Wednesday 6 March 2019

Why Glenmorangie's new 2019 Private Edition "Allta" is a good thing for whisky (Tasted #438)

If you follow any form of whisky social media (especially the more active Facebook groups), it seems that when it comes to limited edition whiskies, distilleries just can't win these days. They either release a whisky in a truly limited outturn (i.e. a few hundred bottles not 10,000+, perhaps from a single cask), and it sells out in a heartbeat (usually accompanied by a crashed website or traffic jam), with bottles ending up at auction the next month for 3-4x their retail price..

..and people complain.

OR they make it a more accessible release. Usually NAS, often without a stated outturn, but with unique properties, keen pricing and relative accessibility to whisky markets around the world...

..and still people complain.

Moët Hennessy clearly take the latter approach each year, with both their annual Ardbeg Day and Glenmorangie Private Edition releases, and whilst people may whinge that they're not "special" enough, or don't carry an age, or whatever, I think that's what makes them great. These, in my opinion, are whiskies made for drinking. Maybe now, or maybe in the future, but they're not whiskies to flip for 5x their asking price after 1 month, or to sell in 10 years to fund your kid's tertiary education. They're also whiskies you stand a chance of actually obtaining, without emptying your bank account.

Buy them, open them, enjoy them.

...which is the approach we've taken to Glenmorangie Private Editions for a few years now, starting with 2013's Ealanta, 2014's Companta, 2015's Tùsail, 2016's Milsean 2017's Bacalta and last year's 2018 Spios.

..and now, 2019's "Allta", which was released this month in Hong Kong and Australia.

I've always respected Glenmorangie's Private Editions, not just for the reasons outlined above, but because they genuinely are unique departures from the core Glenmorangie range, and often involve significant foresight and planning, more than simply giving the whisky a finish for a few months.

(Last year's Spios for example was wholly aged in ex-Rye casks for 10ish years, whilst 2015's Tùsail involved the use of a unique strain of barley.)

That enterprising spirit that Dr Bill (and now Brendan McCarron) are known for is perhaps no more evident than in this year's release, which moves the focus to yeast rather than maturation, barley or finishing. It all started 20 years ago, when a discussion between the late whisky writer Michael Jackson and Dr Bill (himself a yeast physiologist) about a since-forgotten "house" yeast strain which Glenmorangie used to possess got Dr Bill thinking more about yeast, and specifically how, in his words, "yeast’s influence on taste has been overlooked for years".

That led to Dr Bill to discover a new species of wild yeast ("Saccharomyces diaemath" if you must know), growing on the distillery's Cadboll barley, which was subsequently cultivated, and brought together with the barley itself to distill a unique, brand new Glenmorangie spirit.

That spirit was then matured in a mixture of refill and 2nd fill ex-Bourbon barrels (allowing the spirit to do the talking, rather than the oak), originally intended to be 15 years apparently, but bottled "earlier" as it was thought to be at its peak.

Finally, the spirit was then bottled at 51.2% (a departure from the usual 46% of recent Private Editions) and non chill-filtered...all of which makes for a very interesting whisky.

....but does it make for a great tasting whisky? Let's find out - both Hendy and I have included our notes below.

Glenmorangie "Allta" 10th Priviate Edition 2019 Release (51.2% ABV, NAS, Highlands, HK pricing TBC / $150AUD / £65.70 ex-VAT)
Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Cereal-like at first - porridge with vanilla essence, and Arnotts cream biscuits (orange cream especially). There's some barley sugar too (the type your parents would buy you from the chemist when you were sick), and with water, significantly more perfumed, floral notes.
Hendy: The nose is sweet and enticing. Dessert has been served. Loads of vanilla milkshake, milk chocolate, bubble tea followed by orange and citrus notes. There is a hint of earthiness on the nose towards the end.

Palate: The biscuit notes continue, with some strawberry and peach fruitiness. There's an earthiness underlying the whole thing too, and a robust viscosity throughout, although you wouldn't necessarily pick it as 51%+ - the alcohol content never feels harsh. With a few drops of water, the aforementioned fruity notes are brought to the fore even more.
Hendy: Spelled delicious. The palate is creamy and floral. Sweet strawberry jam biscuits, "strawberry" jam drops coupled with orange cake lapped with a bit of orange icing. The palate then eases into some cinnamon and nutmeg spices and becomes quite tannic and dry.

Finish: Long, with some grapefruit (flesh not peel), underlying oak (never dominating) and a slight earthy peppermint note to finish.
Hendy: Long with everlasting citrus and dry spices that remain.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  90/100. A delicious dram (we'll have no trouble finishing the bottle!) and more importantly, a unique and interesting departure from the core Glenmorangie range, which still clearly a Glenmo.

Allta is available now in Hong Kong and Australia. Many thanks to MHDHK for the bottle of Allta provided for review in HK, and MH Australia for the sample bottle in Sydney.


1 comment:

  1. ELITISM OR LIKE A HERD OF BULLS - May be so, Glenmorangie more than Ardbeg, but for how long? Ardbeg Committee has already become the former mad rush, elitism first come first served lottery approach, and still they let first served customers have two bottles, and everyone who is at work or can't get an internet connection in the first hour of release gets none, is dumped. That is elitism and blatant bad, incompetent, dismissive marketing by Moet-Hennessy Australia, whichever way you look at it, and I certainly put in my complaint yesterday over this year's Ardbeg Committee release.

    Frankly, if M-H Aus and Ardbeg continue to do it this way, this brand will permanently fall off my list. There are plenty more distilleries and malts in the sea, just as good and at the same price who treat their customers with a little more dignity and respect, than a herd of inteRnet bulls!