Friday, November 22, 2013

Experimental Whisky: Blending Glenmorangie

After retasting Glemorangie's line of cask finished whiskies earlier this year, I had a bit left over in each bottle. Since my feeling was that many of the finishes had overwhelmed the malt, I wondered if blending them together with Glenmorangie Original, which is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks, would provide some more balance. So I made a few test blends up, let them sit in my liquor cabinet for a month or two, then tried them.

1:1 Glenmorangie Original/Nectar d'Or

Nose: beautiful interplay of floral/malt/honey, integrated wine, burnt sugar/maple syrup undertones, light vanilla. After adding a few drops of water, it became richer and more integrated, with more wood and honey.

Taste: the flavors of each whisky have layered rather than blending together - bittersweet wine over malt fades into American and French oak tannins, slightly abrasive at the back, French oak spices throughout, giving way to American at the back. After dilution, the tannins back off, it becomes maltier and more integrated, floral and tropical fruit notes come out with pepper emerging at the back, more wine and vanilla towards the finish.

Finish: American oak, rather tannic, lightly malty, hints of wine

Nectar d'Or is already my favorite of the Glenmorangie cask finishes, as the sauternes seems to be more in balance with the malt than the sherry or port finishes. This blend brings more of the Original characteristics - malt, honey, floral notes, and American oak - into the mix. I'd really enjoy trying this same blend with Astar instead of Original, to pump it up even more.

1:1 Glenmorangie Original/Lasanta

Nose: tempered sherry blended with sweet malt, subtle vanilla and raisins, brown sugar, hints of honey. After adding a few drops of water, the sherry becomes more integrated and lighter, with more malt-focus, and it's a lot sweeter.

Taste: balance it tilted towards malt over sherry, but it's a bit thin, there's some green fruit and raisins, without a lot of tannins. Dilution didn't produce any significant change.

Finish: bitter sherry and oak tannins

While the blend did help to dial back the sherry, there's something about the casks Glenmorangie picks that fundamentally don't agree with me. The sherry just seems kind of off in comparison to other whiskies I've tried. Lasanta seems like a loss.

1:1 Glenmorange Nectar d'Or/Lasanta

Nose: sherry and sauternes wrap around each other, berries and tropical fruits (mango), French oak, vanilla, floral. After adding a few drops of water, there is more balance/integration with a shift towards the sauternes, more floral and malt notes, plus a bit of orange peel.

Taste: sherry dominates the sauternes, American and French oak dance around the sherry, underlying malt and sauternes sweetness throughout while remaining off-dry overall, lots of creamy vanilla. After dilution, it becomes sweeter, the balance shifts towards the sauternes up front, jammy sherry returns near the middle, oak is even less prominent, cacao comes in early, thinner but retaining a respectable body, peppery at the back.

Finish: creamy malt and vanilla, a touch of tannic oak and cacao

This was what I made with the very last of those whiskies, just on a whim. It was the unexpected winner, with the two cask finishes perfectly complimenting each other. This makes me wish that Glenmorangie would decide to make a vatting of whiskies matured in bourbon, sherry, and sauternes casks - I have a feeling it'd be excellent. I highly recommend trying this blend if you have these two whiskies at home.

Overall I'd call this a successful experiment. It's always fun to get surprising results.

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