Without a doubt, Highlands sovereigns Glenmorangie and Islay monarchs Ardbeg are among the most prestigious Scotch whisky producers in the world. So when their mother company Moët Hennessy teamed up with Weinquelle Lühmann to host an exclusive prestige tasting in Hamburg, I knew I had to be there. The very moderate ticket fee of 49 Euro not only got me access to eight fantastic drams plus a variety of super-yummy snacks, but also had me witness a two-and-a-half hour whisky talk by a real icon of the industry, namely Brendan McCarron. Before the trained chemical engineer joined The Glenmorangie Company as Head of Maturing Whisky Stocks in 2014, he gained his spurs blending whisky for Johnnie Walker and managing distilleries at Oban, Lagavulin and Caol Ila.
Yet, an extensive knowledge of his craft was not the only quality Brendan displayed that evening. Bringing his message across loud and clear with a charming Glasgow accent, he also turned out to be an extremely talented speaker. Throughout both the information parts and the tasting bits of the event, he always kept a fine balance between education and entertainment. While the expert insights that Brendan shared with us were jam-packed with profound information, his light-hearted anecdotes repeatedly made the 70 attendees laugh out loud.
Naturally, we started the tasting with Glenmorangie’s elegant gems before we finished it with Ardbeg’s heavy artillery. For reasons of brevity, I will not introduce each dram – the full list of which you find below – in detail. Instead, I will try to come up with a more concise round-up. When asked to describe Glenmorangie’s style in a single word, Brendan told us, he would go with “complex”. In Ardbeg’s case it would be “raw”. Albeit simple and bare of any rhetoric decor, this spot-on classification paints a pretty accurate picture of how these two iconic distilleries compare to one another. The first produces a clean, fruity and complex spirit that benefits from patient maturation. The latter yields a peaty, beefy and intense whisky that does not necessarily need a long “slumber” to unfold its potential. While Glenmorangie’s drams work best with a moderate ABV of 40 to 46 per cent, Ardbeg’s drops are also great at high strengths of 50 per cent and beyond. What they both have in common, however, is the fact that they mark absolute highlights in their respective fields – and this statement bears as much truth for standard bottlings such as Glenmorangie Original or Ardbeg Ten as it does for luxury expressions such as Grand Vintage or Dark Cove.
In the course of Brendan’s presentation, we got a myriad of in-depth looks into pretty much every aspect of whisky making, from buying the barley and chosing the casks to distilling the spirit and bringing the finished product to the market. All in all, I took no less than two pages of handwritten notes, so if there is anything you would still like to learn about Glenmorangie and Ardbeg in general or the served whiskies in particular, I am more than happy to answer your questions in the comments – to whatever degree I can. This blog post, however, has already reached its maximum length. So before I call it a quits, I will just say a last round of Thank Yous; to Brendan for being such a great speaker; to Weinquelle Lühmann for being such an awesome host; and to Glenmorangie and Ardbeg for making such good whisky!
Glenmorangie Original Ten Years (10yo / Scotch / Highlands / 40% / 33.95 Euro)
Glenmorangie 18 Years Extremely Rare (18yo / Scotch / Highlands / 43% / 82.50 Euro)
Glenmorangie Signet (NAS / Scotch / Highlands / 46% / 138.00 Euro)
Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1990 (25yo / Scotch / Highlands / 43% / 675.00 Euro)
Ardbeg Ten (10yo / Scotch / Islay/ 43% / 41.50 Euro)
Ardbeg Uigeadail (NAS / Scotch / Islay/ 54.2% / 59.90 Euro)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (NAS / Scotch / Islay/ 57.1% / 66.50 Euro)
Ardbeg Dark Cove (NAS / Scotch / Islay/ 46.5% / 100 Euro)
Weinquelle Lühmann: http://www.weinquelle.com/
Brendan McCarron @ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mcc_brendan/
Moët Hennessy: http://www.moet-hennessy.com/
Official Tasting Photos: https://www.facebook.com/[…]131