Beyond First Impressions

HK Golfer whisky editor John Bruce is belatedly won over by Glenmorangie

In my very first contribution to this illustrious publication, I mentioned that prior to the reinvention of the malt whisky industry a request in a good lounge bar in Scotland for a single malt would have elicited the reply, “Glenfiddich or Glenmorangie” in all but the best stocked of hostelries. This was indeed the case and faced with the choice over the years, I must confess that the former usually got my vote. However, having somewhat reluctantly attended a recent tasting of five malts from the Glenmorangie distillery organized by the St Andrew’s Society at the Canny Man in Wan Chai, I find that, as in many things youthful, I may have been somewhat hasty in my sweeping judgment. Indeed, it may be that my opinion of Glenmorangie has been rescued by my Scottish parsimony as the mere HK$100 price tag was the clincher in my decision to attend.
The tasting was hosted by David Blackmore, the Glenmorangie Master Brand Ambassador and in the course of the evening he was knowledgeable and entertaining in equal parts as he described, with obvious affection, the product and production values of the distillery. From his talk of the tallest stills, the best water, the traditional values, the choice of casks to the relentless pursuit of excellence and the lack of chill filtering in many of their premium malts, David is obviously a master of his craft. Was it loyalty to an employer who had given him the onerous task of travelling the world talking about and drinking malt whisky or was this indeed Zeus’ nectar recycled via the Tarlogie springs?
Glenmorangie distillery, situated on the scenic Dornoch Firth just south of Tarlogie and using the waters from the aforementioned springs, acknowledged as its “greatest asset”, has succeeded in translating its share of the perceived Scottish duopoly into a significant worldwide presence. This has been done with great regard for the tradition that has served to create this giant of the whisky industry. No more than sixteen local “Men of Tain” are ever hired to work on the distilling process. Only Scottish barley is used along with water solely from the springs. The distillery has purchased all of the surrounding land to ensure that the waters remain pure and unpolluted by any modern farming methods; a tactic made more palatable by the rampant increase in land prices in recent years.
David was particularly eloquent in his description of the developments that have taken place in selecting a wider range of casks to further mature the whisky in and we sampled examples of each of the variations during our well-priced evening. I must say that four out of the five samples immediately overcame any misconceptions that hearken back to those halcyon days of my youth. I am still not a great lover of the Glenmorangie Original, a ten years old bottling, that is rich and quite fruity in its initial and middle tastes but has a finish that just doesn’t match that of my favourite malts. There is just a hint of something that doesn’t sit with my West Coast palate. But there were two whiskies that were certainly worthy of the enthusiasm that young Mr. Blackmore so obviously possesses for his product.
The first of these is the Lasanta, which is matured for ten years in American White Oak, ex-Bourbon casks and then for a further two in Spanish Olorosa sherry casks. This has produced a whisky of rare quality and both the nose and taste are richly fruity along with a really caramel-type flavour somewhat similar, if you have a ridiculously sweet tooth, to Cloutie dumpling served with butterscotch Angel Delight. The aftertaste is long and rich and so unlike the Glenmorangie Original of my original aversion that one really appreciates the distiller’s art in creating such variety. Lasanta is apparently Gaelic for warmth and passion but my initial theory of its derivation as referring to the Spanish version of the festive chimney scrambler remains perfectly relevant: I would be delighted to get a bottle of this very good malt in my stocking.
However, my favourite of the evening and a malt whisky that I recommend that any aficionado should sample is the Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or (pictured). Once again this spends ten years in bourbon casks but then it further matures in French Sauterne casks. This unique process has produced something really special. The nose and the middle are as zesty as any malt that I have tasted, with a hint of flavour more akin to the Orient than north east Scotland. The finish is an utter pleasure that sweetens as it ends. If the Glenmorangie website request that I verify my age before entering included a "Scotland" and "Hong Kong" in the “where are you from” table of drop down choices – rather than merely UK and China respectively – my conversion would be complete.

Click here to see the published article.