Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Review | Glenmorangie The Original 12 years old

The north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie has reimagined its classic and well-loved The Original single malt whisky. The bottling, which was previously bottled at 10 years old and has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s, is the cornerstone of the Glenmorangie core range and will remain so. It is the whisky that all others in the range are based around. The new iteration has seen the age increase to 12 years old with the cask make up (100% ex-bourbon barrels) and strength (40% ABV) remaining the same. It is essentially the same whisky but two years older.

The new Original has been several years in the making. Ever since Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Whisky Creation at Glenmorangie (pictured, below), tasted it as one of his first ever Scotch whiskies in the 1980s he has been thinking on "how to improve on perfection". Along with Gillian Macdonald, Master Blender and Head of Whisky Creation, they embarked on creating numerous options. These were then presented to a senior tasting panel and refined over the last couple of years. The new whisky received a unanimous vote and is now ready to be introduced to the world. It has already won a Gold medal at the World Whisky Awards.

Glenmorangie was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and is in the north Highland town of Tain. The distillery was originally named Morangie, and became Glenmorangie in 1887. It has an annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills are the tallest in Scotland standing at over five metres (16.5 feet) - the same height as an adult male giraffe. It also uses the hardest water of any Scotch whisky distillery in production, which comes from the nearby Tarlogie Springs. The distillery and brand are currently owned by Louis Vuitton Mo√ęt Hennessey.

"I will never forget my first magical sip of Glenmorangie Original in 1984 and how I became beguiled by its complex range of flavours. I have always aimed to keep the whisky true to my memory of that first taste. However, recently we started to wonder whether we could reimagine our flagship expression, The Original, for even more deliciousness. The result is The Original 12 years old."
Dr. Bill Lumsden.
Glenmorangie The Original 12 years old is bottled at 40% ABV. It is available now from www.glenmorangie.com and the distillery visitor centre in Tain, and will be available through specialist whisky retailers and supermarkets in the UK from August. A worldwide release will then follow. The new Original will cost just slightly more than the previous bottling at £40.

Our Tasting Notes
The colour is a bright and vibrant gold, and the nose is uplifting, fresh and zesty. Initial aromas of mandarin orange and vanilla fudge are quickly joined by juicy ripe peach, honey and butterscotch sauce. Underneath are hints of green apple and coconut plus evolving spices - think of warm gingerbread, cinnamon and drying oak spice.

On the palate this whisky feels soft, silky and creamy. Notes of vanilla custard and creamed coconut lead the way. Other sweet notes come through and include heather honey, butterscotch and that juicy ripe peach from the nose. A hint of milk chocolate and dried apricot also sit in the background, as does a note of fairground toffee apple. There is a distinct zestiness that grows - think of orange fondant and mandarin, plus a hint of lemon oil later on. An underlying drying and spicy character slowly builds to add extra depth, complexity and structure to the whisky. There is a lovely warming gingerbread note (similar to that detected on the nose), cinnamon bark and some freshly sawn oak shaving. A pinch cocoa powder and some white pepper heat round things off nicely.

The finish is of decent length. It begins with the sweet and fruity elements before turning drier and woodier. The creamy mouth texture is superb and seems to elongate the finish and make the whisky grip the taste buds. The oak and warming spices come through well as other notes fade to give a dry, peppery end. It makes you want to take another sip.

What's the verdict?

This whisky is a triumph for Glenmorangie. It is not an easy thing to do to reinvent a classic such as The Original, but they have done it skillfully and in a sympathetic way. Some may think Glenmorangie have taken a risk to change such an influential and big-selling whisky. But the whisky is in good hands with the likes of Bill and Gillian behind the reins. 
Ultimately, everything is the same as the previous version - casks, strength, packaging etc - apart from two extra years in the ex-bourbon barrels. They have done well to not dramatically increase the price also, literally by a pound or two, and it sits well in line (if not cheaper) with its 12-year-old competitors. Some consumers may not even notice the change but the aroma and flavour rpofiles are definitely elevated. This is a great reimagining of a classic and we wish it every success.

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