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Monday, May 28, 2018

Glenmorangie Astar, 2017 Release

For those of us who enjoyed the original Astar release, let us remember that it was a very oaky thing. And NAS. And thus it was proof that not all NAS oaky whiskies are crap. Its creamy richness highlighted good qualities of the oak and the spirit. Still it remains an exception to the rule for Glenmorangie's limited releases.

Astar's official site references my main issue with Glenmorangie's special edition when it notes that the Ozark oak casks are designed to "impart their maximum flavour to our delicate Highland spirit". Or......Lumsden and his team use sledgehammers to play a piano.

This new Astar supposedly uses the same type of casks, from "slow-growing" trees in the Ozarks that are air dried for years before they're coopered into Jack Daniel's casks for their first life. Next the delicate Highland spirit is applied for at least three years. And then marketing noises like "hewn", "harbour" and "bespoke" are applied liberally to lure the usual suspects into paying $100+ for the product.

Still, it could be good whisky.

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: Missouri Ozark Oak (ex-Jack Daniel's)
Alcohol by Volume: 52.5%
Chill-filtered: ???
Colored: ???
(From a purchased sample)

Sadly, I had neither old Astar, nor Glenmoragie 10yo to compare with this whisky. Instead, I lined up the bottle-strength version with its 43%abv diluted form.

43%abv - Bourbon. Barrel char and notebook paper. Burnt notes. Perfume, vanilla, lemon and ginger beer. A bit flat at times, like a blend.
Full Strength - Pine needles, sap and bark. Limes and cotton candy. Caramel sauce and vanilla bean. Toasted oak spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg. A hint of Old Spice cologne.

43% abv - Actual wood. A bit grassy, with dandelions. Bitter, burnt and gingery. Vanilla and green peppercorns.
Full Strength - It has a dense fudge/citrus/grass combo that reminds me of Irish pot still. Slight burnt and bitter note. Lemons and oregano.

43%abv - Green and pink peppercorns. Fresh ginger. Very bitter.
Full Strength - A better bitterness and very little sweetness. Thyme and oregano. Lemon and pepper.

This is a curious lively whisky at 52.5%abv. It is pretty bad at 43%.

It is indeed oak-driven with the citrus and herbal notes being the only spirit characteristics that escaped the Mozarks' clutches. The good news is that the oak notes are never boring and there's some depth to this fluid. But only at full strength. It falls apart so abruptly when diluted (even at about 48%abv), that the random-seeming bottling strength now seems less random.

It's a different animal than the original Astar, and with fewer thrills. But for a whisky that's 90% oak-driven, the 2017 Astar still impresses at times and makes for an entertaining addition to Glenmorangie's range. Pricing it higher than the far superior 18yo is also entertaining.

Availability - Many specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - $70-$100 (Europe, ex-VAT), $85-120 (US)
Rating - 83 (neat only, plummets 10-20 points once diluted)


  1. I still have a couple bottles left of the old release but I completely agree the 2017 is better neat. Even the nose was much more fragrant without adding water.

    1. Smart man for stocking up on the old stuff. I didn't.