Sitting at the entry point for Glenmorangie’s ‘Prestige expressions’, the 18 year old Extremely Rare is composed of two main components - 15 year old ex-bourbon from American white oak, and 18 year old that has been moved from ex-bourbon into oloroso sherry casks (around 30% of the total) for a further three years of maturation. The two are then married back together again and bottled at 43% ABV. Oh, and it's quite commonplace rather than extremely rare.
Nose: Fruity and expressive. Rich honey and orange peels set us on our journey, picking up barley and malt (quite deeply roasted cereals) along for the ride. There’s some underlying earthiness here – a touch of hay, tree bark and some moist soils. After a little resting in the glass real orchard qualities start to appear – cider apples, comice pears and hedgerow berries. Dilution with water (not required to my taste, but done so nevertheless) results in slightly more overall sweetness, with toffee aromas being added. However, it reduces the expressiveness of the sharper fruitier top notes, which is a shame. Au naturale, this is a highly inviting nose, full of lively fruit-driven aromas.
Taste: Subtle, highly balanced, but missing a certain ‘wow. The arrival brings more malts than fruits, but the translation from nose is still present – oranges are (nearly) the only fruit, and bring with them rich honey, stem ginger, damp soils and wet leaves. Time spent resting alters the fruit balance and delivers more orchard expressiveness for us – stewed apples and, moving slightly more tropical – grapefruit. Amongst the earthier flavours is now some nuttiness and dried fruits – hazelnuts, dates and sultanas (the sherry cask influence coming to the fore). Water adds cask influence in the form of increased ginger and a dash of white pepper, but again, diminishes the focus from the fruit and indeed adds some slight oak astringency. Stick to it at 43%.
Finish: Gentle, malty and nutty with a particularly nice fade at the back of the palate.
Glenmorangie 18 year old Extremely Rare, might not be extremely rare at all, but one things for sure, it has a fantastic nose. I found several minutes of joy here amongst the pronounced honey-coated fruits – so much so that the palate was almost bound to disappoint, and as a comparative, it did. Whereas the nose is all about vibrancy, the palate brings more subtlety and balance. The central Morangie style is arguably here, but after such lively aromas, feels almost muted in contrast. That’s not to say that the palate is poor, far far from it, it’s just I found the bar set quite high initially. Classy stuff, and still well priced for the quality of the liquid (currently £85.28 from Master of Malt) – the very definition of easy-drinking. It’s balanced at just the right ABV, so no need to go adding water – it’s too fragile for that.