Whisky Review: Glenmorangie The Cadboll Estate 15 Year

Most scotch whisky is made from ingredients that are somewhat mass produced and shipped into the distillery. There’s undeniably a bit of artistry and craftsmanship that goes into the process, transforming those raw ingredients into the spirit that will eventually hit the shelf… but there’s also something to be said for a whiskey that is 100% local, with grains and water from the distillery itself. And that’s exactly what the Cadboll Estate is for Glenmorangie: a 100% locally-produced expression from their own facility.


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History

Alcoholic beverages were believed to have been manufactured in the highland Scottish village of Tain since at least the middle ages.

The Morangie farm, where the modern distillery is located, began producing alcoholic beverages in 1703. Production was vastly increased when a brewery was opened on the site in 1730, sharing the water that was being used to irrigate the farm.

That brewery operated for over 100 years until William Matheson, a former distillery manager from another company, purchased the brewery in 1843 and converted it into a distillery using two second hand gin stills. He also gave the distillery its modern name, Glenmorangie. Having created a successful whisky production business, he then sold the distillery to their long time owner Macdonald and Muir in 1918.

Like most distilleries in Great Britain, the Glenmorangie distillery halted production between 1931 and 1936, and again between 1941 and 1945, but was back to full capacity by 1948. Within just a couple of years, the demand had dramatically increased and in 1977 the distillery doubled its capacity from two stills to four, and doubled again in 1990 to a total of eight. In the 1980s, the distillery purchased 600 acres of land surrounding the facility to preserve their water supply.

Throughout all this history, the Macdonald family had retained ownership of the distillery; but in 2004, the French spirits company LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE purchased the distillery outright. Until this point, the company had focused on their flagship spirit, but the new owners brought redesigned curved bottles and the desire to experiment with different flavors and barrels for aging their spirit.

Glenmorangie has been the best selling single malt in Scotland since 1983, and globally they hold 6% of the total single malt whisky market.

Product

Glenmorangie scotch whisky is about as local as you can get, and this version is especially local. What makes it so unique is that this expression uses only barley that is grown and harvested from Glenmorangie’s own estate farms, which are malted and cooked using water from the local Tarlogie spring that runs through the nearby hills.

After fermentation, the slightly alcoholic mixture is distilled in the tallest pot stills in Scotland. Standing at a towering 26 feet high, there are two reasons why this is important: first, the height ensures that only the lighter (and sweeter) compounds make it over the top and into the collection barrels. Second, the added journey also exposes those vapors to the copper in the still for a longer period of time which (through a chemical reaction with the copper) strips out more of the offensive sulfur compounds.

For the maturation process, Glenmorangie actually has a unique arrangement to source their barrels. Famous distilleries like Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill don’t actually buy their barrels — they simply lease them from Glenmorangie. The charred oak barrels are used to mature American bourbon for a period of a few years before being shipped over to Scotland for the real reason they were built. The barrels are first filled with a neutral grain spirit for a few years to mellow out the flavors and extract some of the American bourbon from the wood, and once that process is complete the barrels are filled with Glenmorangie’s whisky and allowed to finally start the aging process.

For this version, Glenmorangie ages the whiskey a full 15 years or more prior to bottling.

Packaging

The bottle definitely stands out on the shelf, which was the entire point of the early 2000’s redesign.

The bottle is tall and slender — much taller than anything else in my own whisky collection. The bottle has a flared base with an inwardly curved waist that flares again at the shoulder. From there, it’s a gentle slope up to the long neck, and the whole thing is capped with a plastic and cork stopper.

While the label is rather large, it thankfully isn’t that distracting. The royal blue color of the label beautifully pairs with the golden spirit within, almost giving it the appearance of a French aristocrat. On that label is the bare essentials of information, and I think the shiny embellishment on the edges and in the design in the middle of the label is tastefully accomplished.

While I appreciate the size of the bottle, and the purpose that it serves (standing out on a bar or store shelf), I do think that it makes things a touch difficult. It’s about the same size as a normal wine bottle instead of the typically shorter and stouter whisky containers — so getting it in and out of its spot in the whisky cabinet can be a struggle.

Neat

In general, Glenmorangie tends to be a bit richer in color than other similar spirits. And in this case, that warm gold color is definitely on full display.

The aroma coming off the glass is definitely on the lighter side of the spectrum, without any peat smoke or much heavy aging going on. There is some honey and flower blossom right up front, a bit of fresh melon, and some oatmeal-like cereal with brown sugar in the background. I’m also getting some nutmeg spice that is adding a good bit of depth and texture.

Taking a sip, the first thing I notice is something that wasn’t really there in the aroma: lemon citrus. Specifically lemon zest — that aromatic and bright flavor you get in the peel. That flavor develops and incorporates some of the other components we saw before, like the honey, flower blossoms, melon, oatmeal, and brown sugar. That nutmeg we saw earlier has also expanded a bit, adding in some cinnamon and other baking spices to make this almost like a spiced sugar cookie by the end.

On Ice

My biggest concern with a light and floral spirit is that those delicate flavor components won’t stand up to some ice. The cold and the dilution usually only leave the richer and darker aspects behind, and with a nicely balanced spirit like this that can often be a bit of a problem.

And while I do see that effect happening to some extent, I think there’s enough of the flavor coming through to make it an acceptable preparation.

I’m not getting so much of the floral aspects here. Instead. that oatmeal and brown sugar with some honey sweetness is really what is shining through. The baking spices make an appearance at the end, but are significantly attenuated compared to where they started. It still works, but it is a pale comparison to how we had it neat.


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Overall Rating

This is a spirit where the context makes all of the difference. Glenmorangie makes some amazing stuff for their standard line of scotch, but it’s not 100% locally sourced like this is. There are some additional tricks and twists in this bottle compared to their normal fare, but not enough to warrant the price tag on its own. However, once you add in the locally sourced context, I absolutely see the value you’re getting for your money.

I highly recommend taking this neat. My wife is someone who recently discovered that highland scotch on the rocks “isn’t a terrible glass of burning fire” (her words) so, for someone like her that isn’t ready for scotch neat, I think I’d recommend the normal bottle. You’re getting most of the same flavor profile, but without the added price tag. This, on the other hand, really shines when you leave the ice in the freezer.

Glenmorangie The Cadboll Estate 15 Year
Production Location: Highlands, Scotland
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: 15 Years
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $94.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4/5
A delicious, locally sourced spirit from the Glenmorangie estate grounds that provides a true taste of their land.


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