Words By Marcus Dowling, Photos By Andy DelGiudice
Of the liquor varieties, scotch may be the most unique, as well as requiring the most acquired of tastes to appreciate. A member of the whiskey family, scotch gains its name from only being made in Scotland. A unique area with a most unusual of climate, the results of aging to barley, wheat and rye end up delivering results that are more acrid to the palate than most any other beverage. Thus, finding scotch varieties like those offered from the Glenmorangie company is intriguing. Upon sampling styles from the company at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan, it was a delightful treat and certainly put a bottle of Glenmorangie’s Original scotch (for certain) on the list for the liquor appreciator among your friends and family.
Present for the proceedings was Glenmorangie’s CEO and President Marc Hoellinger. Affable and aware, the Frenchman spoke of the uniqueness of the process in distilling the varieties of scotch, as well as passionately explaining the stories of the families who both live at and run the Glenmorangie distillery. As a brand with a decade under the Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton banner, the mix of luxury branding with distinctive, yet humble roots proved intriguing yet ultimately key in what sets apart the taste and flavor of Glenmorangie from other scotch market offerings.
Glenmorangie’s original was made available as part of a “perfect” Rob Roy” (alongside equal parts sweet and dry vermouth and bitters) or to be sipped by itself. It is said that scotch is oftentimes best when not delivered in a cocktail, as there are so many flavor notes that are delivered on so many parts of the palate that anything other than scotch itself being involved severely limits the scotch experience. In the case of the Glenmorangie Original, this may be true.
As opposed to other scotches, the original stands apart in that its only stored in a cask for a decade, with the American white oak casks only being used twice then discarded. As well, the stills used for capturing the vapors from which the alcohol is created are unusually tall, with the process of capturing the alcohol occurring at the greatest height to ensure the sweetest vapor. Thus, between the distilling and casking, the flavor notes are pungent, distinctive, and complex. The distilling offers a not-so-cloying, yet still candy-like sweetness. The white oak casks offering a vanilla flavor that overpowers, yet gives way to a far sweeter aftertaste. For the scotch neophyte (a likely descriptor of many aspiring connoisseurs), it’s ideal.
Glenmorangie’s more traditional 12 and 18 year scotches bring a more familiar scotch taste but with hints of sweet and fruity flavors that expand traditional scotch whiskey expectations. The 12-year old Glenmorangie is the Lasanta, a Gaelic word meaning “warmth and passion.” The “warmth and passion” is linked to the notes of honey and caramel in the aroma, as well as the nutty, butterscotch-orange flavored taste and aftertaste. It’s a robust flavor profile that for the less aware or less fruity-flavored scotch drinker may be off-putting, but is still delivered without appearing to overwhelming expectations. Glenmorangie’s 18-year is a pleasure for an advancing – yet not quite-so-advanced – scotch palate, as it’s dry, smoky quality fulfills tradition. However, it’s the notes of dried fig flavor that maintain the slightly fanciful-to-the-palate flavors that clearly have allowed Glenmorangie the ability to distinguish itself with excellence in a crowded marketplace
Insofar as the true whiskey connoisseur on your list, Glenmorangie’s “chocolate-roasted” barley meets white oak casks (with a ton of other unique flavors involved) “Signet” scotch is a one-of-a-kind winner. It’s best in being described as having a bottom and top end flavor profile, that when they meet in the middle create an exciting scotch blend that is well-developed in style. Plum-orange espresso would be the best way to describe the initial aroma and flavor, with citrus-mint being the finish, an unexpected hit of mint then allowing for the fragrance and taste to be re-highlighted yet again. A scotch that allows for its flavor to be re-visited, it’s outside-of-the-norm delight.
There’s a moment when you’re sipping a 25-year scotch while eating a pork belly appetizer when the joys of luxury make sense. An acrid blackberry aroma gives way to a sweeter blackberry jelly-like taste, with a depth of spice added in the finish. It’s Glenmorangie’s most “scotch-like” of scotches, which, for a company that excels in diversifying the expectation of scotch, is impressive in that the 25-year still manages to be progressive in its execution. Again, if looking for a gift that will showcase to the existing or aspiring alcohol authority on your shopping list, Glenmorangie will show them that a) you’re hip and b) that you really care.