Rituals have power, and I wasn’t surprised in the least when I got a message from Yoav on Whatsapp “So, am I ordering our annual Glenmo?”. My obvious answer was “of course”, as traditions must be kept up. This will now be the fourth or fifth year that besides the bottles each of us buys for his own collection, we buy a shared bottle of the new Glenmorangie Private Edition to review on our blogs, bring to our various “drinking circles”, send samples to friends and eventually split what remains in the bottle between us. As funny as it sounds, this is one of my favorite bottles of the year, as there’s something fun about a bottle that’s “jointly owned”. If you don’t have any of those, you should try it….
This time, it’s the Bacalta, the eighth installment in the Private Editions which like last year’s Milsean is a finish in a very non conventional cask. In both cases, this is the 10 year old “Original”, which was then matured for an extra period in toasted casks of Portuguese fortified wine.
For the Bacalta, the 10 year old bourbon cask matured Original (albeit with a higher proportion of first fill bourbon casks) was finished for two years (so yes, it’s a 12 year old, although the expression is officially NAS) in special heavily toasted virgin American oak hogshead that were filled with Malmsey Madeira, and left to bake for two years in a process known as ‘canteiro’. The canteiro process has the wine aging for at least two years either in an attic under south facing windows, or exposed to the sun outside. Malmsey Madeira is a sweetest Madeira variety with a high degree of sourness and acidity.
Israel used to be in the back end of the whisky back wash as far as Glenmorangie was concerned. The previous importer treated the brand as an afterthought, and the pricing was incredibly uncompetitive. However, two years ago the brand moved to the locsl Moët Hennessy importer, and Glenmorangie and Ardbeg got a real importer, so much so, that the Companta has been brought to Israel (and can still be purchased here), and the Bacalta is being launched in Israel simultaneously with the global launch. In fact, it was launched at a beautiful event held at the Whisk(e)y Bar and Museum that brought Dr. Bill Lumsden and heir apparent Brendan McCarron in over a video link simultaniously in Tel Aviv, Vienna and Johannesburg. This brings Israel, and our local importers – Y.D.- to the front row of whisky consuming nations, and kudos to Y.D. After the tasting, we were treated to an eight course dégustation, marking the eighth release, from the top notch kitchen at the Whisk(e)y Bar and Museum, which is a must visit destination when you come to Israel.
By the way, in the Q&A following the presentation, I asked if there were plans to offer a cask strength release. Dr. Lumsden’s reply, after stating that he’s not a big fan of cask strength whiskies, did go as far as suggesting that the Astar may, indeed, come back from the dead. I’m very excited by this news, as I have found the Astar to be the most absolutely stunning Glenmorangie release ever, bar none.
So how is the new release?
Glenmorangie Private Edition VIII – Bacalta (46%, NCF)
Appearance: Deep gold with an orange twinge, sturdy necklace that stays on for a long time, and thin legs rolling off it slowly.
Nose: Brown demerara sugar, clove, perfumy sultanas, a chalky note with a lot more spice. It’s a “warm” nose with baking pastry and sweet malt. The wine is there in the back with notes of citrus and some mint.
Palate: A wash of pepper starts off in this full bodied whisky, with some sour citrus notes. It’s sharp on the palate, with softer rock fruit flavors coming through – namely fresh peach and apricot.
Linger: Spicy and dry, somewhat chalky, long linger with a hint of mint on the palate. The finish is very spicy, and that’s mostly what will remain with you.
Both the Bacalta and last year’s Portuguese red wine finish – the Milsean – are beautifully crafted. It comes down to your own preference as to the degree of sweetness you prefer. If you share my sweet tooth, you’ll go for the Milsean, and if you like your whisky a bit spicier and not that sweet, Bacalta is for you. Either way, the Bacalta is an excellent progression in the Private Edition range. Having tasted the eighth release, I’ve reset my countdown clock to the release of the ninth, and I wonder what casks are waiting in store in Dr. Bill’s warehouse of wonders 🙂