Glen Moray distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, sitting on the outskirts of the town of Elgin on the banks of the River Lossie. The distillery started life as a brewery, founded in 1828, which was later converted to become the Glen Moray whisky distillery in 1897.
It is currently owned by French drinks company La Martiniquaise, who took control in 2008 after buying the distillery from Moet Hennessey. Whisky produced and matured at Glen Moray is used for a number of La Martiniquaise's own blended and vatted whiskies that are popular in France, namely Label 5 and Glen Turner, as well as an expanding range of single malts. The main market for Glen Moray single malts is the UK as one of the top 5 for total UK single malt sales in 2010.
For more information on Glen Moray, have a look at the blog post about our visits to the distillery in 2009 and in 2011.
Part of Glen Moray's expanding range includes some rather interesting experiments with maturation of their whisky in wine casks. Back in the late 90s, Ed Dodson, the distillery manager at that time, undertook a program of experiments using non-conventional casks to mature his spirit. The resulting flavour (of the now suitably matured whisky) has impressed the current distillery manager, Graham Coull, so much that he has chosen to bottle these whiskies as limited releases. Have a look at our tasting notes of previous examples of wine cask from Glen Moray - the 8 years old Red Wine Cask and the 13 years old Port Wood finished.
We have been lucky enough to get our hands on samples of two of the latest unique whiskies matured in different white wine casks. The first we shall look at is the 10 years old French Chardonnay Cask matured, the second is the 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask. The Chardonnay Cask was released in July 2011 and the Chenin Blanc in April 2012.
Our tasting notes - 10 years old Chardonnay Cask
This 40% ABV whisky is golden yellow with a sweet nose of white fruit (pears and apples), toffee, sultana grapes and buttery yeastiness mixed with some warm nutmeg-type spice which makes us think of biscuits. On the palate the sweetness comes through with velvety and creamy softness that coats your mouth. The fruitiness of apples, pears and grapes plus the sweetness of butterscotch and honey from the nose are also delivered upfront. The finish however turns drier and spicier with more woodiness and a touch of white pepper. This stops the whisky feeling to overly sweet, adds needed depth and complexity and lingers for long enough to leave your mouth watering.
Our tasting notes - 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask
Available for around £60 only from the distillery shop. This limited release of 260 bottles has a hearty ABV of 60.7%. It is a rich auburn colour with a very feisty nose of that is obviously high ABV. Without water the nose shows spicy, pine/eucalypt oak, sweetness of caramel and citrus oil. With water the spiced apple and cinnamon caramel notes (reminiscent of mulled cider) show through. As for the palate, without water the high ABV hits with alcohol astringency on the palate and is quite overwhelming. The flavours that come through are of caramel, sultanas and honey, and remind us of glaced fruits. With a dash of water it remains the feisty edge but apple and grapefruit notes start to combine with the richer and sweeter fruits. With a hearty splash of water the spiciness pulls back and the whisky takes on a softer creamier feel with apple notes showing through to match with sweet toffee and vanilla oak notes (sweet Madeira wine). Throughout this whisky has a viscous and mouth-coating feel. Without water the finish is dominated by the heat of the alcohol but when water is added the finish is quite sweet and pleasant.
What's the verdict?
While both whiskies are matured in white wine casks, the remarkably different ABV strengths out of the bottle (the Chenin Blanc cask is 50% stronger in the bottle than the Chardonnay cask) lead to the two having characters that are really hard to compare. Adding after adding quite a splash of water to Chenin Blanc cask that you start to compare the two whiskies.
The Chardonnay cask delivers an tasting experience closer to what we expected from a wine cask whisky, while the Chenin Blanc cask reminds more of a sweet wine rather than a whisky. Of the two, for us the Chardonnay cask was the easier drinking of the two and we found that we would happily sit and enjoy a dram of this over a quiet and relaxed evening. The Chenin Blanc cask challenged our concept of what a whisky could offer and for us that made for an exciting experience. We have heard people say that wine finished whiskies are all the same and in this we have a whisky to prove them very wrong. It is good to see Glen Moray releasing these 'innovative and experimental' casks so that we can try, without restrictive expense, the effect that maturation (as well as finishing) in a wine cask provides.
The Chardonnay cask is available for around £25 from selected specialist
retailers as well as the distillery shop. The Chenin Blanc cask is
available for around £60 only the distillery shop. You will need to get
in touch with the shop via phone or the distillery website to purchase either bottling.
Experience a tutored tasting of the 10 years old Chardonnay Cask with Graham Coull at the product launch held in the distillery's visitor centre.