...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Lasanta

Let's talk about bagels for a moment.  I've noticed many folks like to load slabs of cream cheese onto their bagels, smothering the bagel entirely, essentially creating a cream cheese delivery system.  Do they really need the bagel?  Do they know what the bagel, hiding under the cream cheese, tastes like?

Sometimes we see those gas station bagels.  You know the ones that have been sitting the fridge section for two weeks.  They come pre-packaged with cream cheese.  They probably need a significant schmear because they are tasteless on their own.

But what about the fresh baked bagels hot out of the oven from the local bakery?  Do they really need a choking of white spread?  Did you try the bagel first?  What if the bagel itself was good?  Would you know?

Personally, I lust after peanut butter.  Whenever I'd get a tasteless bagel, a proper thud of PB set it right.  Again, a delivery system.

Of course, nowadays I eat a total of three bagels a year and only if I know they're delicious on their own.  And by "on their own", I mean with a conservative spread of butter while they're hot.  The salty addition seeps down and gets absorbed by the bread, merging erotically (yes erotically, it's butter) creating a single unit.  1 + 1 = 1.

Or if I want peanut butter, I skip the bagel and just eat peanut butter.

So.  Sherried malts.  I've been having a difficult time with some of them recently.  I often find the sherry character so strong and so separate from the whisky, that I appreciate the sherry part but can't find much of malt beneath.  Then I wonder if I'd be better off just buying a half case of mid-shelf Jerez instead of a single malt shivering beneath the fortified weight.

I'm not saying this true with all ex-Sherry European oak matured whisky.  Many old ones and a few young ones have reached a state where the oak, wine, and spirit have fused into a single unit.  From Longmorn-Glenlivet 1967-2003 (Scott's Selection) to Glenfarclas 105, these whiskies are lovely happy drammy experiences.  But, for me, they're becoming the exception rather than the rule.

While I tend to like refill-sherry cask whiskys due to the toned down effect, it's the "sherry finished" whiskys that seem so...I don't know...CREAM CHEESE and bagel.  Perhaps its the Glencairn glass?  I didn't notice it so much before, when I would drink from wide mouthed tumblers.

This brings me to Glenmorangie Lasanta.  In 2007, LVMH replaced the Glenmorangie Sherry Wood Finish bottling with Lasanta.  It was still 12 years old -- the 10 year with at least another two years finishing in oloroso casks -- but it came in that new sexy bottle and had a name that sounded Spanish (but is actually Gaelic for warmth and passion).  The price was also $10-15 higher.  I bought one.

I had enjoyed the old Sherry Wood Finish bottling quite a bit.  It taught the potential of whisky finishing to this drinker here who knew nothing except that he preferred his liquor straight.  I thought the Lasanta tasted different or maybe that was the bottle and price talking.

I never bought a second bottle.  By that time my whisky ship had become unmoored, sailing into all sorts of strange waters.  When I could afford it, I was grabbing new bottles of all sorts.  Knowing that a number of whisky buddies still keep bottles of Lasanta in their whisky stash, I made sure to add it to a future Taste Off.  And here it is.


Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy (accents and umlauts not included)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: first- and second-fill ex-Bourbon American oak casks for the first 10 years or so, then around two years in ex-oloroso sherry casks
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered: No.
Colored: Possibly not.

Firstly, neat --
The color is dark gold, maybe a little bit of auburn in there.  If those weren't first fill casks, then at least they were re-seasoned thoroughly.  The nose leads with a sandy dusty sherry, a lot of it.  Then there's plaster, burnt wheat bread, Elmer's glue.  Underneath that is stewed apricots and warm plums.  Cardboard, raisins, and apples.  The palate is full of dry sherry.  Stewed raisins and prunes.  Dried apricots.  Cinnamon and sugar.  A little molasses and a tiny bit of cereal grains underneath.  But the sherry keeps getting stronger as whisky and oxygen entangle.  The finish is a softer lighter sherry, dry tannins, dried fruit.

The Glenmorangie malt is nowhere to be found in here.  Those two years in sherry casks have covered it.  The only hints of the spirit are the plaster, glue, molasses, and sugar notes (not necessarily the best notes).  It can be puckeringly dry on some sips.  And there are plenty of stone fruits to go around.  The sherry holds court.

Then, with water (approx. 32.25%ABV) --
The sherry has mellowed in the nose.  There's a hint of sulphur, but it's quiet.  Some of citrus peeps out from deep down.  The palate, sherry.  It's a little yeasty and papery now.  But there's a nice sweet milk chocolate note in there too.  The finish is surprisingly strong.  It's all tannic musky cream sherry, but it still lasts a good long time.

That distant hint of citrus in the nose reveals Lasanta's spiritual roots, and maybe even that milk chocolate moment.

Otherwise, is this one unit?  If so, is that unit Sherry?  Should the excellent spirit be so silent?  I'm split on this one.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as I used to.  I never detected so much sherry before.  And I do mean Sherry, more than European oak.

Overall, it doesn't match up to Glenfarclas, Macallan, or Glendronach's sherried malts; though those are matured entirely in the European oak, rather than "finished" like Lasanta.  Perhaps more time provides a better opportunity for malt, oak, and wine to work it out together.  I'm not giving up on sherried malts, in fact I'm going to dig further.

I've seen bottles of the ol' Sherry Wood Finish from time to time in corner liquor marts.  If I find one at a reasonable price, I may get it.  Partially for old times' sake, partially to compare and contrast, partially to find out what's going on with my Sherry Detector's sensitivity.

If this doesn't make sense yet, perhaps the next Glenmorangie review will help clarify.  At least it will have fewer crappy metaphors.  Maybe.

Availability - Most liquor stores
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 77