Welcome again to the pub for another exploration of Scotch. This week, we’re taking a look at some expressions from Glenmorangie. As an added bonus, we have a guest this time sharing the tasting duties, my very good friend Ruffstuff. This, of course, means a bit longer post, so strap in and enjoy!
It struck me that I have developed a nuanced tongue with regards to Scotch, and that I really like the stuff. I can pretty authoritatively speak to what I sense in the nose and the taste of an expression. But, I thought, what about those who don’t really know Scotch…or worse, those who don’t really like it? How would someone who doesn't like Scotch experience it?
Well, enter Ruffstuff, and he didn’t disappoint. His tastes run more to root beer schnapps, rum, and cruise drinks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'll drink that stuff 'til the drunk frat boys come home. But enough of that...let's talk Scotch!
Glenmorangie is a Highland style scotch; the distillery is based in Tain, Scotland. As I understand it, they’ve been producing scotch as an official distillery since 1843, though production unofficially started almost a century earlier when the place was just a farm. For those about to play the whisky edition of Trivial Pursuit, they also boast the tallest stills in all of Scotland.
The Original is a great taste, though I don’t have a bottle at current. It’s a 10 year old expression, aged in white oak. I recall it as having a fruity, sweet taste, with a hint of vanilla and peach in the nose. It’s a lightly colored scotch, and is not heavily peated at all. It is, however, more complex than trigonometry. It is the baseline for these next three expressions, aged with different techniques that breed new personalities.
Four very good things
The first of the Extra Matured expressions we tasted was the Nectar D’or. Aged an extra 2 years in Sauternes (sweet white wine) casks from France, the Nectar has a lovely sweet nose which I find adds a hint of rose to the fruitiness, while most tasters speak of a touch of lime and citrus. The wine casks infuse their personality into the malt like a good parent does a child...subtly, not overbearing at all. For me, the taste is very light on the peat, very savory, and very sweet. Tasters concur, citing honeycomb and lemon. Let’s ask Ruffstuff, eh?
“Oh…this is gonna be bad man. The nose? Sweet rubbing alchohol. Good Christ, it smells stronger than 46%. Seriously, do you have some rubbing alcohol? Because we’re gonna do a side by side with this shit.”
And then he tasted it.
“Wow. GAAAAAH. Oooooh. I don’t know if I’d call that a flavor, per se. I’d say it’s most like…gasoline. You sure you got the right bottle out?”
I begin to sense that Ruffstuff is not going to be swayed to the Scotch side of the Force.
The second expression we moved on to was the Quinta Ruban, which is aged its two years in ruby port pipes. Coming off the Nectar, I thought the nose a bit more buttery, perhaps even chocolate-ish. The taste is a magnificent blend of the scotch and the port, and you can truly taste the port in the finish. It is more robust and sharp than the Nectar, but that is no detriment, making this a dessert scotch like no other.
“Is this different? It smells the same…maybe less sugar in the rubbing alcohol. Wait…where the fuck do you get buttery? Were these aged in casks of butter?”
“Oh God…it’s the exact same. Maybe a hint of buttery ass, but exactly the same horrid as the other one. Kroger brand vs Wal Mart brand rubbing alcohol. I mean, this is what they use to disinfect wounds, right? How do you pick up on nuance through this rubbing alcohol, man?”
The third expression in the extra-matured range is the LaSanta, which spends its final two years in sherry casks. I found this to have a bit of cherry in the nose, though more refined tasters choose raisin as the fruit they detect. The taste is very smooth, the sherry shining through the malt like sunlight through stained glass: changed by the experience, but still quite bright. Of the three, this is the one in which I tasted the most of the original oak, but I found it transformed by the spices it contained.
“It…it smells exactly the same! It’s Meijer brand rubbing alcohol, you tricked me. Good job. Nice late April Fool’s joke.”
As for his taste buds…
“EXACTLY the fucking same, I’m telling you. The sheer overwhelming taste of turpentine is fucking making my eyes water a little bit. I must be some sort of Philistine, I tell you. How do you drink this stuff?”
Well, I can certainly understand where he’s coming from. I’ve tried many bourbons, but I still find that their best use for me is in BBQ sauce. Can’t stand them. I decided to try a little experiment, though, so I gave Ruffstuff a bonus taste. Remember Scapa? Knowing my friend has a sweet tooth to rival a five year old with blood sugar issues, I poured him a bit of something sweet.
“If this tastes exactly the fucking same, I know it’s a prank.”
He took a sniff.
“I’m gonna go with 70% rubbing alcohol.”
“Well, this is only 40% vs the 46 of the Glenmorangie”, I said.
“YES!!! I can tell it’s less rubbing alcohol!” This statement was accompanied by an arms-up gesture most used in signifying a successful field goal.
I asked if he could taste the difference, maybe the heather honey.
“I do taste a difference…trying to place it…almost metallic, like somebody melted a nickel and poured rubbing alcohol on it.”
I told him that maybe that was the salt air of the Islay nature.
“That’s it! That’s why this tastes like currency!”
As you can see, it’s not for everybody. I poured him a shot of root beer schnapps, and he thanked me profusely. Perhaps you'll find a Scotch you like, perhaps you'll discover you'd rather lick a bicycle seat after the Tour de France, but either way: drink what you love.
Glenmorangie...remember it, and Slainte!