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Friday, November 18, 2011

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or

This is part of a three-post series on Sauternes-finished single malts:
Day 1: Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or
Day 2: BenRiach 16yr Sauternes Finish
Day 3: Taste Off!

Variety: Nectar d'Or
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Sauternes wine casks
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

I've always wanted to try Glenmorangie's Nectar d'Or.  I've sampled more bottlings of Glenmorangie than of any other distiller.  They were the ones who had awakened me to the wine cask finishes on whiskies -- specifically Sherry and Port -- about seven years ago.

The Nectar d'Or has always been $20 more expensive than the "Lasanta" and "Quinta Ruban" so it would have been a pricey gamble to just go out and buy a 750mL bottle.  By some stroke of luck, I found a 100mL mini-ish bottle of it at a little liquor store in Santa Barbara and paid quite a bit for it.  It's a premium one has to pay for a sample, but it's also thriftier than buying a big bottle of something one might not like.

The Glenmorangie distillery, founded in 1843, uses the tallest stills in Scotland (tall as an adult giraffe, they say).  All that height changes the chemical distribution of the spirit's vapors, which is thought to provide the smoothness to the final product.  They, along with Macallan, have the highest investment in cask wood selection in the scotch whisky industry.  For instance, they only use their casks twice (rather than refilling four or five times like many other distillers) to insure richer flavors develop in the whiskies' maturation.

Though their Original (10 year old) is the best selling single malt in its Scottish homeland, GlenMo produces many varieties, most of which focus cask maturation.  I'm personally a big fan of the "Lasanta" which is the sherry finish; I highly recommend that one and will do a Report on it the next time I have a good dram.  The Nectar d'Or always drew me because it looked more luxurious, had the higher price, gets good ratings across the board, and....it is whisky.

There's one more thing I should mention.  I didn't fully understand how it was matured.  I thought it was in a regular Burgundy cask.  I didn't actually know what Sauternes was.  This will come up over the next two parts of this series as well; I'll clarify in part Three.

I poured myself one ounce and let it breathe for about 15 minutes.  I tried the first half ounce neat, the second half ounce with a teaspoon of water.

The color is a light honey with some amber and yellows.  The nose is bright, sweet, no alcohol.  Smells sweeter than sherry.  Then it gets heavier.  Some molasses, buttery caramel, something thick, almost meaty.  The palate is sweet solid balance: whipped cream, dark sugars, dessert wines, and cognac.  The finish sweetens up further, more dessert wine.

With water:
Though this is unchillfiltered, it doesn't cloud up with the water.  But one can see the oil swirling, the color going further towards amber.  There's a little alcohol burn now in the nose, that thick meaty/cheesy scent has heightened, mixed with the sweetness.  No fruits, veggies, or grains in the nose at all.  The palate is all creamy brown sugar and vanilla, maybe a crème brûlée or a custard.  In the finish, ah, that's were the grasses and cereals were hiding.  Plus a little bit of a fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut, still warm.

So, yes, this is more of a dessert than an aperitif.  I like the flavor considerably more than the scent.  Something is keeping me from full-on raving about this whisky.  Perhaps all that sweetness doesn't appeal to my palate like it may have a few years ago.  I don't think that it is $20 better than GlenMo's sherry finish since the Lasanta is more versatile; that one you can have any time and it won't spoil your appetite.

But maybe my opinion will change over the next two parts of this Sauternes series.  For now:

Pricing - Good at $65, Overpriced above $80
Rating - 80