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Friday, April 12, 2013

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Ealanta 1993/2012

What is this?  Diving for Pearls reports on a NEW whisky?


Hell's thermostat needle is dropping.

Yeah, well don't get used to this.

I won't.


Well then.  I have a number of samples in the queue, but I was definitely looking forward to this one.

Glenmorangie's newest Private Edition, Ealanta, was released in late January / early February of this year.  "Ealanta" is Gaelic for "skilled and ingenious" (not "modest").  The whisky is a single malt matured in heavily toasted new (or virgin) American oak for the entirety of its 19 years.  Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's famous Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation, didn't actually lay down this malt.  His predecessors did so, and Lumsden discovered the filled barrels during his first year on the job.  It seems as if they had attempted all sorts of experimental casks, many of which were released during the past decade: Artisan Cask, Post Oak, Truffle Oak, Burr Oak, Chinkapin Oak, and Missouri Oak.

Like with Glenmorangie's Astar release, the casks were made from trees in the Missouri Ozarks.  Ealanta's trees were specifically from the Mark Twain National Forest.  (On a side note: I find it adorable that we can be told the latitude and longitude of the trees that make up casks, but not a single word about the yeast or barley variety.  Yes, this a recycled gripe, but it's a gripe nonetheless.)  The Astar casks were heavily toasted but lightly charred, while Glenmorangie is only stressing that Ealanta's casks were heavily toasted.  They're both non-chillfiltered (yay!), but the Astar is about half Ealanta's age and much stronger (57.1% ABV).  I love the Astar, so I've been wondering how this new older whisky tastes.

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy (accents and umlauts not included)
Age: 19 years old (1993-2012)
Maturation: Heavily-toasted virgin oak from the Mark Twain National Forest in the Missouri Ozarks
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Limited release: 3,433 cases
Chill-filtered: No
Colored: Possibly, but not much

While the color is gold, it's not as dark as one would think considering its life in new oak.  Perhaps this is due to toasting, as opposed to charring.

A lot of honey, corn flakes, and vanilla beans show up first in the nose.  Then fresh mint, white bread toast, and candied orange rind appear after further sniffing.  Give it 30-45 minutes, then it's cocoa and maple candy.  A minimum of spice arises from the oak, maybe some cinnamon.

The palate is full of creamy treats.  Eclairs, cream puffs dusted with cocoa powder, and whipped cream.  It even has a creamy texture.  Confectioner's sugar and barrel char swirl around the malt, then after some time Andes mint chocolate candies appear.

It finishes sweet and creamy.  There's the eclairs along with the Andes candies.  Sawdusty caramel sauce meets Phillies cigar smoke.

It's all very controlled.  I'm impressed that with all that new oak the whisky wasn't syrupy and liqueur-like.  Perhaps that's a result of the reduction to 46% ABV?  Or it has to do with toasting versus charring the barrels.  The downside to the control is a muted finish, a mere trace of spice, and a limit on its character.  It's a sweet treat, but nothing surprising or new, especially considering the relatively unique-for-a-Scotch maturation.

[Disclaimer Time!  I wish Ealanta was spicy.  Give me a spicy rye or bourbon and I'm a happy boy.  But in Ealanta, Sensei Serge Valentin does find some spice but little creaminess, while I find very little spice but heaps of creaminess.  So who are you going to believe: me or the guy who knows what he's talking about?]

A brief bit of price analysis:  If you do your research, you can find the Ealanta for $100-$110.  This is approximately $20 more than the 18yr in Glenmorangie's regular range.  Compared to the 18yr, the Ealanta has 3 more points of ABV, one more year of maturation within a unique cask type, and issued in a more limited release.  Also, in the current state of the whisky market, I have doubts that LVMH will allow Dr. Lumsden to keep such an unusual (but salable) whisky in the cask for so long next time.  So, if you find the Ealanta only $20 more expensive than the 18yr, then you're probably looking at good pricing for this "Private Edition".

Having never done a proper official tasting with the 18yr, I can't really speak for it other than to say it is good.  Instead, let me compare apples to apples, or new oak to new oak.  If the Ealanta's price equaled that of the Astar, I would still pick the Astar without a second thought.  But that's just my personal palate.  I like the youth, richness, bold spice, and power in the Astar.  I like it more than any other Glenmorangie release.

To me, Ealanta is a chocolate eclair of a whisky.  That is not a bad thing.  It just depends what your palate desires at this malt's price point.

Availability - Many liquor specialists, for now
Pricing - $100-$125
Rating - 83