Friday, January 24, 2014

New release - Glenmorangie Companta

Each January Glenmorangie launch a new addition to their highly acclaimed Private Edition series. This is normally the first major new whisky release of each year and has the whisky fraternity waiting with eager anticipation. This year's bottling is named Companta and it follows on from the award winning Sonnalta, Finealta, Artein and Ealanta expressions. The name Companta translates as 'friendship' from Scots Gaelic and like the previous editions has undergone some experimental maturation.

Glenmorangie was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and the original named was Morangie.  However, illegal distillation on the site can be tracked back to the early 1700s. It is located in the north Highland town of Tain and took its current name in 1887. Glenmorangie has grown to be one of Scotland's largest single malt distilleries with 12 stills and an annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills are the tallest of their type in Scotland and stand over five metres (16.5 feet) tall.  The distillery and brand are currently owned by Moet Hennessey, who purchased them in 2004.  Glenmorangie is currently the fourth biggest selling single malt bran in the world.

The Companta has been matured in two different types of wine casks, which have then been married together for a short period.  Approximately 60% of the whisky has matured in casks from the Grand Cru vineyard of Clos de Tart and 40% from casks that have previously held a sweet fortified wine from Rasteau in the Côtes du Rhône region. It has been bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered. Companta will be available in specialist whisky retailers shortly (some have it available to pre-order already) and will have a recommended retail price of £69.99.

Last night saw the official launch event in London and we were in attendance to hear Dr. Bill Lumsden explain how he created the Companta and the thought processes behind the whisky, which largely stem from his burgeoning love of fine wines.  For some photos of the night, please visit our Facebook page.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a dark reddish amber and the nose is rich and expressive with a mix of sweet and spicy aromas.  The initial aromas are of burnt caramel, brown sugar and plenty of woody oak spices, especially cinnamon.  The spices have a peppery tannic edge to them.  Then come red fruits (think of cherries, cranberries and spiced plums) and hints of cocoa powder, cloves and menthol. 

On the palate, this whisky is immediately spicy and quite dry.  The tannins threaten to overpower the taste buds, before the sweeter notes begin to push in and add balance.  There is plenty of woody oakiness, which is clearly coming from the red wine cask influence and the spiciness again has a peppery heat to it.  The sweeter and fruitier notes give good depth and complexity.  There are rich caramel, vanilla and sultana notes, but most of the other elements have a bittersweet edge to them - think of blood orange, molasses, prunes, dried cherries, cocoa powder and cranberries.  The spices are never far away and include hints of liquorice root, menthol, cloves, white pepper and cinnamon sticks.

The finish is long and again dry and spicy, especially once the sweeter characteristics fade.  The sweetness has a more burnt edge as time progresses - think of burnt sugar, dried orange, molasses or black treacle.  Some toasted spices add to the complexity and these include hints of cloves, cinnamon and star anise.

What's the verdict?
The Companta continues Glenmorangie's pioneering innovation with the use of casks.  It is intense, punchy and vibrant and quite different from the lighter and more delicate flavours associated with Glenmorangie.  We preferred it with some water added, as this knocked back the drying spices to give more balance.  This made the Companta softer and allowed the sugary fruitier and sweeter notes to shine through.

As the first major release of the year, the Companta has thrown down a strong marker.  It should sell well, as all of the other editions have, and is a very good whisky.  The richness, spiciness and dryness may challenge some consumers but it is worth persevering with, especially with water added.  It grew on us a lot, although the Sonnalta and Ealanta remain our favourites from the series.

According to Dr. Bill, he has many more such experiments on the go at the distillery so it will be very interesting to see what these future releases bring and add to the market.

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