Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New release - Glenmorangie Artein

The famous Highland distillery of Glenmorangie has announced the third release in its Private Editions range. Named Artein, which is the Gaelic word for stone, the new single malt joins the popular Sonnalta and Finealta in the range. The name refers to the influence the local limestone has on the water used in Glenmorangie's whisky production. Glenmorangie Artein is crafted from American white oak ex-bourbon casks of 15 year old and 21 year old whiskies (in the ratio of 2:1), which were hand selected by Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr. Bill Lumsden. These subsequently underwent an extra maturation period in Super Tuscan Sassacaia wine casks.  Artein has been bottled at 46% ABV and will retail at £70 a bottle.

The name of Glenmorangie is one of the most famous in the world of whisky and their innovative single malts continue to add to hefty list of major awards. The distillery is located in the Highland town of Tain and is approximately 40 miles (65km) north of Inverness. The distillery was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and is now one of Scotland’s largest whisky distilleries with a recently increased annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills at Glenmorangie are also the tallest in Scotland at 5 metres (16.5 feet) high and makes the still house resemble a cathedral. They are all exact replicas of the original stills that were purchased from a gin distillery in London in 1843. The current owners of Glenmorangie are LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey), who took control in 2004.

Our tasting notes
The colour is amber with a distinct reddish/russet hue. The nose is highly perfumed and combines strong fruitiness and sweetness.  The fruitiness is that of rich, dried fruits (think of raisins, sultanas, cherries and cranberries) and the sweetness has a brown sugar and honey-like feel to it.  Under these are more subtle aromas of orange zest, vanilla, malty grains and wood spice (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg). The nose gets better and better with time and is very promising - it makes you want to taste the whisky. 

On the palate, there is again the mixture of fruitiness and sweetness, but with more prominent wood spice now (plenty of tannic oak and warming cinnamon bark notes).  There is plenty of red fruit (think of plums, cherries, fruit jam) mixed with some softer dried fruits (raisins especially). The effect is quite wine-like and increasingly savoury, especially when the brown sugar and honey notes fade and the drying wood spices and tannins start to kick in towards the end of the palate and on the finish. The delicacy of the light, vibrant Glenmorangie spirit is somewhat lost, with the more subtle notes struggling to get through.  The finish is long, savoury and quite dry with a pleasant dash of jam-like sweetness and a hint of burnt orange peel.  A woody, tannic dryness takes an age to fade from your mouth.

What's the verdict?
Glenmorangie have created a very interesting and expressive whisky here. However, it will not have universal appeal - if you are a fan of Glenmorangie's light style of single malt, then you may struggle with this.  Artein is full of luscious and warming flavours but it offers a good challenge, especially on the palate.  The influence of the wine cask is in danger of hijacking the whisky. 

In something like Glenmorangie's Quinta Ruban, which has been part-matured in ex-Port casks, the sweetness compensates for the richness that the wine cask brings.  In the Artein the influence of the red wine cask gives a much more savoury feel.  This creates a very drier, spicier and more tannic flavour profile. As we said, it is very interesting stuff and worth searching out, especially if you have never tasted a whisky that has been matured in ex-red wine casks before.

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