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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Three years ago, something went askew with my palete.  I started experiencing a harsh sour-bitter finish with most of the whiskies I drank.  They would start out fine in the nose and palate, at first, then suddenly something awful would sneak up and take over.  Though I've never sipped ammonia, I'm pretty sure it would finish similar to the sensation I was experiencing.

It started with Glenmorangie's Quinta Ruban.  My buddy, James, and I had a bottle for our brief (but epic) scotch club.  Oddly, I didn't mind the Finlaggan that was brought to the session.  But the Quinta Ruban just went bad in my mouth.  It was awful, felt poisonous.  Then, some days later, I noticed the same sensation with Glenlivet 12 and then JW Black Label.  Very different whiskys, same sour-bitter finish.

So I eased up on whisky for a year.  I was mostly drinking Irish whiskey; Jameson and Powers.  That was about the time I fell for Macallan 17yr Fine Oak.  Besides it being generally marvelous, it avoided that horrible finish.  Perhaps thanks to that Mac, I was cured of those sour-bitter experiences, just in time for my bachelor's party.  Just.  In.  Time.

Since then I've discovered that when a whisky gets too warm in my glass some of that bitterness creeps back in.  But other than that, I've been freed.  Thank goodness.  It's always had me wondering, has anyone else experienced this?

It's been 3 1/2 years since that Quinta Ruban evening, so including it in this Taste Off was a big whisky step for me.


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 former ruby port pipes
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered: No.
Colored: Possibly not.

Neat --
Its color, with its pinks and crimson, is a rosy dark gold.  The nose leads with sour port, then lots of lemon.  Then an orange smoothie, a tiny bit of tobacco, hay, and milk chocolate.  The palate is maltier than Lasanta and the port is relatively reserved.  There's some late harvest sauvignon blanc and apple juice.  Then muscato, green grapes, and sweet lemon.  The finish, port (surprise?).  Port.  Some more port.  Bitter lemon, muscato, and then some general sourness.

With water (approx 32.25%) --
The nose is much simpler.  Port, cherries, oranges.  The palate doesn't swim well.  It's very quiet; a little salty with brown sugar and some port-soaked sugar cookies.  It also finishes quietly.  The port is lighter, maybe there's some sweet molasses.  But it's mostly port and watered down whisky.

I'll lead with the positive.  Unlike Lasanta, a lot of the Glenmorangie malt's citrus notes are present alongside the port.  Even though they don't merge completely, it's nice to find less cream cheese on the bagel.

The bad news, the finish.  Both sorts of "finish", in fact.

Firstly, as the whisky is finished in ruby port pipes, the result is still just whisky with port on top.  As our commenters have pondered, who are these finished whiskys for?  I'm assuming this one is for port lovers.  A question to port lovers: wouldn't a little Fonseca or Grahams suit you better than a whole bottle of Quinta Ruban?

Secondly, the palate's finish goes wrong.  It's a different bitter-sour element than the one I'd experienced before.  But it's still bitter-sour.  This time it's made up of all the worst parts of citrus notes: very bitter and very sour lemon.  It's basically the opposite of "moreish".  I want to stop drinking it and drink something else......like the The Original.

Availability - Most liquor stores
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 73

One more Glenmorangie remains from the Taste Off.  What could it be?  And is it any good?