Whisky Review: Glenmorangie The Lasanta 12 Year

Sherry cask finishing is something that I find a bit hit and miss. I usually get brighter and crisper notes from the sherry compared to something like a port (which can be a challenge to blend properly), but it really depends on the spirit you’re starting with and how you handle the process. For Glenmorangie’s Lasanta offering, those brighter and fruity tones seem to be exactly what they are trying to accentuate — the question is whether the finished product is worth the sticker price.


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History

The Morangie farm, where the modern Glenmorangie distillery is located, has been documented producing alcoholic beverages as far back as 1703 (although alcoholic beverages are believed to have been manufactured in this highland Scottish village of Tain since at least the middle ages). 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; however, 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 much like we saw in their port-finished Quinta version, this is especially local. Much like its peer, this 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. Some 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.

This specific bottling is the product of Dr. Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling for Glenmorangie, trying to find a combination of maturation processes and blending of barrels to capture his impression of a sunset. To accomplish this goal, the whiskey is matured in both the typical previously used whiskey barrels as well as casks which previously held Spanish Oloroso or PX sherry for a period of 12 years. The results are blended to perfection and bottled for sale.

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 wine red color of the label is striking and bold, making this stand out among the rest of the more tastefully demure designs of the Glenmorangie line and evoking that idea of a beautiful red sunset. On the label are the bare essentials of information, and I think the metallic 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.


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Neat

The liquid in the bottle is certainly a few shades darker than The original version of Glenmorangie, thanks to the extra time in the barrel and that finishing process. There’s even a touch of rust color that I’m seeing here, which might be some of that blood red Oloroso or PX sherry coming through.

From the first whiff, this smells sweeter and fruitier than a standard glass of Glenmorangie. I’m getting a lot of raisins, dried fruits like apricots and figs, and a floral sugary sweetness that smells like honey. There’s just a touch of the crisp tartness that I usually get from this spirit, but there’s so much else going on that it’s more of a background component.

While the aroma was impacted greatly by the sherry finishing, the flavor is only slightly adjusted. The big difference is that I’m getting some raisins and a bit of sweetness up front as soon as the flavor starts, but that’s followed pretty quickly by the more traditional components of a glass of Glenmorangie. There’s the crisp apple, pear, banana, melon, floral blossoms, and a hint of tartness on the finish. In the past, I think I’ve compared this scotch to a Sunday brunch at the lady’s club, and that’s what I’m getting here. Not knocking it — that flavor profile is delicious — it’s just not much of a change compared to the standard version.

On Ice

Normally, when you start adding a bit of ice, you lose some of the maturation flavors — especially those that aren’t quite as saturated or incorporated into the flavor profile. So I was expecting pretty much all of the sherry flavors to disappear, based on how faintly they showed up when I tried this neat. What I got instead was the opposite: the base whiskey flavors now seem to have taken a back seat and allow the sherry really shine through.

The biggest change is the tartness that I usually see in a glass of Glenmorangie. It’s part of the neat flavor profile and gives off this impression of a very dry and aristocratic spirit. That is almost completely gone, leaving behind a sweeter and smoother flavor combination that is much more fruit-forward. I’m getting more of the dried raisins, apricots, and figs, combined with some walnuts and floral honey. It’s much more like a glass of well-aged sherry than a glass of well-aged scotch, and I’m a fan.


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Overall Rating

When I review a spirit, typically I expect tasting it neat to reveal the most flavor. That’s where the spirit is at its strongest, without any adulteration, and able to really shine. But in this case, I found that a couple cubes of ice really make a huge difference. This is best served on the rocks, in my opinion, for the most delicious view of that combination of sherry and scotch.

That is a bit unfortunate, though. The flavors are good when taken on the rocks, but they aren’t as deep or complex as they could have been otherwise. And when taken neat, the lack of an impression from the sherry is a bit disappointing.

In the end, this isn’t a bad whiskey, this just isn’t their best showing. And at this price, with all of the rest of the competition in the market factored in, it just comes in a little under par in my opinion.

Glenmorangie The Lasanta 12 Year
Production Location: Highlands, Scotland
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: 12 Years
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $42.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
Find It Online
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: 2/5
Best enjoyed on the rocks for a sweeter, fruitier version of Glenmorangie.


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