...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenmorangie Lasanta

Let's talk about bagels for a moment.  I've noticed many folks like to load slabs of cream cheese onto their bagels, smothering the bagel entirely, essentially creating a cream cheese delivery system.  Do they really need the bagel?  Do they know what the bagel, hiding under the cream cheese, tastes like?

Sometimes we see those gas station bagels.  You know the ones that have been sitting the fridge section for two weeks.  They come pre-packaged with cream cheese.  They probably need a significant schmear because they are tasteless on their own.

But what about the fresh baked bagels hot out of the oven from the local bakery?  Do they really need a choking of white spread?  Did you try the bagel first?  What if the bagel itself was good?  Would you know?

Personally, I lust after peanut butter.  Whenever I'd get a tasteless bagel, a proper thud of PB set it right.  Again, a delivery system.

Of course, nowadays I eat a total of three bagels a year and only if I know they're delicious on their own.  And by "on their own", I mean with a conservative spread of butter while they're hot.  The salty addition seeps down and gets absorbed by the bread, merging erotically (yes erotically, it's butter) creating a single unit.  1 + 1 = 1.

Or if I want peanut butter, I skip the bagel and just eat peanut butter.

So.  Sherried malts.  I've been having a difficult time with some of them recently.  I often find the sherry character so strong and so separate from the whisky, that I appreciate the sherry part but can't find much of malt beneath.  Then I wonder if I'd be better off just buying a half case of mid-shelf Jerez instead of a single malt shivering beneath the fortified weight.

I'm not saying this true with all ex-Sherry European oak matured whisky.  Many old ones and a few young ones have reached a state where the oak, wine, and spirit have fused into a single unit.  From Longmorn-Glenlivet 1967-2003 (Scott's Selection) to Glenfarclas 105, these whiskies are lovely happy drammy experiences.  But, for me, they're becoming the exception rather than the rule.

While I tend to like refill-sherry cask whiskys due to the toned down effect, it's the "sherry finished" whiskys that seem so...I don't know...CREAM CHEESE and bagel.  Perhaps its the Glencairn glass?  I didn't notice it so much before, when I would drink from wide mouthed tumblers.

This brings me to Glenmorangie Lasanta.  In 2007, LVMH replaced the Glenmorangie Sherry Wood Finish bottling with Lasanta.  It was still 12 years old -- the 10 year with at least another two years finishing in oloroso casks -- but it came in that new sexy bottle and had a name that sounded Spanish (but is actually Gaelic for warmth and passion).  The price was also $10-15 higher.  I bought one.

I had enjoyed the old Sherry Wood Finish bottling quite a bit.  It taught the potential of whisky finishing to this drinker here who knew nothing except that he preferred his liquor straight.  I thought the Lasanta tasted different or maybe that was the bottle and price talking.

I never bought a second bottle.  By that time my whisky ship had become unmoored, sailing into all sorts of strange waters.  When I could afford it, I was grabbing new bottles of all sorts.  Knowing that a number of whisky buddies still keep bottles of Lasanta in their whisky stash, I made sure to add it to a future Taste Off.  And here it is.


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 ex-oloroso sherry casks
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered: No.
Colored: Possibly not.

Firstly, neat --
The color is dark gold, maybe a little bit of auburn in there.  If those weren't first fill casks, then at least they were re-seasoned thoroughly.  The nose leads with a sandy dusty sherry, a lot of it.  Then there's plaster, burnt wheat bread, Elmer's glue.  Underneath that is stewed apricots and warm plums.  Cardboard, raisins, and apples.  The palate is full of dry sherry.  Stewed raisins and prunes.  Dried apricots.  Cinnamon and sugar.  A little molasses and a tiny bit of cereal grains underneath.  But the sherry keeps getting stronger as whisky and oxygen entangle.  The finish is a softer lighter sherry, dry tannins, dried fruit.

The Glenmorangie malt is nowhere to be found in here.  Those two years in sherry casks have covered it.  The only hints of the spirit are the plaster, glue, molasses, and sugar notes (not necessarily the best notes).  It can be puckeringly dry on some sips.  And there are plenty of stone fruits to go around.  The sherry holds court.

Then, with water (approx. 32.25%ABV) --
The sherry has mellowed in the nose.  There's a hint of sulphur, but it's quiet.  Some of citrus peeps out from deep down.  The palate, sherry.  It's a little yeasty and papery now.  But there's a nice sweet milk chocolate note in there too.  The finish is surprisingly strong.  It's all tannic musky cream sherry, but it still lasts a good long time.

That distant hint of citrus in the nose reveals Lasanta's spiritual roots, and maybe even that milk chocolate moment.

Otherwise, is this one unit?  If so, is that unit Sherry?  Should the excellent spirit be so silent?  I'm split on this one.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as I used to.  I never detected so much sherry before.  And I do mean Sherry, more than European oak.

Overall, it doesn't match up to Glenfarclas, Macallan, or Glendronach's sherried malts; though those are matured entirely in the European oak, rather than "finished" like Lasanta.  Perhaps more time provides a better opportunity for malt, oak, and wine to work it out together.  I'm not giving up on sherried malts, in fact I'm going to dig further.

I've seen bottles of the ol' Sherry Wood Finish from time to time in corner liquor marts.  If I find one at a reasonable price, I may get it.  Partially for old times' sake, partially to compare and contrast, partially to find out what's going on with my Sherry Detector's sensitivity.

If this doesn't make sense yet, perhaps the next Glenmorangie review will help clarify.  At least it will have fewer crappy metaphors.  Maybe.

Availability - Most liquor stores
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 77


  1. Hmm, I am now looking forward to trying out my sample of the Lasanta. It will have to wait, as we're about to embark upon the Nativity fast, and we agreed to add alcohol to the fasting items (WHAT WAS I THINKING?!). Well, I suppose the enjoyment will be twice as sweet due to the wait. Or so I hope.

    I think we're pretty similar in our enjoyment level of sherry-aged whisky. I've not had the Glenfarclas 105, but I still daydream of the Longmorn-Glenlivet '67...*drools*...sorry! M's grandparents have been known to give out very generous Christmas gifts, and I'm thinking of putting it on this year's list. By the way, how do you like the Aberlour A'bunadh?

    1. Josh, if you want a comparison of the big Speyside-sherry bombs, I wrote one up earlier this year:


    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Jordan, that was an excellent write-up! Of the three, I've only had the Aberlour. The Macallan CS appears to be no longer available in my area. The 105 sounds incredible, but a local price-tag of $86 is probably going to keep me from buying a bottle, especially when A'bunadh is only $56. However, if I ever see it at a bar, I will definitely be ordering a dram.

      Michael, I realized all those "we"s in my original comment could be confusing. First paragraph references M and I, whereas the second paragraph references you and I. :)

    4. "This comment has been removed by the author." That sounds drastic. I just couldn't find an edit button!

    5. Josh, if you live in a state where you can get booze shipped to you, Glenfarclas 105 is much, much cheaper when ordered from the UK (especially if you can justify an order of 4-6 bottles to keep the per unit shipping costs down).

    6. @JLR - Best wishes on your fast! When it's all done you'll appreciate whisky even more! I apologize ahead of time if I forget and invite you out to whisky things during the fast.

      That Longmorn was dreamy. HT appears to be out of it, but there's a bottle or two at Mega Liquor Warehouse in Hemet. :-/

      I have a sample of A'bunadh here that I have yet to try. I'll defer to Jordan's great write up on the sherry monsters. I do like the Glenfarclas quite a bit more than the Macallan. BTW, if you're looking for the Mac CS I know a couple local-ish places that have it at reasonable prices. Let me know...

      I also concur with Jordan about ordering GF105 via UK. I may be doing so in the new year, I'll let you know when in case you're still interested.

    7. Thanks for the best wishes! No worries if you forget - better to not be forgotten. :)

      Please do let me know if you'll be placing an order to the UK. Pooling resources is always a good idea.

    8. Will do, though it might not be until after the holidays. Someone's made one too many international purchases of late.

  2. I'll need to try this one again before I can really make up my mind (might have to set aside an afternoon or two this weekend for that), but I'm starting to learn towards preferring whiskies that are a blend of bourbon-cask and sherry-cask whiskies, rather than finishes. The bourbon cask elements seem to get overwritten by cask finishes, but blending the two together gives you the best of both worlds.

    1. Jordan, do you have an example of a whisky that is a blend of the two casks?

    2. Josh, Aberlour Double Cask (either the old 43% version or the new 46% version), Balvenie Founder's Reserve (which I liked a lot more than cask-finished Doublewood) or Signature, a lot of Springbank's whiskies, Glenfiddich Distillery Edition... there are probably others, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

    3. I was going to write about this during that week of blends (then discovered that it was its own subject). but I've discovered that most of my favorite whiskies are well-orchestrated blends of casks: Corryvreckan, Uigeadail, Mac 17 Fine Oak, Redbreast 12, Yamazaki 18, Longrow CV, etc. Even that Glengoyne 17 is a mix of sherry & bourbon casks.

      But it's clearly an art form because I've had a few that were just odd: Auchie Three Wood for example.

    4. If you can't find an old bottle of Balvenie Founder's Reserve, get the Balvenie Signature. The Balvenie, um, signature is still notable even with the ex-sherry matured component.

      Now I see why Doublewood is only finished for a few months. The two years in Lasanta pretty much killed the Original's notes.

    5. Eric, I'd definitely like to try Balvenie Signature, but the price is just too high for me to be willing to pull the trigger. I guess they don't want it to compete with Doublewood, but it's basically the same price as Caribbean Cask, which just seems silly.

    6. I agree with both of you guys. The Signature is pretty good, but the price is just goofy. I understand that it's a "small batch", but it's a William Grant & Sons "Small Batch", so how small can that be? Now, if they were to release it at cask strength......

  3. Michael, that's a wonderful review, and I really liked the bagel and cream cheese intro, how appropriate!
    I totally concur with you on your main points, that a) sherriy cask whisky that's all sherry and no whisky gets tiring quickly; b) in Lasanta the sherry finish overwhelms the spirit; and c) the best sherry cask whiskies can be really good, but the good ones are far and in-between, with Glenfarclas 105 being maybe the most prominent example.

    Coming back to Lasanta, here's another metaphor for you. Get a cappuccino at your favorite Starbucks, and chances are it's very good. But have you tried one of their seasonal pumpkin caramel moccas, or toffee sea salt latte, or what have you? They are all the same: a complete assault on your mouth, cloyingly sweet, with all sorts of intense, unnatural flavors leading to gustatory overload and leaving you numb, spent, and begging for water.

    Well, Lasanta and the other finished Glenmos are not bad, but they are certainly very sweet, and feel manipulated and not well integrated, as you point out. I might as well take my regular whisky and add maple syrup and port wine.

    My guess is that Glenmorangie designed these finished whiskies to taste elegant and luxurious, and that they are mainly for non-whisky or non-single malt drinkers. They are, paradoxically, Glenmorangie's answer to Johnnie Walker, single malts trying to pass for a luxury blends. Unfortunately, they fall short of the amazing elegance of JW Gold, and of the substance and balance of JW Green. Just like Diageo doesn't care about the single malt drinker, Glenmorangie doesn't either!

    This being said, I like Lasanta better than Quinta Ruban and Nectar d'Or, it's closer to what whisky is expected to taste like. But on any day I'd rather just have the Original!

    1. Hey Florin! I concur. When I used to go Coffee Bean back in college, I'd get the sugary chocolatey Ice Blendeds...because I wasn't a coffee drinker. Thus, a coffee product for non-coffee drinkers.

      I do have a whisky buddy who likes Lasanta quite a bit and I'm waiting for him to give me what-for for this writeup. I'd love to hear his take on it.

      I guess their Extra Matured malts taste rich, but so does Yamazaki 18 and THAT is elegant stuff. And twice or thrice the price. So taking into account the luxury-style marketing, perhaps they're selling the finished GlenMos as luxury for a low(er) price.

      While I can't help but be gustatorily intrigued with a lot of their "Private Edition" stuff, especially the Finealta and Artein, I'm pretty sure LVMH doesn't give a hoot about single malt drinkers as long as their products are selling. Ultimately, when the whisky bubble bursts, of their entire range, the The Original will be the last one standing. And then LVMH will sell the distillery once they can't sell the luxury.

      P.S. It's good to see someone else who digs JW Gold. I love that whisky.

  4. Since I mentioned it in another post, K&L recently put out a 10 year old North Highland Single Malt under their in-house Faultline label. Based on the hints I came to the conclusion the whisky came from Glenmorangie and I was proven right when I picked up my bottle. What's unusual is that this Glenmo was aged entirely in a refill sherry butt hence the darker color (no added color). Can't wait to open this later for a taste.

    1. Well done, Eric! Enjoy! I may pick up one of those too.

    2. Well, this doesn't taste like Glenmorangie at all. I think the sherry again covers up the gentler Glenmorangie characteristics but it's very pleasant drinking. I'll say it's better than the Lasanta I tasted before which had a bit of a rough finish. At 50%, I was surprised that it doesn't really need water (it's already quite drinkable) but a couple spoonfuls of water brings out a nice sherry sweetness. However if I were given this blind I don't think I'd ever guess it was Glenmorangie.

    3. Sounds like it would beat Lasanta handily. That's why I love these indie bottlers. They really help expand the shades and levels and potential of whisky.