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.
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.
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…