Glenmorangie’s Origins

Until last year, I had never watched The Sound of Music. Of Total Film’s top 100 films, I have seen 31; of Empire’s top 100, I have seen 34, although I have seen 9 of what they consider to be the top 10. Yet I do not consider myself an imbecile when it comes to films. What worries me is that a huge number of the films in the list I feel like I have seen because I have discussed and debated them, seen clips and can quote lines verbatim. But I have never actually sat down and watched them.

Having watched Prometheus last week, I thought I understood all the references to Alien because I thought I knew the movie. Except, again, I have never seen it all the way through. I watched part of it when I was much younger (too young, I suspect) and got scared; I hadn’t ever decided to watch it since. So, I sat down this week and watched it from beginning to end. It is a superb film. Far more carefully paced than I had ever assumed, far less gory and infinitely more tense that I had remembered. Quite honestly, I am deeply glad that I watched it. Unfortunately, it has marred my enjoyment of Prometheus slightly, as it has underlined just how many plot holes and problems there were with it but, so long as I enjoy Prometheus for what it was, rather than the prequel that many people are pushing it to become, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable film.

I, therefore, started to reassess some of my priorities with whisky. I started looking at what I had tried and why; what I have bought and why. I have found myself, as I have mentioned before, actively avoiding popular or well known whiskies, on the assumption that I I knew them by reputation. The issue here is that knowing a film or a band by reputation is reasonably straightforward: one can see clips of almost anything online. Tasting is a different matter though and, no matter how many reviews and tasting notes one has read, until the whisky has been in your mouth, you cannot know how it tastes to you.

My first foray was Glenmorangie. I have in the past been put off by simply feeling it is too familiar, a little bit everyday compared to the range of whiskies available elsewhere. It is claimed by some to be the best selling single malt internationally (although, bizarrely, when researching that statistic, it is far more common to find claims of being the second best selling) and a staple behind almost all bars. Glenmorangie were pioneers in that respect – their extra-matured whiskies were some of the first to be transferred to alternative casks for the end of their maturation. I have tried some of their finishes before some time ago and I have bought the Quinta Ruban as a gift several times without ever having owned a bottle. However, their 10 year old, their “Original” is something of an enigma to me. I got this and some Finealta as a comparison. I also have some of their extra matured and other finishes to try soon but, for now, I wanted to try the Original and what seems to be, as far as their marketing would suggest, their true original: The Finealta is a lightly peated Glenmorangie, using a recipe from the turn of the last century, to create the sort of whisky they were making at that point in the company’s history.

I was expecting bland, insipid, uninspiring “essence of whisky”, a mass seller because of its ease of drinking. It is gentle, undeniably, but bland is not a word I’d choose to describe it. It was light and fruity, fresh and beautifully balanced. It does not have an overwhelming heft of flavour and it is not particularly weighted in any one given direction but it is very drinkable. Finealta, on the other hand, has the heft I wanted. The added smokiness adds a depth to the fruitiness – it was like putting pepper on strawberries; it is still the same flavour, but brought to new levels by the added complexity.

Glenmorangie Original:

Colour: yellow gold
Nose: heavily malty, fruit; peaches and citrus, woody spices, with a sweet background
Body: rich and smooth
Palate: well balanced; afternoon tea – jam, cream and biscuits, cereal and more peach, vanilla and a pleasing syrupy sweet edge.
Finish: long, creamy and malty

Glenmorangie Finealta

Colour: dark honey
Nose: dry heather, slight peak of smoke, faint peach notes, less fruity and far drier than the “Original”, cereal and a nutty edge
Body: smooth and warming
Palate: spices, warmth, dried fruits, more citrus this time, although more similar to the “Original” than the nose suggested, some rapidly evaporating smoky notes
Finish: long and quite drying

I like Glenmorangie. I can see why it is so supremely popular – it is exceedingly drinkable. However, my concern is one of snobbery. Although I try to retain my spouting forth for this blog, most of my friends know I like whisky. At any given opportunity to serve whisky, I enjoy the spectacle of finding them something new to try. I cannot see myself bringing a bottle of the most popular whisky in the world to the table. That’s where the Finealta rears its head. It’s a brand that is known, with a superb taste, without being the cliché. It is the Alien Director’s Cut, the Apocalypse Now Redux, to experience the known without treading the same path.

 

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