Recently we have started to blog about whisky to share our experience with our fellow whisky enthusiasts. As a consequence, we had to book a flight to Scotland because we couldn’t wait any longer to see a full working distillery! However, the many outstanding brands made it really hard to decide on what distillery to visit. Eventually we settled for the one with the tallest stills in Scotland. Can you guess which one it is?
Exploring the Highlands
We find ourselves in the peaceful surroundings on the banks of the Dornoch Firth. After an exhausting journey by plane and Jaguar F-Pace SVR on adventurous Scottish roads, we arrive at the Tarrel Farmhouse just as the sun is setting. After a warm welcome by lovely host Jennie, we are soon ready for bed because an exciting day is awaiting us soon!
In the morning, we start early with a mouth-watering breakfast at the Farmhouse. Then, we take a short 15 minute drive to the nearby Glenmorangie House in the nearby Cadboll area. The charming 17th century house was built next to the ruins of an old castle and hosts guests from all over the world in a very intimate setting. Also, the barley for the Glenmorangie single malt whisky is harvested from the fields surrounding the property!
Glenmorangie distillery tour
By now you might have guessed it: we will be visiting the iconic Glenmorangie distillery! The distillery itself is only a short drive away from the House. Here, the Men of Tain are distilling one of the smoothest single malt whisky found on the planet – and that since 1843!
As we start our tour we learn that most ingredients needed to craft Glenmorangie whisky are sourced very locally. Besides the barley from their own fields, they also get the water from the local Tarlogie Springs. It is the house’s own water source and most prized asset. Layers of limestone and sandstone give it its ‘hard water’ qualities and provide Glenmorangie with a raw ingredient unique among Highland distilleries.
Inside the distillery we learn that Glenmorangie practices three washes in the mash tun. The product of the two first ones is called ‘worts’. It is later mixed with yeast to start the fermentation process. During a period of 52 hours, the worts is converted into an alcoholic liquid called ‘wash’ with a strength of 8% ABV.
Now we enter the halls where the magic happens. We are amazed by the extremely tall stills with their long copper necks. In fact, Glenmorangie’s stills are the tallest in Scotland. They are 8 meters high, the same height as a fully grown adult giraffe! The 5 meter high copper necks make sure that only the very lightest and purest vapors make it to the top. This creates a smoother, more elegant whisky.
The art of maturing
Next, we learn about the art of maturation. The freshly distilled whisky spends 10 years in first and second fill American white oak casks. The ex-bourbon casks give The Original its perfect balance between sweetness and complexity, a mature spirit that is soft, mellow and creamy.
In order to get the best quality oak casks possible, Glenmorangie has acquired their own forest in Missouri, USA. They lease their proper casks to bourbon makers for 10 years before shipping them over to Scotland to mature their fine whisky.
Slow growth trees with a more open wood structure are selected for their unique porous nature. The trees are felled into staves and gently air-seasoned for at least two years. The wood breathes and softens, imparting the first elements of flavors: vanilla, crème brulée and eucalyptus. Expert coopers in America shape the staves into barrels. Those casks are then heavily toasted and lightly charred. This process is giving its pale golden hue to Glenmorangie spirits.
The second step in the maturation process is only for a selected number of casks. Glenmorangie pioneered extra maturation in 1994 and remains an expert in the field. Their very own Dr Bill Lumsden has spent over 20 years experimenting in order to perfect the different finishes that make up the Glenmorangie extra-matured range. He had the genius idea to put their whiksy for 2 years in Oloroso Sherry Butts, Ruby Port Pipes or Sauternes Barriques to add unique finishing notes to the spirit.
As we stand in one of the many warehouses, our tour comes to an end. We are happy to round it up with a dram: a glass of Quinta Ruban 14 Years Old. Luckily they offered us a takeaway for the driver. Sláinte!
Tasting: Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Years
When it comes to the value for money you will hardly find a better malt than the Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Years. The 18 year old has always been one of the best of Glenmorangie’s core range and has even won a World Whisky Award. Time for us to taste this wonderful dram!
You may know different whiskies which were matured in bourbon oak casks and then transferred to sherry-, rum-, port- or sauternes casks. This 18 year old malt spent its first 15 years in American white oak bourbon casks. After this time, 30% was transferred to Oloroso sherry casks where it spent its final days, as the rest remained in bourbon casks. After 18 years has passed in total, the whisky was reunited and bottled. This is what makes this whisky unique. The Extremely Rare 18 Years is a round and sweet whisky with crisp toffee sweetness of crème brulée in the nose. Hints of vibrant oranges & lemons are found. Then sparkling floral tones emerge, taking the edge off any cloying sweetness, with the green, almost herbal bouquet of geranium.
The palate is tropical and creamy with nectarines and honey, after butterscotch is rounding the tastes off. Flavors of rich, sticky date and fig are appearing on the finish as they are heightened by the unexpected caress of wood smoke.
In our opinion the box of this wonderful whisky is a highlight as well and underlines the elegant and exclusive style of the Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Years. These small and careful details are leading us to the conclusion of 8 Artworth Whisky Points out of 10!
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