I do not always envy whisky makers, certainly not within our current culture of never-ending whisky releases, Twitter mad whisky fans who can comment instantaneously on products, and greater pressure to produce whiskies that will appeal to an ever wider global audience.
And it was with this thought that I went to the recent launch of the latest in the Glenmorangie Private Edition range – the Companta.
The reason I went armed thinking this?
Well, quite simply because Companta follows the Private Edition range’s fourth release, Ealanta, which was named World Whisky of the Year in whisky writer Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2014.
I couldn’t help but wonder just how many of the attendees that night would be wondering if Companta would live up to Ealanta and just how it would go down generally. To be honest, I loved the Ealanta (see my review, here) so I may have been on my own in this thought process.
As it happens, Companta is a completely different beast than Ealanta. While the latter was matured for 19 years in virgin American oak casks, the newest edition takes Glenmorangie to a different level having been matured first in American white oak, before being transferred to Clos de Tart Burgundy wine barriques and blended with whisky matured separately in Rasteau barriques. But more on that later.
On hand to discuss this latest one was the whisky maker in question: Dr Bill Lumsden, who has worked with the company for almost 19 years, and who looked very relaxed about any potential pressure he might find himself under. After all, as he said (somewhat cheekily): “I feel I’m really getting to know the whisky and get used to it now, after this many years.”
According to Dr Lumsden, the concept for the Private Edition range was dreamt up seven years ago.
“We’ve been targeting around 2.5 to 9k barrels for each release, which is quite a risk when you don’t know how it will turn out; but so far, so good,” he commented at the launch.
The plan for the range is for it to continue on a yearly basis for the next five to 10 years and he currently has “around 29 new products under development”, although he admitted not all of them will see the light of the store shelf.
For this fifth edition, he was inspired by a trip to Burgundy where he was able to taste wines from Clos de Tart, one of only five Grand Crus in the region. He loved what he tried so much that he became determined to find a way to incorporate the casks into a Glenmorangie whisky release.
So, back to the cask composition of this latest release. To start, Dr Lumsden took 10 year old Glenmorangie and, back in 2008, transferred it to those barriques from Clos de Tart. He left them to age but was worried they were becoming “too austere” so he looked to the rest of his warehouse and chose another parcel of barriques from Rasteau (he chose a slightly sweeter version) which had been used to mature 10 year old Glenmorangie for eight years.
Ostensibly, this means the new release contains some 18 year old whisky (the Rasteau extra matured, which comes from whisky originally distilled in 1995), and some 15 year old whisky (the Clos de Tart extra matured, originally distilled in 1998).
The breakdown for the final blend was a mix of 60% whisky from the Clos de Tart barriques and 40% from the Rasteau barriques. These were left to marry together for six months before being bottled.
All of this was explained in a matter of minutes in Dr Lumsden’s slightly erratic but effervescently amiable manner (which also included his story as to how he first started drinking whisky – as it happens, during a party on the 17 March, 1984 in Edinburgh with “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” playing in the background as he drank Glenmorangie Original).
After all the chat, it was time to taste. Now, the room was very loud and buzzy, so my notes were not hugely comprehensive but what I found was this…
On the nose, at first there were notes of ripe blood oranges, prunes and dark toffee, which eased into some red berry notes (dark chocolate covered cherries) along with cinnamon bark.
This followed on the palate with notes of cherry, milk chocolate, cloves, a bit of a damp mould/sulphur note, along with cough medicine and liquorice allsorts.
At first, I found it such a change from the normal Glenmorangie I’m used to drinking that I was unsure of it. It took a little while to ease into but once my palate warmed up and I got out of the mindset of looking for ‘normal’ Glenmorangie notes (for me, often apples and peaches) I came to really enjoy this whisky, though I have to say I did prefer the nose to the palate on this one.
It stands out for being quite different than you’d normally get but I liked its various layers and complexity. One could compare it to the Quinta Ruban, which is finished in ex-port casks; that same rich darkness comes through but is heightened further with the Companta.
It will be interesting to hear how this latest release is taken in by other whisky drinkers – if you try it, do let me know what you think. It’s being priced at the same point as last year’s release – £69.99 – and is bottled at 46% so it’s a nice one to have on the shelf if you like a richer, darker, stronger version of Glenmorangie.
Thanks to Glenmorangie for providing images for this post.
For further details, head to: www.glenmorangie.com