Glenmorangie's Bill Lumsden is famous for introducing secondary wood finishing to the Scotch whiskey marketplace. With Astar, however, the focus is purely on first fill American ex-bourbon oak casks and the base whiskey distillate - there are no other sources of flavor going on. But like a great artist who can express much with a single line, Lumsden coaxes an incredible complexity of delightful flavors from these two ingredients. Glenmorangie's two base products, the 10 and the 18 are aged only in American ex-bourbon white oak casks too, so it's tempting to say that Astar is just a cask strength version of these - but that is incorrect. Astar is aged in custom made casks specifically crafted from white oaks grown on North facing slopes, then toasted in a special way Lumsden specified and then aged for 4 years with bourbon in the traditional manner. Lumsden says the North slope oak grows slower and has a larger pore structure in the wood - allowing for more interaction with the spirit. I don't know if that's true - but having tasted the whole Glenmorangie line I can attest that he's a genius, so I don't quibble. Astar doesn't list an age, which means it is either young or they are blending different casks of different ages to ensure consistency and to achieve a particular flavor profile that combines newer and older wood notes; I don't know which and don't really care. The proof is in the glass.
In the glass Astar is a "straw into gold" brilliant yellow. The aroma is brilliant with sweetly acidic fruit notes (lychee, citrus, apricot) and peppery spirit. There's creaminess and spice too. Creme broulee? Time in the glass opens and richens this bouquet which becomes almost floral. At first sip the taste explodes with honeyed sweetness, honeysuckle, and lemony notes. By midpalate vanilla comes to dominate. The finish is incredibly long and complex with the grain and floral vanilla taking on a more perfumed jasmine aspect and wood resins and a faint whisper of smoke.
Light, agile, incredibly iterated: brilliant. World class. One of my absolute favorites.