Friday, August 15, 2014

Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Sonalta PX

Sonalta PX was the first release in the 'Private Editions' line of whiskies from Glenmorangie. As the name suggests, it was made from 10 year old ex-bourbon cask whisky finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for two years, as with the rest of their standard cask finishes. As with most of the whiskies in this line, it was bottled at 46% without chill filtration or coloring.

This is another one that I got to try at the Highland Stillhouse.

Glenmorangie Sonalta PX

Nose: mushrooms, PX sherry undertones (brighter with time), dank, savory. After adding a few drops of water, there is more sherry presence and some cooked raisins.

Taste: mixed malt and subtle sherry sweetness, fades into very mild oak and some dankness. After dilution, the sherry/malt combo is more vibrant and shifts towards bittersweet, there is more oak at the back, the fruit notes are brighter, some grain whisky, raisin, and cocoa powder notes emerge.

Finish: mild sherry and malt

While my notes sound kind of simple, I enjoyed this more than any of the others I reviewed this week. Despite PX sherry generally being one of the more robustly flavored varieties, it's surprisingly subtle in this context. The fact that I mostly get dank savory character rather than overwhelming sweetness is really fun.

I really wish I could spend more time with this one, as I feel like there's a lot of character that I wasn't able to get at from one short drink, but unfortunately this one was snapped up long ago. It's a shame that most of Glenmorangie's subsequent cask finishes have dominated the spirit rather than working with it - this more delicate approach is a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Artein

Artein was the third limited release in Glenmorangie's 'Private Edition' line, announced at the beginning of 2012.

The whisky is composed of two thirds 15 year old and one third 21 year old ex-bourbon casks that were then finished in Sassicaia "Super Tuscan" Bordeaux-style red wine casks. After marrying it together, the whisky was proofed down to 46% and bottled without chill filtration or coloring.

I had a pour of this whisky at the Highland Stillhouse.

Glenmorangie Artein

Nose: lots of wine/berry esters, underlying malt, a pleasant whiff of sulphur, raspberry jam, oak is buried in the other notes, creamy vanilla, milk chocolate undertones - but elements are not well integrated overall. After adding a few drops of water, the malt and wine integrate more - but the result is kind of thin, creamier, more milk chocolate, more sherry-like wine, more toasted oak.

Taste: rather malty throughout, sour wine note ride on top, mixed with sharp but not particularly intense oak (tastes like the ex-bourbon casks were kind of tired), vanilla extract. After dilution, it becomes more integrated but still lacks a well-defined structure.

Finish: wine, malt, oak, a little heat, lemon pith

This is a really interesting contrast with Glenmorangie Companta - Artein feels like the first unsuccessful try. The red wine is present, but hasn't properly integrated with the malt whisky. Additionally, while the whisky here is older, it tastes like it came from more tired casks - there aren't enough oak tannins to give it structure. Overall I'd give this one a miss - if you like red wine finishes, Companta is the superior product.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Companta

This whisky is the latest (2014) release in Glenmorangie's series of limited edition whiskies that has included Astar, Finealta, Sonalta PX, Artein, and Ealanta. I'll be covering three of them this week in reverse chronological order of release date.

Companta is composed of two different sets of whisky finished in two different types of Côtes du Rhône Burgundy wine casks. See Josh's review at The Coopered Tot for all the details. The whisky is finally married together, proofed down to 46%, and bottled without chill filtration or coloring.

Thanks to MAO for this sample.

Glenmorangie Companta

Nose: red wine and toasted oak dominate, vanilla, raisin fudge, dried cherries, warm malt buried underneath, sandalwood incense, bubblegum/nougat, barrel char/wood smoke. After adding a few drops of water, the red wine and oak integrate and dominate to an even greater extent, the raisin notes become stronger and more dank, and some tropical fruit pops out.

Taste: sweet malt and wood sugars up front, sweeter wine, rose, and whipped cream/nougat notes in the middle, transitioning into thick oak tannins, tart raspberries, and red wine. After dilution, the flavors are flatter and less bright, while the malt, red wine, and oak fully integrate and provide a consistent set of flavors across the palate, but with more malt creaminess.

Finish: malt reasserts itself, overlaid with red wine and less aggressive oak, plus some sea salt

I can see where Bill Lumsden was trying to go with this and it is a well-constructed whisky. I found that the nose was significantly better than the palate, which felt simple by comparison. It also could have been tipped a little bit more towards letting the malt shine, but clearly that's not how he likes to put these things together. Ultimately, if you've enjoyed other Glenmorangie wine finishes, odds are that you'll enjoy this one. It's well-matured and the flavors are pleasant - they're just not my cup of tea. Either way, I'd say this is at least worth trying a pour if you can find it at a local bar, as an exercise in understanding red wine cask-finished whiskies.

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Cocktails: the Devereaux

After seeing this recipe, I knew I had to make it (albeit with a couple of tweaks).

The Devereaux
1 oz bourbon
0.5 oz St. Germain
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz simple syrup

Build over ice, then top with ~3 oz of sparkling wine. Garnish with a mint leaf.

The nose is dominated by the bourbon's oak, with some St. Germain peeking around it. The sip begins with lemony sweetness, which fades through waves of sparkling wine, woody bourbon, and elderflower/lychee. The finish is bittersweet, with the tang of dry wine and lemon. As the ice melts, the bourbon becomes more prominent.

This is an interesting drink, because the flavors layer instead of integrating with each other. Everything remains distinct, while still meshing well.

While the original recipe called for Bulleit bourbon, I felt like this needed some more punch and used Old Grand Dad 114 instead. I also wanted to make sure that the base flavors of the drink didn't get too watered down and skipped shaking with ice before adding the sparkling wine. On a warm day, the ice in the glass will chill and dilute the drink pretty quickly, so it doesn't need more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Whisky Review: Signatory Glenlivet 1995/15 Year

This one comes from Signatory's Un-Chill Filtered collection, which, as the name suggests, isn't chill filtered and is thus bottled at a respectable 46%. It comes from a single sherry butt, which I'm guessing was a refill rather than a first-fill cask.

Thanks to MAO for the sample.

Signatory Glenlivet 1995/15 Year Cask #144357

Nose: mild sherry (grows with time) layered over a solid malt core, raisins, 'Livet apple notes, floral/vegetal edge, bubblegum, caramel, cinnamon brown sugar, sweet chocolate, mild oak. After adding a few drops of water, the sherry takes over and becomes more dank, some honey rides on top of the oak, and oily notes emerge,

Taste: overlay of sherry on top of sweet malt that fades into bittersweet oak with a vegetal edge, apple skins, hints of lemon/lime, some vanilla and baking chocolate from the middle to back. After dilution, the palate becomes sweeter and more integrated, with the oak bolstering the other flavors, which actually makes it more pleasant as the flavors clash less,

Finish: creamy malt, then deeper and darker oak tannins with sherry/raisin residue

The best I can say for this one is that it's not bad. There are no obvious flaws, but it's not particularly exciting either. There is improvement after adding some water, but it's not quite enough to rescue it from the doldrums. With that said, it's definitely better than the other OB Glenlivets I've had, so there's that. So it's pleasant, but not something I would go out of my way to find. If you see a bottle for under, say, $60, it's worth grabbing as an easy-drinking malt.