Mar 032019

Glenmorangie Allta is Glenmorangie’s 10th Private Edition, marking a decade since Sonnalta PX appeared. While the Sonnalta PX was mostly proof of concept (put a finish on the Glenmorangie Original and get it out to market, test the idea of the “Private Edition”). It was followed by the peated Finalta and the very different Tuscan finished Artein. The following year saw the virgin oak matured Ealenta, followed by another wine finish – Companta. After the Tùsail that worked with the barley, and upon which I’ll expand, we had two sweet wine driven editions, with the Milsean and Bacalta which was followed last year by the Spios, which was matured in ex rye whiskey casks.

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The Tusail and the Allta are the most interesting to me, because they attribute the actual ingredients that compose the whisky. When reviewing the Tùsail, I went a bit into the question of barley strains and whisky. If you didn’t read that review, you might want to see it here. My conclusion, by the way, was that I can’t come to one.  There are so many factors that affect the whisky, that short of maturing two casks from the same tree in the same place in the warehouse for the same length of time and tasting them side by side, no conclusion can be had as to terrior vis-à-vis the barley strain. It would seem that I can be more conclusive on the yeast, assuming all else in the process was done in an identical way to the original (which we don’t actually know.

Dr. Bill Lumsden wanted to try a proprietary “local” strain of yeast, but the distillery didn’t have one. Yes, I know the late Michael Jackson said that Glenmorangie used its own yeast, and that may have been true at one time. But in the late 2000s, there was no such strain. Lumsden collected barley from fields around Tain, and one sample, from Cadboll Estate (from whence the barley for the Signet was taken, and made into “chocolate malt”), had a strain of yeast that would work. That strain was named ‘Saccharomyces Diaemath’ since ‘dia e math’ is Gaelic for god is good. Following the PE naming conventions, by the way, ‘Allta” means ‘wild’ in Gaelic.

This whisky is clearly something different, wild indeed. Gone is the Glenmorangie tameness, despite being matured mostly in second fill bourbon casks to avoid the wood being to dominant. This worked only partially, as the whisky was bottled before reaching its 10th birthday, despite original plans to keep it for 15 years. Instead, the whisky is coniferous and malty, with more of a distilled beer feeling to it than a Glenmorangie as we know it. The yeast forced the age and the higher ABV, and it’s still all over the place. Everything the distillery wrote about the Allta talked about fruitiness, I have to admit I have gotten less of that and a lot more of the grain.

The distillery has been distilling using this strain for distillation for one week every year since, so I assume we’ll see other interesting expressions going forward.

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Glenmorangie Allta Private Edition Number 10 (51.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, with a very viscous necklace that remains sturdy.

Nose: At first, it reminds me of the distilled beer that Golani makes, albeit without the hops. There’s a bit of an alpine forest in there, with a hit of evergreen (pine, cypress and a hint of juniper) and something very fresh.
Water brings out a blast of malt, and a whiff of yellow plums, and a bit of metallic notes.

Palate: Very malty, with a lot of spice. The pepper mixes with pine and wood (not aged oak, more freshly cut pine).
Two drops of water bring back that distilled beer and makes it much spicier and more bitter.

Linger: Spicy and bitter, with pepper, grapefruit rind and hints of golden delicious apples. There’s some of the pine in the finish too, and it’s very long and spicy, with the linger long in the gullet and inside the cheeks.


This is not a dram I’d peg as a Glenmorangie in any way. It’s got a wild side that the tame stills Tain don’t exhibit. This feels like an experiment, and would need more work to get some balance and the ‘Glenmo’ gentle fruitiness.

I can definitely see this adding some robustness to other Glenmorangie expressions, and in my view, this is actually where things become really interesting….

Is it worth tasting? For sure. Will I get a bottle? I’m not sure yet…

Feb 022018

This is the ninth Private Edition release, all eight of which were reviewed on the blog. This is part of an ongoing program allowing Dr. Bill Lumsden to try different approaches to whisky, and share the results with the whisky world: The Sonnalta PX highlighted Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, and the second release, the Finealta, tried working off an old recipe, complete with peated barley. The next three editions – Artein, Ealanta, and Companta – highlighted the casks, with Ealanta using virgin oak casks and Artein and Companta matured in wine.

The sixth release, Tùsail was made from a strain of barley not used in whisky distillation for several decades – the Maris Otter – which raised the question of the influence of the barley strain on the flavor of the whisky. The seventh and eighth releases highlighted Portuguese wine. The Milsean was matured in ex bourbon casks, and finished in Portuguese red wine casks, but a layer of charred wood which normally gets scraped off after charring the cask was left on, imparting caramelized sugars into the whisky.  Last year’s release, the Bacalta, is basically the 10 year old (although with a higher proportion of first fill barrels) that was finished for two years 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’.

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Like last year, Dr. Bill Lumsden and heir apparent Brendan McCarron were brought live over a video link, once again with Vienna and Johannesburg. Local importer Y.D held a beautiful event at an exclusive location in Old Jaffa, and I’ll let you judge for yourself from the pictures:

Photo Credit: Bar Cohen, Y.D Imports

Photo Credit: Yori Costa

Photo Credit: Ori Lutski

Photo Credit: Bar Cohen, Y.D Imports


Photo Credit: Yori Costa

Which brings us to the Spìos. Spìos (meaning spicy in Gaelic) was fully matured for about nine years (2008-2017, cut it as you may) in American oak casks that held maturing rye whiskey for six years. While no information was provided, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that these are MGP casks. The casks were toasted, then lightly charred. With this, the releases swing back to Ealanta’s North American roots, and highlight what the Original could be like at a higher strength and with rye influence. Interestingly, Dr. Lumsden said a full maturation was chosen as it was felt that the rye needed more time to actually influence the whisky, and that a period of finishing will not get the trick done.

So how is it?

Glenmorangie Spìos, Private Edition Number 9 (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, very slow legs.

Nose: Orange blossom, white pepper, oak, floral notes and a hint of sage. Then mandarin, black pepper notes and raspberry come along, with a dryness on the nose. With time, a hint of bread and a touch of cinnamon come through, with a hit of honey.

Palate: Citrus bitterness and pepper, a wash of sweetness, cloves, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla, flecked by hints of cardamon and some chili pepper.

Linger: Spicy and dry, with a touch of sweetness. Spìos leaves the mouth dry and tingly, and after a bit you get some pound cake.


The rye is extremely noticeable when just poured, making this expression “darker” than the regular 10, and obviously more spicy. As it has time in the glass, you’ll notice its Glenmorangie DNA more and more, bringing it closer to the Origianal. Also, you’ll get the full Spìos effect if you take a rather large sip.

While Spìos is not my favorite Private Edition, it has definitely grown on me as the tasting went on, to the point of getting a bottle (of course, if you read the blog over the past few years, you know that that would have probably happened anyway 😉 ).

Feb 012017

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….

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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.

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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?

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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 🙂

Jan 072017

Yes, I know….Yet another travel retail NAS expression being pushed at us by whisky companies’ marketing departments in a never-ending procession of boring, indistinct, and uninspired expressions. Yet, even within such a plethora of blandness, they are bound to be some expressions that are worth your time and effort and I’m happy to report that I’ve actually come across one of them in this expression from Glenmorangie.

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Glenmorangie’s legends series currently holds three expressions, one of which is indeed exemplary of the trends currently awash in travel retail. The Duthac is named for the legend of St. Duthac, the patron saint of Tain, is finished both in Pedro Ximénez and in virgin oak was so uninspiring that I didn’t even bother taking notes of it. I did taste the Tarlogan in an airport, but tasting a tiny bit out of a small plastic shot glass isn’t enough to really form an opinion of it. I will say that as a serious lover of Glenmorangie in virgin oak (recall both the Astar and the Ealanta) I expected to be blown away by the Tarlogan to the extent of having to buy a bottle right there and then, but that didn’t happen. So the jury is still awaiting a further, more conducive, encounter with the Tarlogan. Now enter the Tayne. I rarely buy any whisky at the local duty free shop at TLV, as they’re wildly expensive on most things, and I usually prefer to save my free liter to bring in a bottle of my choosing from my destination. But my wife went to Bucharest on a quick trip on business, so I figured using her free liter wasn’t a waste. I found the Tayne for $80, and figured I’d give it a whirl, as I do have somewhat of a soft spot for Glenmorangie.

The Tayne’s “legend” is built around  a Spanish galleon which supposedly sank, laden with gold bullion, in the Tayne Firth.

Here’s the legendary Dr. Bill Lumsden on this expression:


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Glenmorangie Legends Collection – Tayne (43%)

Appearance: Rich Amber, quick thin legs running down glass with a viscous residue.

Nose: Creamy and malty with toffee and faint orange peel, some dried apricot and honey. The nose has a dryness – maybe even a chalkyness, with a fruity sweetness underlying it. The empty glass smells of canned peaches.

Palate: full-bodied and very nutty, some citrus zest, with some fruit puree (probably the Gerber peach and apple). There’s a gentle spice, definitely with pepper but also little bit of a gentle clove, though not quite as strong of a wood spice influence you get in an Oloroso Sherry cask.

Linger: spicy on the tongue with the sweetness some faint dry fruit, top of the gullet has some spice in the insides of the cheeks are somewhat dry. The linger is medium in length.


This is a very pleasant every day dram. It’s an easy drinker, as you would expect from Glenmorangie, yet definitely gains a special character from the Amontillado sherry finish. Dryer and spicier than the Glenmorangie Original, this expression definitely stands on its own merit and for the $80 I paid for a 1 liter bottle, I think is a pretty good value for your money.

Jun 082016

This review brings the blog up to date on the Private Editions. The Private Edition is a series of annual releases that are off the beaten path of Glenmorangie’s work in some way. The Sonnalta PX highlighted Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, and the second release, the Finealta, tried working off an old recipe, complete with peated barley. The next three editions – Artein, Ealanta, and Companta – highlighted the casks, with Ealanta using virgin oak casks and Artein and Companta matured in wine. Last year’s Private Edition, the Tùsail was made from a strain of barley not used in whisky distillation for several decades – the Maris Otter – which raised the question of the influence of the barley strain on the flavor of the whisky.

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This dram was matured in ex bourbon casks, and finished in Portuguese red wine casks. How is this different from the Artein and Companta? Well, with the Milsean the layer of wood which gets charred when the casks are prepared for the whisky was not scraped off. With the charring left intact, this layer was allowed to impart all those caramelized sugars into the whisky, making it truly a sweet toother’s dream. Indeed, in Gaelic Milsean means “sweet things”.


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Glenmorangie Milsean – Private Edition VII (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light copper, thin legs with a bit of residue on the glass.

Nose: Ripe red and green apples, sweet vanilla custard, butterscotch dipped apple, you get some of that beefy sweet wine notes, hints of pears baked in wine and cinnamon. A few drops of water take it deep into pear territory, with honey appearing distinctly in the sweet notes.

Palate: The first thing you get is the Glenmorangie DNA. Clean malt, light and spicy, and then you get the wine dryness and the fresh black pepper. With water, the pepper is somewhat more in the front.

Linger: The linger conjures up the liquid sauce you drizzle on a wine poached pear, with the clove and cinnamon and sweetness that remains in the sauce, together with a somewhat deeper spice. It’s dry, but a soft kind of dry, and with water the peppery element remains longer.



Excellent expression, I liked the red wine matured Companta, but this has a depth to its desertiness that sets it apart. I don’t know if this is the best Glenmorangie ever (unseating the Astar will be very difficult), but it’s easily in the top three!
One small caveat: I’d refrain from adding water to it, not even a few drops.