Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. A name of fashion, perfume and of course Champagne. With names like Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, it’s sometimes forgetful to remember that of course the cognac Hennessy is part of their glamorous portfolio. Champagne and wine outnumbers the spirits in the LVMH drink range, but they have some well-known names in their including Belvedere, 10 Cane, Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. After covering the first two, it only makes sense to take a look at the whisky that has been around since 1843, Glenmorangie.
It is said that the production of alcohol started at Morangie Farm in Tain, Ross-shire in 1738, when a brewery was built that shared the farm’s water source, the Tarlogie Spring. A former distillery manager, William Matheson, formerly part-owner of Balblair Distillery, and his brother John applied for a license, acquired the farm in 1843 and converted the Morangie brewery to a distillery, equipped with two second-hand gin stills. He later renamed the distillery Glenmorangie. The distillery was purchased by its main customer, the Leith firm Macdonald and Muir, in 1918, with the Macdonald family retaining control of the company for almost 90 years.
Glenmorangie, like all distilleries and breweries in Britain, suffered terribly between 1920 and 1950, with prohibition and then the Great Depression in the United States reducing whisky sales and the distillery was effectively mothballed between 1931 and 1936. The depression ended with World War II, but the war effort left fuel and barley in short supply and the distillery was again mothballed between 1941 and 1944. Towards the end of the war and in the immediate post war period, the distillery increased production and was running at full capacity by 1948 with the number of stills was increased from two to four during 1977. Water supply became a concern during the 1980’s with development of the land around the Tarlogie Springs becoming more likely. This development could have reduced the quality and quantity of water available to the distillery, so the decision was made by Macdonald and Muir to purchase around 600 acres of land around and including the Tarlogie Springs to guarantee the quality and quantity of water. The distillery once again engaged in expansion during 1990 when it added a further four stills, and two additional fermentation vessels during 2002. Four new stills were added in 2009, bringing the total to twelve.
The Macdonald family retained ownership of 52% of the company through a complicated London stock exchange listing which saw the family hold the majority of the voting shares of the company. The family sold the company in 2004 for around £300 million to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy.
Following the acquisition, Tayburn design agency were appointed to redesign Glenmorangie as part of a brand overhaul. This included the introduction of a new, more curvacious bottle, and the renaming of some of its variants. Its Wood Finish whiskies were given new names such as The Quinta Ruban, Nectar d’Or and LaSanta, which were also advertised as non chill-filtered for the first time. Glenmorangie has been the best-selling single malt in Scotland almost continuously since 1983, and produces around 10 million bottles per annum, of which 6 to 6.5 million are sold in the UK. Globally, Glenmorangie has a 6% share of the single malt market.
So how does Glenmorangie all come about then?
Using water from the Tarlogie Spring and barley grain from farmers in the area, the resulting fermentation is distilled using the tallest stills in Scotland standing at 26 ft 3 in (8 metres) tall with 16 ft 10.25 in (just over 5 metres) necks. The distillation process is undertaken by a staff of 16 known as The Sixteen Men of Tain. Once distilled, the use of different cask types create the varied range that Glenmorangie have to offer. All products are matured within white oak casks which are manufactured from trees growing in Glenmorangie’s own forest in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, United States. These new casks are left to air for two years before being leased to distillers Jack Daniel’s and Heaven Hill for them to mature bourbon in for four years. Glenmorangie then uses their barrels to mature their spirit.
The Original range will mature entirely in ex-bourbon casks, while the Extra Matured range of bottlings are transferred into casks that were previously used to mature other products such as wine, port or sherry in a process called finishing. These form part of the regular range of products Glenmorangie produces. Glenmorangie also obtains small batches of other casks for finishing and release limited edition bottlings from these. Following acquisition by LMVH, Glenmorangie produced a rare limited edition aged in casks previously used to mature Château Margaux. The warehouses in which the casks are stored are also believed to affect the taste of the whisky. Glenmorangie have released a special edition bottling, titled Cellar 13 which is from the warehouse closest to the sea, as the whisky is believed to have a distinctive flavour.
Bottling of Glenmorangie takes place at The Glenmorangie Company’s purpose-built bottling plant in The Alba Campus at Livingston, West Lothian, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland.
Bottling a 13 strong portfolio is an impressive feat, and I’ve been lucky enough to try some of their expressions. Below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Glenmorangie Original – 40%
A 10yr malt. Instant citrus on the nose but is soon followed by vanilla. Vanilla is also present on the palate before bursting with fruit near the end, noticeable orange.
Glenmorangie Nectar D’or – 46%
Sauternes cask finished. Sweet, rich vanilla notes dominate the nose with slight hints of toffee wandering soon after. The palate enjoys a slow build-up of spice, ginger and red berry that creates a warmth that lingers playfully long after.
Glenmorangie Lasanta – 46%
Spends ten years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being extra-matured for a further two years in Oloroso Sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. Wild spice with lots of dry oak flavours mix well on the nose, with a smooth yet heavier flavour of sherry and nuts on the palate. Subtle orange hints on the after-taste.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – 46%
Spends 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal. The nose is light with a sharp mint flavour hitting the senses. with a slight spice nearing the end. The palate has a combination of dark chocolate and fresh mint, that mellows out to become a lot smoother after a few sips. Hints of orange are also detected throughout.
Glenmorangie Ealanta – 46%
Part of the Private Edition range. Fully matured in specially sourced, heavily toasted new white oak casks from Missouri’s Ozark mountains. Fresh with soft orange peel on the nose. Rather light on the palate with sweet oak present, but it develops a lingering spice with hints of corn following.
With other expressions such as Astar, 18yr and 25yr, there are still plenty for me to try, and for yourselves to experience. The Glenmorangie range is not one to be sniffed at, as LVMH realised when they decided to purchase. For a company like that, they know when they see something good. Only the best quality get selected within their spirit ranks.
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