Whisky & Rye
Posted 28 February 2018 / In Glenmorangie
Glenmorangie’s annual Private Edition bottles has always been where spirit and wood experimentation intersect, resulting in some unique and oft-times tasty whiskies. 2018’s edition is no different. With the release of Spios (Gaelic for ‘spice’), Glenmorangie are doing something which I believe is a first – taking American ex-rye casks, and using them to full-term mature their single malt. You may have seen a few examples of rye finished whisky (Johnnie Walkers Blenders’ Batch springs to mind) where the liquid has been re-racked (usually from ex-bourbon) for a period of some months, but Glenmorangie’s 9th Private Edition bottling takes the rye and puts it front and central by wholly maturing all the whisky in ex-rye casks.
The Interwebs suggest that Spios has been slumbering in ex-rye for around a decade. Interestingly, while rye is having a bit of a resurgence currently, when Glenmorangie began these Private Edition experiments and selected the casks they would be using for their production, the world was a rather different place and rye was largely a forgotten drink from America’s pre-prohibition era. Fast-forward to 2018 and Glenmorangie along with Dr Bill Lumsden (Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks) are looking like they’re totally in touch with the contemporary rye revival. Clearly there’s been some keen use of the crystal ball.
Nose: Sweet, fruity, herbal and spiced. The Glenmorangie house style is unmistakable to begin with – toffee, custard, baking sugar, Seville oranges and stewed apricots. These sit with some underlying herbalness – mint and leafy hedgerows. The spice influence makes itself felt immediately – nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon – all very well connected to the core distillery aromas. Resting adds some raspberries and rhubarb into the mix (rhubarb and custard is a lovely thing), as well as some dustiness to the spices.
Taste: Rich arrival that delivers spice immediately – cinnamon, cloves, star anise and pepper – a little prickly and sharp. Then, we’re back in to a more fruit-driven format – rhubarb, peaches, raspberries – all still wrapped up in creamy toffee and vanilla custards. There’s some bakery flavour here – flans, pies and tarts, these sit well with both the fruit and the spice, evoking freshly made spiced pastries.
Finish: Short to medium and delivering vanilla flavoured toffee, dusty oak and snappy pepper and cinnamon.
Glenmorangie Spios is much more subtle than I was expecting, bringing the spices that you’d expect to find in a well-made rye whiskey, but marrying them highly effectively with the distillery’s spirit character. At times you’d think you were sipping a slightly spicier version of the 10 year old - the underlying distillery character comes through incredibly strongly here. All this makes for a solid and tasty whisky, but perhaps one I was expecting a little more from – whilst balance and subtlety are to be commended, to my palate this new Private Edition seem like a somewhat restrained spin on Glenmorangie Original 10 year old. If that’s what you’re after, by all means seek out a bottle, it’s tasty. But, if you’re looking for something a touch more radical, previous Private Editions have delivered more drastic and sweeping results. Available now from Master of Malt for £74.81.
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