Cask finishing (using barrels from other production processes to finish their own whiskey) is something that distillers in Scotland have been playing with for a while now. Heck, they’ve been using American bourbon barrels for ages simply because they are dirt cheap on the secondhand market, so throwing the whiskey in something like a wine cask is a logical next step. And Glenmorangie went for exactly that approach with their Nectar D’Or, by using a very specific kind of white wine cask to try and give their whiskey some unique flavors.
Alcoholic spirits and beverages are 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 secondhand gin stills. He also gave the distillery its modern name, Glenmorangie. Having successfully transformed it into a well-performing whisky production business, he then sold the distillery to Macdonald & 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 by 1977 the distillery doubled its capacity from two stills to four, before doubling again in 1990 to it’s current total of eight stills. In the 1980s, the distillery purchased 600 acres of land surrounding the facility to preserve their water supply.
Throughout all this, 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, Glenmorangie had focused on their flagship spirit, but these 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.
- Learn More: What Is Scotch Whisky?
Glenmorangie scotch whisky is about as local as you can get. The distillery starts with a selection of barley grown and sold by a co-operative of local farmers in the region where the facility is located. These grains 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’s 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: aging Glenmorangie scotch whisky. 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.
With this Nectar D’Or release, Glenmorangie first ages their spirits in those previously used bourbon barrels for a full ten years before finishing the spirit in Sauternes wine casks. Sauternes is a sweet white wine, produced using grapes grown in the Bordeaux region which have been partially rotted by a specific bacteria which induces a distinctive fruity, sweet flavor. The whiskey is placed into these previously used wine casks for two additional years before being blended, bottled, and shipped.
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 golden honey color of the label almost perfectly matches the rich amber color of the spirit within the bottle. 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 into and out of its spot in the whisky cabinet can be a struggle.
This whiskey is labeled the “Nectar D’Or”, which translated from French means “The Golden Nectar”, and I think that description is spot on for the color of this spirit. Coming off the glass, I immediately get the soft and sweet white wine aromas — if I had to take a crack at it, I’d call it as a sauvignon blanc (but then again my wife is the one that did her WSET certification in wine, not me). Behind that distinctive white grape fruit aroma, there are some of the components you’d normally expect with a highland whiskey: specifically, some good sourdough bread from the malted barley, a good shot of honey with the floral aspects, a touch of butter, and some caramel from the bourbon casks.
The flavor is much richer and more well saturated than you’d expect with a light colored whiskey like this one, and generally speaking it tastes like a better version of The Original.
The flavor profile starts out with some fruity notes, including apricot, apple, and pear, before adding a touch of honey and the associated floral blossoms that go with it — all par for the course. Where this gets interesting is near the finish, when some of the caramel, vanilla, and baking spices from the oak casks make an appearance and add some depth and complexity. On the finish, you can definitely see the impact of the white wine barrels, as it finishes with that white grape fruit note that we saw in the aroma mixing with some of the caramel and baking spices that had just developed.
Usually, with the addition of some ice, I’d expect the barrel aging flavors to be the ones that go missing, lost to the cold and the dilution that follows. But in this case, I think the white wine cask finishing notes actually stick around much longer than expected.
In general, the flavors are significantly reduced — pretty much all you have at this point is some sourdough bread and honey left over from the original list. But that white wine grape still makes an appearance in the finish, adding some lovely fruity notes to the spirit. That seems to combine a bit with some of the crisp apple we previously saw and linger on for a while as the flavor fades.
This is absolutely a better version of Glenmorangie. It has a light sweetness to it and a white wine aspect that makes this fruity and delightful spirit even better. I completely agree that it is worth the price they are asking.
What’s keeping me from giving this higher marks is that tis whiskey doesn’t have quite the depth and complexity that we see in some other examples. There’s a lot of players on the market at this price point and, while I like this whiskey, I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. Absolutely worthwhile, especially when taken neat… but there’s a lot more out there to explore.
|Glenmorangie The Nectar D'Or
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $57.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A good single malt scotch whisky that is made better by the addition of some white wine cask finishing. Nothing that will blow your socks off, but very nice to sip.