...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie 10 year old "The Original"

The Glenmorangie Taste Off starts at the beginning.  The Original.  The 10 year.

The 10 year old was likely the first, or one of the first, single malts that Glenmorangie released.  Charlie McLean mentions in his Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History and Whiskypedia books that Glenmorangie had very small single malt releases in the late 1970s and didn't even advertise them until 1981.  One of the Malt Maniacs has rated a cream-labeled bottle from some time near 1975, while several other MMs have sampled a bottle from 1982.  Both of these bottles were 10-years.  So perhaps, a 10-year release was "the original" bottling.

The packaging itself has changed, going from a classic flat-sided vessel and rustic inscription to a unique curvy bottle with a more expensive-looking modern label.


That's Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy at work.  In theory the whisky stays the same but everything else  changes around it.  And that's a damn sexy bottle.

But I really like the old two-color plain-printed label in a regular ol' booze container.  But I'm old timey like that.

Did the whisky change?  A lot of the great whisky writers have said so.  Until I get my hands on the old stuff, all I can go is by memory of the less-old whisky.  Some time around 2005-2006, during the final days before the aesthetic makeover, I polished off a bottle of the 10-year.  Next to its fancy-finished cousins, it struck me as a bit plain, something I wouldn't mind splashing onto ice during a hot summer but that was about it.  So I didn't go back for a second bottle.

Since some theories say that our bodies go through a full cellular regeneration every seven years or so, then, yes, I have changed.  And even if that theory is crap, my experiences have changed my thought process, values, and tastes during that time.  So let's drink it again.


Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy (accents and umlauts not included)
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: first- and second-fill ex-Bourbon American oak casks
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

First, neatly --
Color-wise, it's where pale amber meets chardonnay.  My crummy phone pic to the left, almost does it justice.  The nose starts with cocoa for a split second then opens up into orange zest and tangerine oil.  Lots of it!  Then angel food cake and a touch of pine.  It grows more pungent with time.  The palate holds schooners full of vanilla.  Sweet lemon, tiramisu custard, golden raisins rolled in brown sugar.  It finishes with vanilla, vanilla, vanilla.  Then some pear juice, white frosting, and granulated sugar.

Yum.  That worked.

Then, with water (approx. 32.25% ABV) --
The nose shrinks a bit.  It's all Sunkist orange soda and vanilla extract.  The palate gets a little bready, a little vegetal.  But it's mostly malty and toffee sweet.  It finishes with a watered-down rum note, some nondescript citrus, and quite a bit of the toffee.

It mostly held together with the water, but the neat serving was where it's at.  I was genuinely shocked by how enjoyable it was.  It's a full step more enjoyable and noteworthy than most other beginner malts.

It's very light, so it would make for excellent spring and summer drinkin', even when neat.  I recently read that it can even be added to champagne to make a cocktail.  How one enjoys one's whisky is up to him or her, but, personally, if I mix anything with champagne, I end up pissing my pants and molesting the freezer before the night is over.  Or so I've been told.

So what I'm saying is, I found Glenmorangie 10yr to be a good value and an excellent Highland starter whisky.

 - Most liquor stores
Pricing - $27-$38
Rating - 87


  1. I would agree completely. Glenmorangie Original is always the first thing I suggest when people want to get into scotch whisky. It's no more expensive than the competition, but absolutely blows them away in terms of flavor density and overall quality.

    How do you feel Original compares to Astar, as the latter is supposed to be "Original on steroids"?

    1. Re: The Original - I agree. I'd actually had The Original in a bar recently and realized that it was time to give it full consideration.

      Re: Astar - I may be getting back to you on that soon.

    2. I recently saw a great suggestion of pouring Glenmorangie 10 into a nice decanter for parties. Then you simply offer it to friends who like whisky on ice, casual whisky drinkers, or are beginner whisky enthusiasts. Sure it might make you look a bit snobby but I think decanters are a great way to present a table or house whisk(e)y for entertaining or casual drinking.

    3. We always enjoy window shopping for decanters. Great opportunity for adding beautiful and functional decor the dining room. Yeah, I wouldn't add anything too super to a decanter, but if you're planning on knocking out a bottle during a party then a decanter is really cool. Though the GlenMo bottles are so curvy already.

  2. I hadn't had the Original in many many years, since the time of the label with the barrels on it and with the sixteen men of Tain. My opinion of the LVMH-driven Glenmo was quite low, triggered by a bad bottle of one of their finished whiskies, and entrenched by their outrageous, over top, intelligence-insulting, self-aggrandizing brand promotion - read the drivel on any of their cardboard boxes and you know what I'm talking about. All this until I tasted some Original, on a beautiful early Summer day, and in good company: I was stunned at how good it was! Floral, fresh, delicate, with all the good notes of orange zest and vanilla that you mentioned, carried on as if on the wings of a zephyr. It was the perfect whisky for the perfect occasion!

    As for their finished whiskies, well, there are still days left in this week. Send me a note if you are interested in a sample of Nectar d'Or, I didn't see it on your photo. As always, thanks for the reviews!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Florin!

      Yeah, LVMH really lays the pitch on thick with Glenmorangie. They really don't have to, at least with The Original. That one really is good for the Summer, isn't it?

      I actually did two posts on the Nectar d'Or last November (has it really been a year?!), one by itself and one in a Sauternes Taste Off. Thanks for the offer, though! I'm always down for a sample swap, though, whenever you're interested I'm at divingforpearlsblog at gmail.com. Cheers!

  3. In his video on whisky fakes, Ralfy mentioned Ardbeg wasn't doing a good job on corks and foils but I was a bit surprised to discover this also applies to Glenmorangie. My bottle of the Original had a cork that was a tiny bit smaller than the bottle opening (maybe a millimeter short in diameter) so it came out very loosely when I opened the bottle. The whisky was totally fine but I ended up recapping the bottle with an extra Balvenie cork that fit the bottle a lot better.

    1. I gotta go back and watch that episode. Unfortunate that a distillery which works hard at cranking out a distinctive range of products does a poor job at sealing and protecting them. I wonder how someone who gets his hands on an early '70s Ardbeg feels when he opens it up to find a low neck level or the cork falls apart.

    2. After picking up a new bottle of Original to compare to Astar, I quickly noticed the cork was tighter (Astar also has a better cork too). It is very easy to see the similarities between the two but I'll say I find Astar to be a tad bit sweeter (more vanilla from the wood?). When I watered down Astar I found the flavors to be nearly identical to Original.

      My third open bottle of Glenmorangie is the K&L Faultline Single Highland Malt which I've decided to use for a few blending ideas. Maybe I can make a better Lasanta.

    3. I'm always down for tales of blending wins and fails. If one of us can beat the pros at their game, that would be awesome. But I also appreciate epic fails.

  4. This is interesting. I've found several sources online that state Glenmorangie peats their malted barley to 2 ppm. Since I've never caught a single hint of peat, I'll say that amount is simply too small to detect.

    1. Ah ha, I finally found a source. Here's this in-depth study on the Ardbeg and Glenmorangie processes: http://www.uisgebeatha.org/ardbegglenmorangiecontrasts.html

      That was written back with the Ardbeg 17yr was a regular part of their range. *sigh*

      I agree, I haven't caught any peat either. Even the Finealta, which was said to be lightly peated, was supposedly VERY lightly peated.

    2. I've just about reached the midpoint on my bottle of Finealta and I have to say I really like this whisky (might even look for a second bottle). It seems like Glenmorangie was attempting to copy Highland Park's flavor profile and coming out with a fusion of the two distilleries.

    3. Nice, I've heard lots of good stuff about that one. Looks like a few stores are still carrying it up North.