so is the regular Glen 10, thought the Nectar is smoother overall.

An Arran challenge

Glenmorangie is up against a solid competitor here: a crafty, small, independent distiller. Arran had been shut for 20 years, and, like Ardbeg, was brought back to life. You may think this an unfair comparison but LVMH (Glenmorangie’s parent company) owns Ardbeg, so they know how to make good whisky. Of course, Glenmorangie is a much bigger producer. We assume the malt master at Arran has more control of each barrel chosen and at $77, we’ve paid a premium for Arran’s small-batch experience. Also, the Arran is bottled at 50% ABV, higher then the Glenmorangie and is also not chill filtered and uses no artificial colors. With that, lets start with appearance. Give the photo below a click to get a good look. The Glenmorangie has an ever-so-slightly darker look to the spirit.

Arran cask sauternes (l) vs Glenmorangie Nectar D’or (r). Click for hi-res.

On the nose, this is a close race. The Glenmorangie has an edge in grape aromas – pleasantly sour and sweet – while the Arran is a more balanced nose with some mineral peatiness and a little more oak. Also, despite the higher ABV, the Arran doesn’t sting the nose as readily as the Glenmorangie. On the palate, the Nectar D’or is lively and spicy, layering caramel with the grape; the Arran less lively, smoother, more graduated sweetness (honeysuckle to toffee) with a nicer mouthfeel. I’d say the Arran edges the Glenmorangie here, but then it should, being more expensive.

Glenmorangie Nectar D’or Single Malt, 12 years, 46% ABV

Nose: Fruity and slightly sour white grape wine, mineral peat, rose, honeysuckle. A bit stingy on the nose.
Palate: Fairly complex; lightly sweet, undertones of caramel and white wine, balanced by astringent grape and tannic oak.
Finish: Honeysuckle sweetness but ends quite dry for such a sweet whisky, due to both the oak and grapes.

Bottom Line: I’ll agree with the whisky-tasting wife on this on: the Nectar D’or is a better whisky than the Glen 10, but is it worth almost twice as much? That’s hard to justify on the face of it until you realize what a reasonable price the Glen 10 goes for. We both agree it’s nice to have around for a change-up, especially for me (I tend towards sherried whiskies and peaty monsters). As for the competitor, unlike the Cragganmore we tested against the Quinta Ruban, the Arran Sauternes Cask is definitely worth the premium. The Arran is a very nice whisky which I will review fairly soon on its own.

TL;DR: The Glenmorangie does bring a solid Sauternes experience and a crafty presentation at a reasonable price point.

A good sipping whisky, quite different from the usual, and expensive only in comparison to the very reasonably priced 10-year

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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