Monday, January 26, 2015

Review - Glenmorangie 'Tùsail'

This whisky is a brand new single malt from Glenmorangie and is the latest release in its popular annual Private Edition series. The sixth expression, named Tùsail, marks a change in direction for the series. Most of the previous expressions have concentrated on the type of cask used during maturation - Sonnalta used Pedro Ximenez casks, Artein used Sassicaia wine barriques, Ealanta used virgin toasted oak casks and last year's Companta used French red wine barriques.  Finealta, the second release, was smoky.

Tùsail has been made using an old strain of barley, called Maris Otter, which is more traditionally used in the brewing industry and in particular for traditional English ales. The barley is a winter variety (meaning that it is planted in October and grows over winter) and grows best in the south and east of England.  This means that the grain has less starch and more protein, which gives significantly less alcohol but more flavour.  The barley was floor malted to Glenmorangie's specifications in Essex and the yield of spirit was much lower than traditional malt used for whisky production.  Just three days worth of production was possible and all has been bottled as Tùsail.

Glenmorangie was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and was originally named as Morangie.  It is located in the north Highland town of Tain and took its current name in 1887. Glenmorangie is one of Scotland's larger single malt distilleries with an annual production capacity of six million litres. The copper pot 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 in the world.

The new whisky has again been designed by Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation at Glenmorangie, who launched it in London last week (pictured, above).  It has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and the name is Gaelic, translating as 'originary'. It is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered.   Tùsail will be available in a limited quantity shortly through specialist whisky retailers and department stores, and will have a recommended retail price of £75.99.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant.  There are immediate obvious aromas of vanilla and coconut, and these are backed up by a bittersweet maltiness and some butterscotch.  Underneath are aromas of tropical and stewed fruits, particularly banana, and a hint of earthy ginger and cinnamon.

On the palate, the whisky again feels fresh and vibrant.  It is light and slightly feisty with initial warming wood spices (especially cinnamon) and zesty lemon notes.  This gives a mouth water quality, which slowly subsides to let other characteristics develop.  Sweet vanilla, honey and toffee come first, along with dessicated coconut and very hard crisp green fruit (think of pears in particular, plus some apple).  The tropical fruit is more delicate and subtle than on the nose.  There is also a distinct earthy malty note, along with some toasted nuts and a hint of gingerbread.  A final vegetal note of dried grass adds to the bittersweet feeling.

The finish is on the short-ish side, especially once the toffee and honey-like sweetness fade rapidly.  The earthy malt and drying, warming wood spices prolong the finish, as does the slightly sharp green pear and lemon zest notes.

What's the verdict?
The launch of the Glenmorangie Private Edition has become the symbol of the new whisky year and the first major release.  With this comes a degree of excitement within the industry and this year was no different.  Glenmorangie have taken a different approach with this sixth edition and have created an interesting whisky which is closer to their lighter house style. 

Whether the use of an non-traditional whisky barley has made any difference is difficult for us to determine but the whisky is fresh and vibrant with a distinct earthiness.  However, for us it is not quite in the same league as some of the previous Private Editions.  At the launch, Dr. Lumsden stated that he had many other experiments in the pipeline and we cannot wait to see what they may produce.

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