In my office at work I have a selection of bottles open for ‘official research purposes’. Some of the most interesting’ research’ I conduct, usually with visiting dignitaries and fellow whisky academics, is the comparison between two particular bottles. These bottles are both Glenmorangie 10yo, the difference being one was bottled last year and one was bottled in the late 1970s. Above all other distilleries I think Glenmorangie’s current house style best represents what I mean when I talk about a ‘modern’ style of whisky. I think it works because it is so clearly in this vein of up-front, wood-dominated distillate but, most importantly, it is also of a good, generally consistent quality. This makes it strikingly obvious when you put it side by side with an older version just how much the style has evolved in the space of 30 years. Time to finally write some notes on these two long distance siblings.
Glenmorangie 10yo. OB. Rotation 2011. 40%. 70cl.
Colour: Straw Gold
Nose: At first its these slightly over-heady aromas of paint, turpentine, wood resin, lactones, sap and a rather acidic vanilla note. Lots of wood shavings, saw dust and fresh workshop notes, like sniffing a freshly used belt sander. This is so typical of these, modern whiskies that are full of wood technology, all that first fill bourbon comes right to the fore. It’s not unpleasant but it seems a little uncomplicated. Given some time though there is also some very pleasant fruits starting to emerge. Notes of green apple, kiwi and juicy fruit bubblegum all come through with further hints of dried spices, crushed banana skins, dried mint, furniture oils and something quite milky. Its the kind of nose that rewards patience and a very fresh palate.
Palate: The sweetness is first as expected but it’s very luxurious and quite mouth-coating. All the usual suspects of creme brulee, vanilla essence, pear drops and cocoanut are there. But also the sharpness of green apples, hints of black tea, more quite heavy wood lactones, brown sugar, hints of young rum and more of these pine and sappy notes. The palate is very much in keeping with the nose, very concise in its directness and composure. It is also somewhat lacking in complexity in the same way but it is super easy and very quaffable. Goes on with a little herbal note like herb liqueur and touches of buttered toast.
Finish: Surprisingly good length with more butter, generic vanilla, creaminess and some notes of sour apples.
Comments: I think this batch is probably quite a bit better than other versions I’ve tried in recent times. I think it is a very well composed ‘statement’ bottling by the owners. It’s not my style of whisky, as any brief perusal of the back pages of this blog will tell you, but it is a good example of that modern style. whenever I want to illustrate that modern/old style divide in a tasting I tend to use Glenmorangie 10yo and that is not about to change any time soon. The question is though, does the excessive wood cover the distillery character in the distillate or is there any distillery character left to cover? This makes me want to try a modern Glenmorangie from refill wood asap…
Score: 78/100 (That’s an improvement upon recent batches I’d say)
Glenmorangie 10yo. OB. Screw cap. Rotation late 1970s/early 1980s. 40% 75cl.
Colour: Straw Gold (interestingly identical)
Nose: This is a different animal entirely. Whereas the stickiness of the wood in the first one was the dominant factor, with this one its all about the drier qualities. Loads of wax, shoe polish, mineral notes, limes and many other citrus notes. Wild flowers, butter, herbs, different kinds of fruits come through with tropical leanings of banana puree and melon, then slightly greener aspects like peach tea, chamomile and nettles. With time there is more of this flinty minerality and also some slightly metallic touches of peat. Whereas the first one was very direct, compact and modern this one is in almost another dimension. A perfect example of the old highland style, very naked, very distillate driven, highly aromatic and elegant. Not easy or sexy like the 2011 version but much more beguiling, complex and charming.
Palate: Again this is in keeping with the nose, lots of of delicate heathery smoke, old wax, soft peats, touches of metal, motor oil, caraway seeds, fennel, chamomile tea, olive oil, wood resins, more wild floral qualities and even something slightly coastal. Hints of waxed lemons, bubblegum, treacle, oatcakes and an elegant savory spiciness. The palate is not without traces of OBE but it is in no way tired and it certainly retains its bite. Quite beautiful really.
Finish: Soft but long and fresh. Lots of fresh herbs, citrus fruits, whiffs of dunnage, smoke, mustard seed and coal.
Comments: I love this style of whisky and to taste it side by side with the modern version with a fresh palate in the middle of the afternoon is just quite gobsmacking. It never ceases to amaze me how much changed in whisky production over the last 40 years. This is one of the most illuminating tastings you can to do see the effects of these changes laid bare before you. I urge to try and do a similar tasting if at all possible. You can still find old bottles of Glenmorangie 10yo for pretty good prices so give it a whirl. You’ll be amazed at what you find.