Wednesday, 2 September 2015

#Heelslayer: Glenmorangie 15 (Old Distillery Bottling, 15 Years, 43% ABV)

    This week's #Heelslayer dram comes from the distillery claiming "the tallest stills in Scotland" (I think I've heard that from others too, much like the 'oldest' distillery claims), Glenmorangie.  This is a rather special bottle though, as this comes from the era before the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy takeover in 2004.  This 15 year old bottle, served at 43% ABV hails from about the mid to late 1990's, and comes from a time when production was a little more detail oriented, and less factory produced whisky.  Still aged in the classic Bourbon-only style of Glenmorangie, this has long been a favorite of the both the collector and the GlenMo fan. Let's delve into the hell of this bottle and I'll tell you why.

  • Colour:  Autumn gold with hints of amber.  There's no indication of colouring on the label so I'll assume it has some caramel in it, albeit rather light.
  • Body:  An oily medium that wanes toward the thin side.  No mention of filtration type, but considering this stays crystal clear in a -30 car ride... it's pretty heavily chill-filtered.
  • Nose:  Holy cow!  Vanilla city, pudding, white flowers and soft malt notes.  The rich malty backbone plays with hints of sweet corn and apricot cobbler.  Peaches, stone fruits and melted vanilla ice cream.  In the background there are subtle notes of jasmine and herbal green tea with a hazelnut twist.  The nose swims with so much vanilla, almost overpoweringly sweet, but so delicious.
  • Palate:  Sweet cornbread, malt syrup and peach compote.  Sublime wood spice notes (fenugreek with hints of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg), drive the mid palate as oily malt notes lift the bottom.  Toasted oak and cream flourish here with subtle hints of lilac and more jasmine green tea again.  Towards the end Tellicherry black pepper, stone fruits and more herbal notes come forward as the sweet creaminess abates.  The malt shows great depth throughout the dram.
  • Finish: Sweet creamy malt and deeply complex oak.  White flowers again provide highlights as does sweet black tea and some hints s of brine.  Vanilla oils, shortbread and hints of oak char.  Wood spices are diluted here, but still present and have picked up an almost cedar note.
  • Empty Glass:  Peach Melba and more white tea this time.  There's a doughy middle note and some herb-ed liqueur and roasted malt.  The sweetness continues through the empty glass, with malted milk chocolate sweets and Applejack. 
     I actually noted in my notebook on two different tastings of this that 'I will miss this bottle when it's gone.'  It's like an improved-upon 10 year old Glenmorangie Original: oilier, heavier and with more wood presence but with all the rich vanilla sweetness that you've come to love.  I can't help but wonder why this was discontinued, and more importantly where the quality has gone.  This dram is hands down my favorite Glenmorangie of recent tastings, save some independent bottlings, and it bears to mind the quality shift of all the Glenmorangie offerings.

     With the recent limited releases like Tùsail, glimpses of this distillery's true character are still present, albeit now a manufactured façade.  I understand the same quality of barrels are no longer present (LVMH uses Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill primarily for the GlenMo10), and the quality of engineered barley is now very different from years past.  I think that whisky, like comedy, should come naturally, and cannot be forced.  Stepping off my soapbox; keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.

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