There has been something in the air the last couple of years in whisky.
More and more, I see companies tailoring their offerings to be more ‘from the people’ – and by that I mean, I’ve seen a lot of whiskies based mostly on the feedback of a company’s consumers, rather than always just by what the master blender sees as a key focus for the flavour and style profile of the malt, such as Suntory’s Distiller’s Reserve Yamazaki and Hakushu, both of which the master blender told me were created in part by taking consumer input and figuring out what type of whisky would work best to satisfy that, before working backwards from that end goal to develop the whiskies.
Alongside this, companies are more focused on the Travel Retail market – i.e.: all those whiskies available in airports around the world. This is the space where you – the consumer – can more frequently find releases either done just for this market, or made available to this market for the initial months of the release giving you a head start if you travel a lot.
It is both of these things that I have noted Glenmorangie doing with two of its most recent releases.
The first whisky is Taghta – billed as the world’s first ‘crowd-sourced’ whisky, this release was created by Dr Bill Lumsden over a period of 18 months, with input from members of the company’s online club, the Cask Masters, influencing everything from the whisky, to its name (meaning, The Chosen One in Gaelic), packaging, photography and launch location (the Highlands). Only available to members of this club (which is free and which you can join here) the release of 12,000 bottles globally signalled an intent by Dr Bill and his team of how much consumers’ input can matter in this day and age.
During a recent interview with the man himself, he said: “I feed off a lot from the views of consumers. Sonalta PX and the newly reformed Lasanta were formulated directly with feedback from consumers. I think a lot more companies are going down that route.”
Alongside this, is the aforementioned Travel Retail market, one of the biggest in the world when it comes to malt whisky. The Dornoch is the first whisky that Glenmorangie has developed just for this space – following on the heels of many well-known brands like Bowmore and Old Pulteney – and is the first in a new series, which will continue with a release called Duthac next spring. But it isn’t something that’s just been schlepped out to satisfy a market they’ve not tailored to before – rather, it’s a distinctly different offering from Dr Bill, who has used a combination of traditional ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask matured whisky, combined with experimental casks of peated Glenmorangie (which Dr Bill put down to mature in the mid-’90s) that have been extra matured for five years in ex-Amontialldo sherry casks. It’s led to a Glenmorangie that’s not quite like the other Glenmorangies you might know and is a fascinating exploration of the effect of peat on a traditionally unpeated malt. Additionally, this release has a good CSR element: a donation from every bottle sold goes towards the Marine Conservation Society, to help protect the lands around the Dornoch Firth, on which the distillery is located.
“I had the product name and idea before creating the whisky. So I went down to the Dornoch Firth at the distillery and I closed my eyes, and listened to the tidal waves and inhaled the smell. I got meadows, and brine, and a hint of distant peat smoke – it was those notes that I wanted to bring into this whisky so I went about creating it from there,” he explained, with a flair.
Whether or not these two trends will continue will be interesting to watch. What the two things really represent is the ever-more global world in which we live and in which whisky operates: the Taghta was created with input from people from 30 different countries, something that never would have been easily possible without the power of the internet; and, the Dornoch is created specifically for a market which caters to the global traveller.
Most importantly for consumers above and beyond all of this is the fact that both are solid, enjoyable, if not overly complex, whiskies. Here’s what I thought of each:
Glenmorangie Taghta: 46%: £69.99:
Available exclusively to Cask Masters
(c): Burnt Butter
(n): Nice & rich – classic toffee and butter note, honey and brown sugar, golden raisins and pineapple cubes along with a nice marzipan note. With water: becomes more floral and less saturated. Lighter honey notes and more rummy raisins.
(p): Mouth-coatig; Lots of sugary sweetness and oaky notes – really classic. Good amount of spice; comforting if not mind-blowing. With water: relaxed a bit and becomes a bit less sticky-sweet.
(f): Wood staves coated in brown sugar.
In conclusion: A very pleasant dram – not overwhelmingly complex and a fairly short finish but an easy-drinking, enjoyable autumnal whisky.
Glenmorangie Dornoch: 43%: £59.99:
(n): Linseed oil and Brazil nuts, green apples and toffee – almost thick on the nose. There’s also a lovely, earthy note alongside the sweetness.
(p): Aniseed, a nice cinnamon spice around the sides of the palate, bit of an apply sweetness before just a hint of earthy, heathery peat.
(f): Medium-long finish – wanted it to go a bit longer but a lovely gentle sweetness flows through.
In Conclusion: A really interesting whisky that takes traditional Glenmo and bulks it out with the peat, and dries it out with the Amontillado casks. As a note, I am also utterly in love with the packaging – one of the most beautifully elegant bits of design to hit whisky shelves this year, as far as I’m concerned.