Desirée's Trip to Glenmorangie
Being a Sommelier is a tough job that requires long hours and an expert knowledge of, not only wine, but all beverages. One of the perks of the job is being invited away on tastings, in order to get to know brands and their new products. Like Carols’ trip in June to Dom Pérignon, Desirée Steinheuer was invited to Glenmorangie House in Morayshire, Scotland.
Along with 7 restaurant and bar managers, Desirée took a flight from Gatwick to Inverness for her luxury overnight stay in the Scottish Highlands. On arrival at Glenmorangie House in Fearn, the group were treated to a lovely Scottish lunch before heading off to the distillery for a private tour.
The Glenmorangie Distillery has been producing its Single Highland malt Scotch whisky since 1843. There are a few unusual reasons why the whisky produced here is so unique. Glenmorangie use the tallest stills in Scotland during the distillation process (they are as tall as a fully grown giraffe!). Each oak cask used in the maturing process is only used twice – to ensure the maximum flavour is extracted during maturation, but before they are used by Glenmorangie, they are sourced and then leased to other alcohol producers for use so that other flavours are introduced into the oak and therefore the final Glenmorangie product too. Unlike other distilleries, hard water is used to make Glenmorangie. The water is drawn from the nearby Tarlogie Springs. It takes almost 100 years for this water to travel through limestone and rise to the surface.
During maturation roughly 2% of the whisky in each barrel will evaporate every year. This so called 'angel's share' is known as Glenmorangie’s way of keeping the whisky gods happy! It equates to around 120 million bottles 'lost' to the ether by Scottish producers.
During the distillery tour, the group were treated to a vertical tasting of:
Glenmorangie 10 years – taste: vanilla, flowery fruitiness
Glenmorangie 18 years – taste: honey, malt and flowery scents. Dates and figs in the background with a hint of wood smoke
Glenmorangie 25 years – taste: big and full-flavoured. Deep forest fruits burst on the tongue with mouth-watering blackberries and redcurrants emerging with bramble jelly.
Glenmorangie Astor – taste: crème brûlée with a burst of mouth-watering pineapple, poached pears and apricots, smothered with vanilla custard.
Each whisky was tasted neat to experience it in its purest form, where the complexity of the flavours and aromas is at its fullest intensity. They were then tasted with a little water - this softens the alcohol, causing a change in the texture and bouquet of the whisky, and revealing further layers of aromas and complexity. Finally each whisky was tasted over ice - this closes down the top notes that were released with water accentuating instead the base flavours from the oak barrel.
The afternoon was then spent back at the house, with the group filling their time with some clay pigeon shooting and a trip to the Glenmorangie barley fields which are in between the house and the private beach.
Before dinner was served there was more time allocated for another whisky tasting. This time the group were to taste Glenmorangie Signet, in a darkened room wearing headphones. The headphones were used to give a description of how to try the whisky to ensure you got the most out of it. This virtual tasting, aimed to show the group how the whisky could taste differently in the correct surroundings.
This was followed by a 5 course whisky tasting dinner. Head Chef, David Graham uses the finest local ingredients available to him to create menus to enhance the flavours of the whiskies being tasted.
Seafood canapés - Nectar d’Or – taste: Ginger, nutmeg and toasted almonds, syrupy lemon meringue and honeycomb
Sole and crab - Sonnalta PX - A sweet and fruity flavour progressing into a thick and syrupy pudding with a sprinkling of ginger and cinnamon
Calamansi and black pepper sorbet, served with Glenmorangie 10 years
Vension and beetroot - Quinta Ruban - Mint chocolate and walnuts, laying the foundations for rose, Turkish delight and sweet Seville oranges
Chocolate mousse cake – Signet - a contrast of rich sweetness with spices and bitter mocha
Dinner was followed by yet more whisky in the Buffalo Room. This time Desirée was treated to Glenmorangie Finealta, a recent new addition to the Glenmorangie family, which is made using a recipe that is over 100 years old and was served in The Savoy Bar in the early part of the last century.
The following morning, before returning to London, the group were treated to a traditional Scottish breakfast, followed by a walk to the Cadbolt Stone. Dating back to the 8th Century, the original stone is now in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland, but the distillery arranged to have a replica made which stands in the same spot. Some of the stone has been used for inspiration for the logo on the new Glenmorangie Signet bottle.