Tag Archives: highlands

Glenmorangie Distillery Tour & British Open Championship

In July 2017, Thane had the opportunity to travel to Scotland with Glenmorangie for the British Open Championship–and a very memorable private tour and tasting at the Glenmorangie distillery.

Some guys have all the luck…

Glenmorangie 10

July 19. The Axis would be nothing without all of you who have supported us, engaged with us, helped us. So it’s only fitting that we invite you guys on one of our greatest adventures yet. Starting Thursday, I’ll be doing posts, stories, images from Glenmorangie and its work at the British Open. It’s nothing that we ever imagined when we started the Axis, and this opportunity is due to all of you. Thank you for all you’ve done, and join us as we go on this journey with Glenmorangie.

Glenmorangie lineup

July 21. It was a long, practically epically long, journey to get here, but man, was it worth it. The opening night offered tastings of the entire Glenmorangie range, more than a few Ardbegs, and a personal tasting of the Glenmorangie Signet, which will have a full review later on today. Friends, this is all due to you, and I’ll strive to do you proud in our coverage of the event. Happy Friday and cheers!

Glenmorangie distillery

July 22. Since 1843, the Glenmorangie distillery has been producing some of the most balanced, innovative whiskies in the business. The approach to distilling is both classic–as evidenced by their ability to discern when a cask of the flagship Glenmorangie 10 is appropriate for use in extra-matured whiskies–and constantly innovative, such as their decision to grow their own oak for use in speciality casks. It’s an approach that melds respect for what’s always worked with an insistent need to discover what may work in the future. I’ve always enjoyed learning more about the process of the various whiskies, but this visit has been both highly enjoyable and highly informative. Check back later for a live story from the final day of the British Open. Cheers, one and all!

Glenmorangie cask

July 22. If there’s anything I learned about Glenmorangie during this tip, it’s that the distillery thrives by balancing experimentation and persistence. The Glenmorangie Signet, the 2016 World Whisky of the Year, is a fine example. The no-age-statement whisky is based on the use of heavily roasted chocolate malt, which Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden insisted GlenMo could make work. He was right. It’s matured in casks made from Missouri oak that’s air dried for two years before the liquid ever touches the inside. The result is a whisky unlike any I’ve had.

Glenmorangie Signet

There’s chocolate-covered ginger on the nose, along with barley, roasted coffee beans, and vanilla. It brings to mind walks I used to take through the fields at my uncle’s farm. There’s more ginger in the palate, but it’s more akin to ginger snaps. It melds beautifully with a rich vanilla and caramel that brings to mind a creme brûlée. Whisks of coconut dance along as well, and there’s a lovely stout note that increases with a splash of water.

The finish is stunning. Long, sustained, rich. The stout remains at the forefront, but by the end, there’s a glorious caffè corretto experience that makes me laugh with joy. These folks love the process and it shows in the result. Cheers, friends!

Glenmorangie tasting

July 23. I won’t pretend that my golf game is on point. I won’t claim to know much about the game period. And while I know a touch about whisky, I’ve never had a tasting like the one that Brendan McCarron gave us today while watching the final round of the British Open. Cask strength pours of the first- and second-fills that, when combined, create the classic Glenmorangie 10.

The first-fill has elements on the nose and palate of a seaside port town, where the twirls of candy and roasted meat meld with the tang of the sea. All that and more with the second-fill, including pear, spice, rich butterscotch. When you add water, there’s a lovely float of coconut.

At Brendan’s suggestion, we mixed the first- and second-fill to create a quite close approximation of the cask strength GlenMo 10 that we may never get. Fellow whisky nerds, this has been among the pinnacles of my experiences in the whisky worlde. Oh, and golf was being played. As I write this, Jordan Speith may be about to blow another major lead. Ah, golf. – TM

Glenmorangie Signet Review

Distiller: Glenmorangie. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $150-200.

My journey from Chicago to the Glenmorangie Distillery was of near-epic length, but man, was it worth it. The opening night of my trip to cover the British Open at Glenmorangie’s invitation offered tastings of the entire Glenmorangie range, more than a few Ardbegs, and a personal tasting of the Glenmorangie Signet.

If there’s anything I learned about Glenmorangie during this tip, it’s that the distillery thrives by balancing experimentation and persistence. The Glenmorangie Signet, the 2016 World Whisky of the Year, is a fine example. The no-age-statement whisky is based on the use of heavily roasted chocolate malt, which Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden insisted GlenMo could make work. He was right.

It’s matured in casks made from Missouri oak that’s air dried for two years before the liquid ever touches the inside. The result is a whisky unlike any I’ve had.

There’s chocolate-covered ginger on the nose, along with barley, roasted coffee beans, and vanilla. It brings to mind walks I used to take through the fields at my uncle’s farm.

There’s more ginger in the palate, but it’s more akin to ginger snaps. It melds beautifully with a rich vanilla and caramel that brings to mind a creme brûlée. Whisks of coconut dance along as well, and there’s a lovely stout note that increases with a splash of water.

The finish is stunning. Long, sustained, rich. The stout remains at the forefront, but by the end, there’s a glorious caffè corretto experience that makes me laugh with joy.

These folks love the process and it shows in the result. Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Glenmorangie whisky online from Mash + Grape

Great King Street Artist’s Blend Review

Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: undisclosed. Regions: Speyside & Highland. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $35-40.

The Great King Street Artist’s Blend was my first Compass Box whisky a few years back, and it opened my eyes to how good a blend can be. Founder and master blender John Glaser calls it “blended Scotch for whisky geeks,” which is just about the perfect description.

In line with Compass Box’s usual eye for quality, the Great King Street Artist’s Blend is just under 50% malt (an unusually high proportion), and matured in first-fill bourbon, sherry, and new heavily toasted French oak casks. It’s 43% ABV, not chill filtered, and priced at an exceedingly reasonable $35-40.

It has a gorgeous nose with strong wild honey. Sweet oak, new leather, vanilla tobacco, dried apple. The honey leads the palate too, but is beautifully integrated with the grain whisky backbone–sufficiently mature to add weight and heft. Canned peaches and pears. Surprisingly long finish with sweet leather and tobacco predominant.

A whisky geek’s blended Scotch, a blended Scotch skeptic’s blended Scotch…this one can win over just about anybody. Three cheers for Compass Box! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Compass Box Peat Monster Review

Producer: Compass Box. Distiller: various (see below). Region: Islay/Islands/Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $55-65.

I have a special weakness with Compass Box whiskies. The Flaming Heart 2015 was my favorite whisky of that year, and I have yet to write a review. I went through an entire Christmas bottle of Compass Box Peat Monster without writing a review. The problem is that they’re so good, and in such a particular way–which I attribute to the blending genius of founder John Glaser–that I get too absorbed in them to take notes. I just want to enjoy.

But revisiting the Peat Monster, I managed to get my act together. This beauty is a blended malt (also known as a pure malt), meaning it’s a mix of single malts, with no grain whisky. The malts come from Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Ardmore, Ledaig, an unnamed Highland distiller.

The peat is intense, but there are many peatier whiskies on the market by far. The priority here is on balance and nuance.

Nose: lively, fresh, grassy, but with the density and richness that only come from a fair proportion of older malt in the mix. Minimal sweetness. Dark vanilla. Almond flour. Mesquite. Lemongrass. Dry vermouth herbaciousness. I could nose it all night.

Three kinds of peat intertwine on the palate: briny, toasty, and savory/BBQ. The Laphroaig brings the ashiness and brine; the Caol Ila light lemony fruits, tilting from lemon to lime to grapefruit. Charred pear and watermelon candy later on. The finish is very long, with grapefruit rind, grenadine, white ash, and salty sea spray.

The Compass Box Peat Monster should be a staple in any peat lover’s cabinet. Sure is in mine.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Aberfeldy 16 Review

Distiller: Aberfeldy. ABV: 40% Age: 16 years. Region: Highlands. Price: $70-90.

It’s been a pleasure tasting my way through the John Dewar & Sons’ Last Great Malts lineup over the past year. Craigellachie and Aultmore have been my favorite distilleries of the bunch, with Aberfeldy a close third.

What appealed to me in the Aberfeldy 12 was a good mix of approachability and heft for its age and ABV: 40%, as with the distillery’s other core releases (even, alas, the 21-year-old).

One particularity of Aberfeldy malt is its long fermentation time: 70 hours, as opposed to a more typical 55 or so. This creates more esters in the distillate, which should lead to a fruitier malt.

The 16-year-old Aberfeldy is matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, then finished in Oloroso sherry casks for a “more pronounced sherry accent.”

What’s it like in the glass? I was struck by the bourbon-y notes on the nose–not bourbon-matured single malt, but actual bourbon: Four Roses-esque caramel apple. Sweet leather. Vanilla pipe tobacco. The sherried notes emerge gradually–dried fruits, plum–and are strong on the palate. Raisin bun. Stewed prunes. Cinnamon. The medium-short finish has black tea with raspberry and a touch of oak spice.

I’ll make my usual appeal for another 3-6% ABV, but overall, the Aberfledy 16 is a fine package and a welcome daily drinker for me.

Cheers, friends! -BO

Buy Aberfeldy Whisky online at Mash + Grape

The distiller kindly shared a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 4.222 Review

Producer: Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 56.2%. Age: 16 years.

This SMWS 4.222 “Ginger and honey sweet tea” (a 16-year-old Highland Park) is a classic example of why I seek out single cask whisky from independent bottlers.

Over a decade ago I fell in love with the standard Highland Park 18. The use of Orcadian peat and sherry casks strike a perfect balance for me when I’m not in the mood for an Islay peat monster or a dark sherried Highland. However, I’m always searching for that next bottle that will expand my whisky horizons, and this 4.222 fits the bill nicely.

From a single first fill ex-bourbon cask, this is Highland Park stripped of its familiar sherry notes. Laid bare on the nose are crisp, sweet heather, caramel, and gentle smoke. On the palate are fresh botanicals and a beautiful mix of sweet vanilla and saltiness. The signature light peat notes that I love then settle in and are the glue that keeps everything together. The medium finish adds cinnamon to the waning smoke.

A truly unique exploration of Highland Park. Cheers! – JTR