The Sonnalta, a previously limited edition special bottling from Glenmorangie, has just been made available on general release. Sonnalta was first released in April 2009 and was exclusive to the travel retail/Duty Free sector stores around the world. Now, Glenmorangie are releasing 3000 cases (36000 bottles) to be put in to the UK, European and north American markets. The whisky is the same as that used in the previous Duty Free releases and is still bottled at 46% ABV. The only difference is bottle size - Duty Free bottles are one litre and the UK/European bottles are 70cl, with the American bottles being 75cl. A 70cl bottle should cost around £60. Sonnalta will still also be available in the Duty Free/travel retail market.
A famous whisky name
Glenmorangie distillery is located in the northern Highlands, close to the town of Tain on the Dornoch Firth estuary. The distillery and its brand name are world famous and they produce some of the globe's biggest selling whiskies there. The distillery was opened in 1843 and is now owned by drinks company Moet Hennessy. Glenmorangie is one of Scotland's largest whisky distilleries with an annual production capacity of 6 million litres per year and also has the tallest set of stills in Scotland. Each one stands over 5 metres (16.5 feet) tall and this height means that only the purest and lightest spirit reaches the condenser and get collected for maturation.
Generous and liberal
The Sonnalta, meaning generous or liberal in Gaelic, is the first in a series of special releases named Private Collections. The plan is to run these alongside the large core range of Glenmorangie whiskies, initially in to the travel retail/Duty Free sector and then on general release. The next Private Collections bottling is expected to appear in Autumn 2010. Sonnalta has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for 10 years and then transferred to Pedro Ximenez (pronounced pedro him-en-eth) sherry casks for a further year. Pedro Ximenez is a very sweet grape variety that originated on the Canary Islands and was bought over to Jerez on the mainland of Spain by a man called Pedro Ximenez in the 16th century. He went on to produce a very sweet, dark and sticky style of sherry that is still made today.
Our tasting notes (from June 2009)
The colour is a lovely rich golden brown and the nose is fantastic. It is delicate with a combination of caramel-like sweetness, dried fruits (think of raisins and candied orange peel) and something dark (imagine high cocoa chocolate and espresso coffee). Vanilla is there also, as is some sweet malted barley. On the palate this explodes on your tongue and is full bodied, viscous and creamy. An intense pleasant sugary burst hits the front of your tongue and dies slowly to reveal the elements from the nose. It has a great mixture of vanilla, caramel (think of dark brown sugar), dried fruits (some apricot this time as well), a distinct nuttiness (imagine coconut), slightly bitter dark chocolate and coffee and, strange as it may sound, a tropical fruit element (something like mango or papaya). This tropical note carries on in the lengthy finish, which is just as intensely sweet, complex and fruity as the nose and palate. Some cinnamon spice comes through towards the end.
What's the verdict?
Sonnalta is a top quality whisky. There is so much going on and fighting for your attention on the nose, palate and finish yet it remains balanced. It has the feeling of a good dessert wine, Cognac or Armagnac and would be great to have as an after dinner drink. This is a real 'try before you die' whisky and that is why we gave it 3rd place in our recent article, Top 10 whiskies of 2009. Fantastic stuff and now available to a wider audience!