A Contrasting Evening
We have done a few Glenmorangie and Ardbeg tasting over the years and they are always one of my favourites, it’s the contrast between the heavy oily peaty Ardbeg and the gentle soft sophisticated Glenmorangie. Both are arguably the very best of their respective styles – no there is no argument they are the very best of their respective styles.
So it was on Friday 24th May 2013, the Friday before a Bank Holiday, that we were extremely lucky to get Rab Sorman, a member of The Glenmorangie Company Whisky Creation Team, to drive from Edinburgh to Bakewell to share some great whiskies, the drive alone no mean feat.
Rab’s main task is looking after the older whiskies which go into the Ardbeg and Glenmorangie expressions, that’s the bit that makes them so special. Rab started by sharing with his some of his knowledge.
Glenmorangie is situated in the Northern Highlands near the town of Tain. The water comes from the Tarlogie Springs it is hard for Scottish water, I takes a hundred years from when it falls as rain on the hills until it comes up through the springs so it collects a lot of minerals. The Stills are the tallest in Scotland 17 feet high – The original stills came from a Gin Distillery – which are perfect for distilling the hard water. Thus the spirit coming of these majestic elegant stills is well elegant and majestic. However according to Rab this is only 40% of the flavour of the Whisky the other 60% comes from the maturation – and the wood. The team Rab works on at Glenmorangie is good with wood. They use slow grown White American Oak, cut into planks and left to dry for a year so all the tannings are out. The casks are toasted for 1 hour and have a light char – about 30 seconds. The casks are then used by Bourbon or Tennessee Distillers before going to Glenmorangie. The casks are only used twice by Glenmorangie. All new make goes into these casks although some is re-raked into other casks later.
So onto the whiskies:
Glenmorangie Lasanta – 46% – 12 years old. This whisky has benefited by having an extra 2 years of maturation in an ex – Oloroso sherry casks made from European Oak. This gives flavours and aromas of Rum and Raisin Ice Cream, Cr?me Brulee, Rich nutty toffee – does anyone remember Old Jamaica Chocolate Bars ?
Glenmorangie Signet – 46%.
One of my favourite whiskies, and the first of two from Glenmorangies Premium range. This expression is the creation of Rab’s boss Dr Bill Lumsden. The oldest whisky in this bottling is between 30 and 40 years old, some of the whisky is made with high grade Cadboll Barley and High Roast Chocolate Malt. The casks used are some ex-bourbon, some are Virgin Oak, some recharred, all this give rich big creamy flavours, coffee – fine Italian espresso, chocolate – Plain 70% Coca, Oranges – Seville. Signet is very complex it is a crafted work of Art; every true whisky drinker should try this.
So can anything top the Signet – well how about Glenmorangie Quarter Century? This is a 25 year old matured in a number of casks including Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry and Burgundy Wine. This whisky is fruity the aromas are blackberries, plums, cherries. The palate is surprisingly fresh for such an old whisky more citrus fruits, lemon and pineapples, as well as the richer blackberries, plums and cherries, with some spicy chocolate notes on the finish just to remind you of the European casks.
We were extremely privileged to have Signet and Quarter Century on the same tasting, which leads us onto the second half.
Ardbeg is on the south coast of Islay and is the ultimate Islay whisky. The barley is smoked over peat fires to give a peating level in the barley of 50 Phenols Parts Per Million, and a peated level in the bottle of 25 ppm – that’s a very earthy smoky whisky. The Glenmorangie Company brought the distillery in 1997 after it had been closed for many years and run only occasionally for some more years. Following the purchase the distillery was lovingly renovated and is now running wonderfully turning out 1,150,000 litres of Alcohol a year – in contrast to Glenmorangies 6,000,000 a year. Now Ardbeg is an Icon even on an island of Icons, it is spoken about in hushed tones wherever two or more whisky drinkers are gathered together.
Ardbeg 10 years old – 46%. This is the core expression matured in 1st d 2nd fill Bourbon casks, it is typical Islay whisky a sweet smoky earthy flavour, a bit of fruity flavour. The finish is smoky and very long. Its big.
Ardbeg Uigeadail – 54.2%. Should I be worried that the word “Uigeadail? comes up as predicted text on my phone? or should I be proud of it? This may just be my favourite whisky, because when I feel in the mood for it, and whisky is a moody drink, nothing else will do. I think Uigeadail has it all, the whisky has been matured 60% in Bourbon casks and 40% in Oloroso Sherry casks. It gets all the peaty smoky and malty flavours from the barley, the vanilla and citrus fruits from the American Oak and then the big rich dried fruit and Christmas Cake from the European Oak. The name come from Loch Uigeadail which is the Ardbeg Water source 4 miles up the hill from the distillery. In 2009 the dam needed repairing 42 loads of stone were flown up the hill by Helicopter. Uigeadail means Dark and Mysterious place.
Last and by no means least Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 57.1%. Named after the largest whirlpool in Europe, which is not far from Ardbeg a little north and east of the coast of neighbouring island Jura. Half the casks used for this are Bourbon but the other half are Virgin Oak casks. The whisky is waxy peaty aromas very big, the palate is peppery, smoky, smoky bacon flavoured crisps, the finish is extremely long in fact I think I could still taste it the next morning.
As a special treat Rab brought us a sample of the new Ardbog 52.1% a limited release which came out on 1St June 2013. This is an Ardbeg around 10 years old and finished in Manzanilla sherry casks which gives a dry salty finish, a real treat and the first time Ardbog had been at a tasting.
Our thanks to Rab for sharing these fabulous whiskies with us. Also an even bigger thanks to Rab and his colleagues for creating them in the first place.