I’d like to thank Glenmorangie for pouring this sample for me. I want to be up front, I was given lunch and this dram as well as other cocktails and a really good coffee as part of the event. The below opinions are my own.
Casks as an interesting aspect of whisky making. In American whiskey, the question is easy: Virgin American Oak. Gives it some of the signature taste profile people like.
Once they are done with it, then the world wants it. Ex-bourbon casks are now a staple, ever since the first Scotch whisky used them back in 1949. That company’s name? Not Einstein. Glenmorangie. 90% of all Scotch whisky today uses ex-bourbon casks.
This past year, I personally went back to exploring more ex-bourbon casks, and had a great time of it. However in the past two decade we have seen more and more distilleries exploring with different casks. White wine, red wine, various types of sherry or port, and even some casks that run into issues with the SWA. Heck, I’ve even heard of ex-Tobasco casks being used.
However there seems to be one that was missed. It seems obvious now, what with rye whiskey being the current “rage” and all the cool kids enjoying their Sazeracs and Thomas H. Handys (those kids being the legal drinking age in their respective areas, of course), however back in the 90s, it wasn’t a rage. It was barely a thing.
Somehow, even given that only 0.1% were ex-rye casks, Dr. Bill, who had been hooked on rye by Michael Jackson (not that one, the beer and whisky writer), was able to obtain them and poured in some Glenmorangie juice.
The result? Glenmorangie Spios, with Spios meaning spice in Gaelic.
They won’t release where the casks came from, out of professional respect. And this is NAS, however it was bottled in 2017 and distilled in the 90s, so we can assume it’s at least 10 years.
However we’re missing a step here: Do ex-rye casks do anything more than ex-bourbon? We hope they would, however this is new territory.
That’s what I’m here for. Well probably for other things too, but this is one of them. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: €79, however not yet available in Canada (coming soon)
Cask type: Ex-rye casks
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Cotton, peach, hazelnut, yeasty bread, cinnamon
As part of the tasting, we started with the Glenmorangie Original, then the Nectar d’Or, and then the Spios. That was done on purpose, as the flavours of each are a slow growth.
So here we have a soft nose, yet the ex-rye cask comes through given some time. I can see where the whole “growth” of the three whiskies comes in. This one has a nuttiness to it that’s found in the ex-Sauternes Nectar d’Or, of which I’m biased against, as readers know.
I enjoy this more. The yeasty bread, the cinnamon, and the stone fruit are all quite subtle.
Taste: Cereal, brown sugar, orange, grassy, lots of cashews and almonds
Good mouthfeel. That’s the initial thing that I, and others at the tasting, notice. It’s a lower proof, however that hasn’t thrown off the flavour.
Again, there’s quite a bit of subtle aspects here. The orange from the rye, and then all of the nuttiness. This is like meeting up at a yuppy’s place for breakfast: Tons and tons of nut butter here, and no peanuts in sight.
Finish: Gingerbread, beef stock, coconut oil, mineral/earth
Finish is spice, umami, and mineral. I’m not loving the amount of earth here, and feel that’s one place the ex-rye can’t cover up. Some would even say maybe it shouldn’t, so YMMV, which sounds fun if you say it as an abbreviation instead of an initialism. It’s like a kazoo.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. This has some umami upsides, and some downsides if you’re sensitive to earth.
Conclusion: I’ll be honest: I haven’t had many of the Glenmorangie Private Editions. I really enjoyed Ealanta, and I really enjoyed Companta. Beyond those? I haven’t reviewed many of them. This one makes me want to try more of them.
I asked Dr. Bill during the tasting if they’d ever consider using ex-rye on Ardbeg, and he stated that it’s a subtle difference between an ex-bourbon cask and an ex-rye cask. I agree after tasting this. It takes on the spices, orange, and whatnot, and a light Glenmorangie is needed to show it off.
The finish was the only place I found that the ex-rye couldn’t balance out. However given the nice nose and the mouthfeel, this is a quality dram.
I also look forward to trying other takes on ex-rye casks, and think Glenmorangie is onto something. I’d welcome this as a regular offering over, let’s say, Nectar d’Or (I tease, I tease).
Scotch review #834, Highland review #135, Whisky Network review #1345