Dr. Bill Lumsden is obsessed with wood. Lumsden is head of distilling and whisky creation for the Glenmorangie Company, which owns the Ardbeg and Glenmorangie distilleries. If you examine the range of Glenmorangie expressions, you get an idea of Lumsden’s fascination with how different barrels affect his whisky. The distillery pioneered the idea of finishing whisky, which is a brief secondary maturation in a different type of barrel than used during the primary maturation.
Glenmorangie owns a forest in Missouri. Casks made from this good ole’ American oak are leased to some American distilleries. Heaven Hill is rumored to be one. These American distilleries age their bourbon, then turn over the used barrels to Glenmorangie.
The youngest Glenmorangie whisky aged in these barrels is their 10-year-old expression: Glenmorangie The Original. Most, if not all, of the rest of their expressions then go on to a brief secondary maturation in a variety of different casks, like the new Glenmorangie Milsean, which is finished in re-toasted ex-wine casks.
Glenmorangie The Original is the distillery’s simplest whisky expression. Ten years in first and refill ex-bourbon casks. That’s it. But don’t let that simplicity fool you. Glenmorangie’s stills, the tallest in Scotland, produce a light and floral spirit that, combined with meticulous wood management, lead to a sweet, complex whisky. This expression is bottled at 43% abv.
The nose is on the lighter side, but still maintains a richness about it with notes of light toffee, honeysuckle and vanilla. Sweet malt provides a rich quality, while lemon rind adds some brightness. Those last two aromas mentioned are the first flavors encountered on the entry. The bourbon cask maturation adds a bit of sweet toffee and some vanilla bean, as well as a bit of well-integrated oak. Then there’s light fruit and the not-quite-subtle floral character. No flavor note outweighs another, giving us a beautifully balanced whisky. The finish is full of honeyed malt. It’s clean and doesn’t last too long.
This isn’t a “heavy” whisky. Instead it’s a highly flavored, delicate whisky. I can see why this is the best selling single malt whisky in Scotland. Glenmorangie “The Original” is one to pull out for a friend who’s never tasted Scotch. At the same time, it should please even experienced whisky drinkers. Recommended!