Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Glenmorangie 12 Port Wood Finish - late 1990s bottling: the start of the movement.


A fiery sunset of a whisky
When Dr. Bill Lumsden arrived at Glenmorangie as head distiller in 1995 he launched an ambitious line of secondary wood finished malts that changed the course of whisky history - starting the craze of innovative wood finishing that continues to this day. Initially there were three expressions - all "at least 12 years old" and 43% abv: Sherry, Madeira, and Port Wood finishes. My favorite was the Madeira - which is why I have none left. The Port wood finish was replaced by the Quinta Ruban offering in the current lineup. Let's drink of the old original Port expression and send the old lineup off to oblivion.

Color: rich reddish coppery amber

Nose: A sweet musty mashup of rich port wine - prunes, rancio, cherry cola, and old dusty wood.

Entry is sweet with a dark demerara sugar effusive with floral vanilla followed by a peppery mid-palate expansion bursting with sherry raisin, and black cherry over a big cereal malt foundation. The wood is showing up early and by the end of the mid-palate sandalwood, oak and old dry hatbox are taking over. Plenty of oak tannins. I would believe this was a 15 - maybe a 17. Finish is long and dominated by a peculiar sweet-sour woody finish that is uniquely Glenmorangie. It has a vermouth quality - but dryer and more elegant. With time the body becomes richly honeyed. The sweet demerara syrup hits the vinous notes to form a bitter citrus at mid-palate that devolves into rich woods and that intense peculiar finish. A knock out.

****

Why was the Madeira my favorite? Lighter, more intensely floral and still rich. Sadly I never bought the Sherry. I guess I thought that The Macallan covered the Sherry angle well enough... sigh.  Now I'll probably never know.

Bill Lumsden, again I salute you.

13 comments:

  1. I may have had the old Port Wood. Not sure. I just had a glass of the Sherry Wood last night. It was glass number two last night. The first glass of the night was a Laphroiag 18 which I thought would overpower the Glenmorangie (I had no plan. Was just "thirsty"). The Glenmorangie held its own against the Laphroiag. They still make a Sherry Wood finished Glenmorangie. I believe they call it Lasanta.

    Anyway... great review! While the Port and Sherry finishes aren't my preference, I still enjoy them immensely. Always good to mix it up a bit!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

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    1. I need to put this old Port Wood Finish against the Quinta Ruban. I had the latter at a tasting recently. It seemed a little less musty with a little bit less depth of flavor. This old stuff is deep deep deep. Maybe it's in my head and if I tasted them blind wouldn't be able to tell them apart. They are clearly siblings.

      As for the sherry one, I also tried Lasanta. It's my least favorite of the current Glenmorangie lineup (other than maybe the basic 10). However I deeply love the entire body of the current Glenmorangie lineup so I still consider it very good. Nonetheless, there are just so many Glenmorangies that I prefer (Nectar D'Or, Quinta Ruban, Astar, Signet, Finalta, etc...)

      Bottom line - I'm with you on not finding the port wood my preference. As I said, the three bottles of Madeira finish were killed off years ago while only one Port Wood was knocked off and this old Port Wood bottle kicked around for over a decade until it finally got cracked. That being said, I'm enjoying the heck out of it now.

      Bottom line, Lumsden is a genius. Every time you enjoy some xxx-wood finished delight of barrel management from any distillery in Scotland, say a private thanks to Dr. Bill Lumsden. He lit the fire and we are all better off for it.

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    2. Not only is Lumsden a genius, he probably has one of the coolest/craziest Scottish accents this side of Sean Connery. Here is a link to an interview with Dr. Bill by another whisk(e)y loving Josh, i.e. Josh Hatton of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society:

      http://jewishsinglemaltwhiskysociety.com/?p=4942

      Cheers!
      G-LO (as opposed to J-LO)

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    3. I walk in Josh H.'s shadow as a Jew, as well as a whisky maven. Big salute to the seriously dedicated machers at the JSMWS. If I ever get serious I'll pony up the money and join.

      Lumsden's voice certainly is amazing - as are his dirty jokes. At a Glenmorangie event he was talking about worm coils and I couldn't understand him because in brogue "worm" is pronounced with two syllables: "wuh-ruhm". As for the dirty jokes one concerned why Highlanders wear kilts - and it had something to do with the sheep...

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  2. I thought about joining as well. Just didn't have the "down payment" at the time. It's actually not a bad deal when you consider that the $180 includes a bottle of Single Cask Single Malt that Josh and his partners have hand picked in Scotland, some interesting whisky glasses, and of course a T-Shirt (I would be the toast of the town in Cherry Hill, NJ with that bit of swag!). Besides, Josh is a great guy (Limpd and I had drinks with him in Philly last November), so I'm more than happy to support his very bold move.

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  3. Did Limpd blog about that meeting? I'm curious.

    Anyway - a big takeaway for me from drinking this Glenmorangie 12 is that 12 can be old enough. Many Weatern Maritime drams benefit from youth. Peat, particularly, is fresher and fiercer when younger. Highlands and Speys seem to do better with longer aging. Sometimes the 10s and 12s don't get the repect they deserve. My lesson is: "judge each on its merits". Sometimes 12 is just right.

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    1. I can't argue with your logic. Drink the whiskey and decide for yourself if you like it. Older isn't always better.

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  4. Josh, there was also a Burgundy finish. Have you had this? One bottle remains at my local shop. Hansell's review has me intrigued (dried spices!) and Serge's review has me hesitant. Maybe you can break this tie?

    http://www.whiskyadvocate.com/print_review_new.asp?ReviewID=381
    http://www.whiskyfun.com/archiveapril06-1.html#020406

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    1. Hi JSJ. I had never heard of the Burgundy finish before your comment now. It's of much more recent vintage than these early issues. So I'm, sadly, of no use to you.

      Glenmorangie had many limited edition secondary wood finished expressions beyond those first 3 pioneering ones (Burr oak, Malaga cask etc...). The one that haunted me (because it was expensive and I never tried it) was the 1987 Margaux finish bottling:
      http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-5783.aspx

      That one is legend...

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  5. Last Christmas, Glenmorangie packaged minis of their Extra Matured line with a regular bottle of 10 year old. Since the package was just a few dollars more than the price of the 10 year old by itself, I pick one up. While the Lasanta was nothing special, I absolutely love the dark chocolate nose I'm picking up on the Quinta Ruban. Incidentally I noticed a lack of dark chocolate in your tasting notes for the Port Wood so it looks like the profile might have changed. Now I need to open my last mini of Nector D'Or.

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    1. I need to taste them head to head. I may have simply missed the chocolate note - or the flavor signature may be a bit different. I can't say for sure. I'll get a hold of Quinta Ruban and do a review and a head to head. I'm curious to hear about your impressions of Nectar D'Or!

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    2. Just opened the mini of Nector D'Or and I must say it makes the perfect dessert malt. It maybe the sweetest single malt I've tried but the dryness on the finish helps keep it from being too sweet. I might buy a full bottle in the future but looking at the prices I'll say the Quinta Ruban also makes a tasty (and more affordable) dessert malt.

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    3. Yes, Nectar D'Or runs another $20 or so a bottle. I love it though. It's really something different that works. Quinta is still on my to do list. Thanks for following up!

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