You can’t just make great whisky because you’re Scottish. By all means you can drink it, but it certainly takes more than a kilt and a bushy beard to claim the title of master distiller. There needs to be some sort of anchor, a ground where roots run deep of sorts. Picture a bunch of swarthy painted folk – rebellious in their ways – getting knee deep in barley as far back as 1500 years ago. This spirited horde, also known as the picts, can be thanked for northern Scotland’s devotion to tending the precious crop used to make malt for whisky.
Jump ahead a few centuries and you have an intrepid Scotsman by the name of William Matheson. A young man that would build a whisky distillery that defied practice, a Scotsman that would begin Glenmorangie’s ongoing unity of ancestry and innovation. And ultimately, the pioneer that would set the course of one of the most famous malt scotch whiskies in the world.
Before this, William was just a man with a vision and a bit of whisky know how, but as they say, caution to the man that trifles with another man’s dream. He began by buying Morangie farm in 1843 and converting it to a distillery, gifting it the name Glenmorangie meaning ‘Glen of tranquility’. From there he disregarded traditional onion-shaped whisky stills for tall ex-gin stills, whose height can be equated to a fully-grown male giraffe. These towering long necks meant that only the purest and lightest spirit reached the condenser and was collected for maturation. And, so began Glenmorangie’s celebrated history of originality and class.
After giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to one of the Maitland brothers, William passed over the confines of his dream. Taking the reigns, the brothers began to rebuild the distillery, the effort of their work still remains today. Throughout the years a small elite group of local craftsmen known as the ‘sixteen men of tain’ have formed the backbone of the distillery. These men have served as unofficial guardians of the malt, who still, to this day, use the time-honoured, traditional skills passed down from generation to generation.
By the 1900s, Glenmorangie was a welcome mouthful to new customers across the globe, including the brown palace hotel in Denver, the savoy hotel in London and also setting sail with Britain’s royal navy ships. It comes as no surprise that it now plays on the world stage of luxury spirits. The MacDonald family saw the fruition of this vibrant brand and in 1918 found themselves with the keys to the distillery, and Glenmorangie embarked on a new age, once again finding itself at the forefront for innovation in whisky development. Whisky production was revolutionized in Scotland when Glenmorangie began using American oak ex-bourbon barrels instead of the traditional Spanish oak ex-sherry casks in 1940. Consumers were suddenly hungry with demand pushing the distillery to move from two to four stills in 1977 and then again to eight stills in 1990.
Since then, Glenmorangie has continued to surprise and elate consumers around the world. The brand is responsible for launching the world’s first single malt whisky brand website in 1995, along with the world’s first single malt whisky television advertising campaign. And, their worldwide pursuits seemed unrelenting when in 1997 Dr Bill Lumsden (head of distilling and whisky creation) hosted the world’s first on-line tasting session via their website. Glenmorangie is now showcased as the whisky maison within the portfolio of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.The beautiful Bridget Bardot once shipped 36 cases of Glenmorangie to both her Swiss abode and her French chateau. A happening that seems the ultimate blend, when beauty and great taste come together, a testament to the brand’s dedication and unerring quest for perfection. This came in 1967, a time of post-modern change where people showed little loyalty to ancestry and strongly rewarded the uncertain. Once again, Glenmorangie triumphs against the ordinary.
While other distilleries have given in to automation, Matheson and the owners that followed have stayed committed to the influence of the human spirit in crafting and perfecting this delicious malt.
Glenmorangie relies on a mere three ingredients, natural and pure at their source that all originate from Scotland, Tarlogie spring water, Scottish barley and yeast. Mineral rich Tarlogie spring water from the distillery’s own unique source gives the whisky its exceptionally smooth texture. The water emerges in the Tarlogie springs after spending 100 years slowly filtering to the surface through limestone and sandstone strata, collecting minerals along its way. Only Scottish barley is used for their whisky, the house priding itself on using only local ingredients, reflecting its connection to the rich, fertile land that surrounds. With these essentials, the whisky brand takes one of the smallest spirit ‘cuts’ in the industry, keeping the best of the best for maturation. Resulting in a beautifully delicate and deliciously complex new make spirit.
At the living, beating heart of the distillery lays the still house. Here you will be consumed by the majesty of the eight swan like stills towering over 16 feet above you. Beautiful and elegant, they are the tallest in Scotland and the place where simple raw ingredients are transformed into a spirit of rare finesse and subtlety. From distillation to maturation, Glenmorangie only use their casks twice, ensuring that the best characters are taken from the casks before disposing of them. Only first and second fill casks are used to create Glenmorangie original. The first cask adds, amongst other flavours, layers of vanilla and coconut and the second cask adds dominant sensuous floral notes of geranium and rose.
It’s easy to see that those at Glenmorangie are a particular bunch. The years of research into the effects of maturation alone surpass the age of both your great grandparents put together. After a full ten years in white American oak ex-bourbon casks, Glenmorangie whisky is transferred into casks that previously held other wines or fortified wines. This is but a mere window into the long and pure practice of producing Glenmorangie.
A Pale lemony gold, The Original has a perfume of mandarin, lemon, apple, pear and peach trees, creamy vanilla, and geranium and wild mint. Flavours of creamy vanilla slips like liquid silk over the tongue as peaches and cream, mandarins and lemons effervesce in the mouth.
Aromatic essences of fennel and nutmeg gives way to a nectar that envelops all the fruit, spice and nut flavours in a honeyed caress. The charming sweetness of delicious juices is left on the tongue. ABV is 40%.
First aromas are of a tangy tarte au citron with its crisp pastry case and smooth lemony cream topping. Then onto a light milky vanilla perfume amongst plump juicy sultanas, dates, warming ginger, coconut and nutmeg. Non chill-filtered and with an ABV of 46%, its key flavour notes are lemony, sumptuous and syrupy.
Languid and sweet notes of lemon zest, vanilla cream and delicate hints of ginger and nutmeg are left on the tongue.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban is a velvety-textured single malt whisky, for confident, colourful, dynamic luxury spirit drinkers who like to take the lead. On the nose Quinta Roban offers peeled mandarin and chocolate mint. Then comes toasted nutmeg with the warm scent of sandalwood. Silky on the tongue, this whisky gives way to rich, dark chocolate-enrobed walnuts leaving in their wake the lemony-rose jelly texture of Turkish delight. From this sweet orange flavours emerge. Non chill-filtered and with an ABV of 46%.