The combined wisdom of the world’s film critics would argue there isn’t much to thank the sword-swishing fantasy movie Highlander (1986) for, but for a future whisky drinker, one particular bar scene taught me a valuable lesson in how to correctly pronounce Glenmorangie. Descend heavily onto the ‘Mor’ and let the ‘Angie’ trail off like a smooth malt finish, if you don’t want to fall foul of one of whisky’s most deceptive pronunciation traps (let’s not even mention Auchroisk…).
It occurred to me recently during a repeat viewing of Highlander, stubbornly enjoying Christopher Lambert’s unique interpretation of the Scottish and indeed every other accent, that although I enjoyed correctly pronouncing Glenmorangie, I had very little experience of drinking it.
So, I’ve lined up two drams from the famous Tain distillery. The Glenmorangie Original carries a 10 year old age statement and retails in most supermarkets and even the odd petrol station for around £30. The 18 Year Old expression, labelled as “extremely rare” which would make any whisky drinker fear for their bank balance, actually costs just under £90 and spends the last three years of its life in the barrel in Oloroso Sherry casks.
One thing the Glenmorangie Distillery is known for is its tall stills (5 metres / 16.5 feet in height), allowing the lightest particles to win the race to the condenser, leaving the oily and heavy flavours wheezing and spluttering behind. This distillation method is designed to produce a lighter, floral whisky.
Nose: A real fruit salad of notes with a hint of spice
Palate: Sweet and creamy, with a little edge. I’m instantly reminded of moreish/sickly Highland Toffee bars from my school days.
Finish: Trails off nicely with a bit more warm citrus and toffee
OVERALL: Lots to like with this dram for the price. It’s no mystery why it continues to be one of the world’s best selling single malts.
Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare
Given that Glenmorangie also produces 25-, 28- and 34- and even 41-year old expressions, I’m not terribly sold on the superlative rarity in which this 18-year old whisky is presented but never one to blame the distiller for the marketer’s folly, I’ll plough on with an open mind.
Nose: Darker fruits, oily and fragrant, a little citrus
Palate: Very sweet and floral, spiced figs and a swinging barrel-stave to the face of rich oak
Finish: Long and sweet, menthol and a few shavings of lemon zest
OVERALL: Doesn’t quite match up to some notable sherried Speysides but then again, it’s not trying to. This is a pleasingly complex and rewarding dram.
Now That’s What I Call…Glenmorangie
Not many whisky distilleries can lay claim to having an entire album of music written about them and after conducting exhaustive research (well, 5 or 10 minutes on Google…), I can confirm that Glenmorangie are alone in having such an honour bestowed upon them.
Jazz guitarist, Allan Holdsworth released The Sixteen Men of Tain in 2000, a reference to the staff of sixteen workers who undertook the distillation process at Glenmorangie Distillery until some new hires took the team up to a staff of 24 in 2008 (now simply referred to as ‘The Men of Tain’). While certainly quite a dense and challenging record, I found a couple tracks went rather nicely in the background with my drams.
What are your thoughts on Glenmorangie? Do you know of any other songs or albums written specifically for or about a particular brand of whisky? Have you had enough modal guitar jazz for a lifetime after sampling the record above? Get in touch on Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to our regular podcast episodes.