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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Astar

BOOM!  The mystery malt.
Bringing the American wood on this first Tuesday of November.
While the Astar (Gaellic for "journey") is one of the Glenmorangie's special bottlings (it doesn't appear to technically be a "Private Edition"), it isn't wine-finished.  In fact it spends its entire life in just one type of cask.  According to many non-Glenmorangie sources, Head Distiller Bill Lumsden did in fact travel to the Mizzouri Ozarks to pick out specific oak trees for his barrels.  Why pick out specific trees?  Because, according to 1001 Whiskies:
Oak grown on northern hillsides grows more slowly, which makes the wood finer-grained. Hence it will render more flavor during maturation.
Okay (or Oaky?), I'll roll with that.  How about a full 57.1% ABV?  That doesn't even sound like GlenMo.  Upon hearing these details last year, I was more than a little excited about this whisky.  But as time went on, the excitement was replaced by a more reasonable question, "Yeah, but does it taste good?"

The answer is...

...

...

Well, on to the details.

GLENMORANGIE ASTAR

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy (accents and umlauts not included)
Age: approximately 9 to 10 years
Maturation: Missouri Ozark Oak (more info below)
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
Chill-filtered: No.
Colored: Possibly not.

Some more stuff about this whisky:  Per whiskyfun's interview with Lumsden, this (or the first?) batch was a vatting from 10 heavily-toasted, lightly-charred casks that were air-dried for two years.  Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch notes that the barrels had held Tennessee Whiskey for four years before the Glenmorangie spirit was dumped in.  (Haven't heard this specific element anywhere else.  In fact, I'd read that this was new wood.  If anyone can clear this up, I'd be much obliged.)

But clearly this is an engineered modern whisky.  But that should NOT be a strike against Astar because what's most important is the answer to the question, "Does it taste good?"

Here's what I found:

Neat --
The color is brass, though darker than The Original.  Bundles of citrus are in the nose but they have much company.  Cookie dough, cloves, cocoa, elements of a light rye whisky.  There's a small dose of ethyl burn, but not too much.  There's also apple juice, more perky rye-like spices, toffee cake, and drippy sweet desserts.  The palate is very malty.  Some of that cookie dough note too.  Rich milk chocolate, caramel sauce, white fruit juices, Nutella, and delicious (yeah, very subjective).  A touch of tangerine citrus returns in the finish.  With some molasses, a cherry lollipop, and caramel sauce, it's long and sticky sweet.

With water (approx. 34.3% ABV) --
The cookie dough and rye characteristics are toned down in the nose now.  The young citrusy spirit remains afloat, joined by a bit of pineapple juice and some Jolly Ranchers.  The alcohol buzz is still present in the palate, but it's bettered by bushels of fresh fruit (think berries, grapes, and lemons).  Maybe a tiny bit of the milk chocolate too.  The finish is drier.  The fruits lead, followed by a green herbal note (like basil, oregano, and chives).

Despite all of those notes about sweets, the malt is neither cloying nor saccharine.  With the big ABV, it's quite muscular and develops nicely in the glass.  Of course, I'm a sucker for any sort of rye note, so there's that to consider.

On this election day, Astar gets my vote of confidence.  Yes, it tastes good.

Availability - Select liquor specialists
Pricing - $70-$85
Rating - 90