Whisky Review #59: Glenmorangie Signet

This week’s review focuses on a distillery that would be rather well known by many people due to its expressions being readily available and widely enjoyed across a multitude of markets. It may also come as a surprise that this is the first time that I’ve actually reviewed a Glenmorangie since starting this blog, but better late than never.

The distillery is famously known for having the tallest stills in all of Scotland, reaching an impressive 18m in height and definitely contributing towards the light and fruity character that the distillery was looking to achieve.

Glenmorangie distillery was founded in 1843 when William Matheson applied for a license for a farm distillery known as Morangie. Illicit production of whisky occurred at a previous incarnation of the farm in 1778 and started perhaps as early as 1703. The distillery was completed in 1849 and commenced production thereafter.

The distillery began exports to Rome and San Francisco in 1880 before undergoing a period of reconstruction 7 years later, which led to the formation of The Glenmorangie Distillery Company Ltd.

Approximately 40% of the distillery was then sold in 1918 to Macdonald & Muir Ltd, with the remaining being purchased by whisky dealer, Durham. This arrangement continued until sometime in the 1930s, when Macdonald & Muir Ltd purchased the remaining shares held by Durham in order to take full control of the company and the distillery.

The distillery remained under the control of the Macdonald family until 2004, when the company was sold to Moet Hennessy for approximately £300m. At that point in time, Glenmorangie PLC controlled a trio of distilleries (Glenmorangie, Glen Moray and Ardbeg) and had also concluded a deal to purchase the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS).

In 2008, Moet Hennessy decided to proceed with the sale of Glen Moray distillery to fellow French spirits group La Martiniquaise and followed that up with the sale of the SMWS to a group of private investors in 2015. The sale allowed the SMWS to resume its status as a fully independent entity within the whisky industry.

Glenmorangie’s (and by extension, Ardbeg’s) master distiller, Dr Bill Lumsden, is seen as one of the foremost authorities in terms of whisky production and has been credited for kickstarting the trend of subjecting whiskies to extra maturation, or “finishing”.

This has resulted in the Glenmorangie core range of “finished” whiskies which initially starts off as the 10 Years Old expression before being matured for a further 2 years in a multitude of casks  such as sauternes (Nectar D’or), sherry (Lasanta) and port (Quinta Ruban).

Another expression from the core range is the Signet, which is the focus of this week’s review. The Signet is made from a marriage of some of the oldest stocks at the distillery and distilled from a variety of barley, 20% of which was chocolate malt (or heavily roasted malt).

The distillate was then matured in a variety of “designer casks” which were specially crafted for the distillery from American White Oak and matured for a certain number of years before being married together and bottled.

The exact recipe is known only to a select few within the Glenmorangie hierarchy, so information is basically at a premium when it comes to this whisky. However, the distillery considers this to be the richest whisky within its range and considering that they do possess some rather rich whiskies which have been finished in sherry and port casks, that is a strong statement to make.

So, let’s get on with the review!

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Glenmorangie Signet

Glenmorangie Signet (46% abv)

Colour: Rosewood

Nose: Floral, rich, fruity and dense in equal measure, with raisins and apricots particularly dominant and there being a note somewhat reminiscent of Christmas cake. Allspice and black pepper round off what is a rather complex and inviting nose. (21/25)

Palate: Warming, rich, floral and fruity on the palate, with the allspice, black pepper and Christmas cake notes filtering through from the nose to the palate. The spice notes are quite well-rounded though and the dram definitely has a sophisticated edge to it.

With time, rose water, vanilla and some clotted cream emerge on the palate and combine beautifully with the other elements. A very delicious meeting of different components! (23/25)

Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the vanilla, Christmas cake and some orange notes from the nose and palate filtering through. The dram imparts a rich and sophisticated feel which hints at the age of some of the component whiskies within. Very more-ish. (22/25)

Balance: An exceptionally well-balanced and dangerously drinkable whisky which represents great value for money when you consider the price per bottle and what you get for it.

In some ways, it reminds me of some of the characteristics that one would experience with certain Irish whiskies, albeit on a much richer scale of course. (22/25)

Rating: 88/100

Having tried this whisky for the first time a few years ago and loving it, it was definitely nice to revisit it again and the tasting notes perhaps do not do this dram justice considering how good it really is.

It must be said that the tasting notes were written in a rush as I was savouring this dram during a tasting at Amsterdam airport prior to my flight back to Singapore, so time was definitely at a premium and I was looking to enjoy the whisky as much as I could while remembering to take some notes.

I would definitely recommend this whisky to anyone who wants to try something decidedly different from the rest of the Glenmorangie core range and the price per bottle at Duty Free makes this a rather attractive option.

If you haven’t tried this expression, please do so as I reckon you just might immensely enjoy this. For those who have tried this before, I would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments section.

Until the next post, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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