This year, Glenmorangie has two reasons to celebrate its annual special bottling Allta. First, it is the newest Private Edition to be put out by the Moet Hennessy-owned Highlands unit. And second, it is their tenth release of such nature. In the light of these events, the prestigious distillery came up with a number of special launch activities, one of which is a series of tasting parties hosted by their head of maturing whisky stock, Brendan McCarron. On Tuesday, I was fortunate to attend the Hamburg stint of this dramming tour.
As soon as I entered the classy city villa that Glenmorangie had picked as the event location, I knew that the organizers would serve up big time. And boy, was I right! The foyer and the first room were turned into a small museum filled with beautiful installations, which visualized Glenmorangie’s previous nine Private Editions. Each of these artworks showcased the associated bottle amidst elaborate decorations that told the whisky’s story or epitomized its character. Next to each of these still lives – which started with the Sonnalta PX and ended with the Spios – was a plate with canapés aligned with the respective spirit’s flavor profile. The treats Glenmorangie had prepared for their guests included salmon lollies with ginger and caviar or graham crackers with marsala fudge and candied fruits, just to name a few. Via a clicker with integrated speakers, the visitants could also learn more about each expression and how it came to be.
The next room housed the social area and the bar. There, the friendly waitstaff were happy to fill the guests’ glasses with various Glenmorangie whiskies. Be it the Original 10yo with ice and ginger ale or the Extremely Rare 18yo in a nosing glass, no wish was left unfulfilled. The star of the evening, however, was the Allta. It got introduced to the invitees in a 30-minute tasting session with Brendan. He came all the way from Scotland to talk about his and Dr. Bill Lumsden’s new creation. To make sure that the tasting room would not be packed to the brim, several degustation rounds were held back to back.
The name of the Glenmorangie Allta means “wild” in Gaelic. It is the first Scotch whisky ever to be made with wild yeast. The strain used here (Saccharomyces diaemath) was discovered on a barley field near the distillery. According to Brendan, finding and breeding this special ingredient was not easy. It took the whisky makers at Glenmorangie over a year to get their yeast of choice ready for usage. But the effort was worth it! The Glenmorangie Allta won me over straight away. It was bottled with a raised ABV of 51.2 per cent and matured entirely in second fill and refill ex-bourbon barrels. The latter decision was made to ensure that the oak would accentuate but not overpower the distillate. The Allta opens with a full bouquet of brioche bread, apricot jam, vanilla pudding and toffee creme. Its scents are predominately sweet with a pinch of spice thrown in the mix. In the mouth, it offers all kinds of sugar-glazed, baked goods as well as banana milk, honey and grapes. Plus spicy and floral notes. It has a creamy complexion and is sweet, dry and savory at the same time. Its aftertaste is ongoing and robust with butter creme, lemon zest and candy canes. The whisky’s floral side also becomes more noticeable during the finish. And it gets a wee bit mineral towards the end. Compared to other Glenmorangies I had, the Allta feels more sturdy and rough around the edges. It still has the distillery’s signature elegance, albeit in a different form. Like a Porsche Cayenne remains to be an elegant car, even though it is significantly bigger and bulkier than a 356 Speedster. In this particular case, I immensely enjoyed cruising through the countryside behind the wheel of that yeast-powered Cayenne…
Of course, I know that it is very easy to be deeply impressed by a dram when you sip it in a such an out-of-the-ordinary environment. When it comes to the Allta, however, my excitement fully carried over into the next day. And thus I could not help but order a bottle of Glenmorangie’s tenth Private Edition from my local dealer straight away. When push comes to shove, this is one helluva good whisky – plain and simple. I am very glad to have it in my collection now!
Glenmorangie Original (Single Malt / Highlands / 10yo / 40% / ~35 EUR)
Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or (Single Malt / Highlands / 12yo / 46% / ~55 EUR)
Glenmorangie Allta (Single Malt / Highlands / NAS / 51.2% / ~80 EUR)
*** I got kindly invited to the event by Moet Hennessy. ***