By the tranquil shores of the Dornoch Firth, amidst the golden barley fields of Ross-shire, lies the picturesque Glenmorangie distillery, responsible for crafting Scotland’s favourite single malt whisky and one of Britain’s most celebrated spirits.
The brand name Glenmorangie comes from the Scots Gaelic, meaning valley of tranquility; a perfect description of its peaceful setting near Tain, in the rugged Scottish Highlands.
Founded in 1843, Glenmorangie has gained a reputation in the malt whisky industry as a true pioneer of the art, blending traditional techniques with innovations and always pushing the boundaries to create the perfect dram.
By way of example, the Distillery’s ‘cathedral-like’ Still House contains the tallest distillery stills in Scotland. In fact, at over five metres tall, the necks alone are the same height as a fully-grown giraffe, unlike smaller, more traditionally shaped stills.
As a result of the size of the stills, the heavier, leathery flavours simply don’t reach the top, thus, only the most delicate and purest vapours ascend to the full height of the magnificent copper necks, condensing into a distinctive, complex, beautifully layered, pure spirit – ripe for maturating.
The next crucial step is to carefully place the spirit into casks…but not just any old cask. Since 60 per cent of the whisky’s flavour comes from the cask it’s aged in, selecting and crafting the finest oak is essential, and becoming experts in wood management and cask selection is a key focus.
Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation says,
We go to unseen lengths to find the finest wood in the world to use for our casks – whether it’s travelling to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri to create our designer casks, or across Europe for some of the finest ex-wine casks in the world – we hand select our wood with the ultimate precision and passion.
What’s more, each cask is only ever used twice, so that the wood retains the crucial characteristics required to make the whisky.
The result of this single-minded dedication to perfection is a range of single malt whisky expressions with wildly different flavour profiles.
The flagship Glenmorangie Original is the real backbone of the range – matured for ten years in handpicked, first and second fill, American white oak, ex-bourbon casks, embodying the original expression of the elegant, floral spirit.
The Extra Matured range encompasses whiskies that start off as The Original but are ‘finished’ or further matured for another two years in a different European oak cask: La Santa (finished in Oloroso Sherry casks), Quinta Ruban (in Port pipes) and Nectar D’Or (in Sauternes casks).
Then there’s the coveted Prestige range of 18 and 25-year-old, rare whiskies, including the much-loved Signet, with spirits distilled from the unique, high-roasted ‘chocolate barley’ at the heart of it, to achieve its characteristic coffee and mocha notes.
In fact, Signet is one of the most unusual single malts on the market. The recipe is extremely complex, containing some of Glenmorangie’s oldest stocks (aged for up to 40 years) as well as using a variety of casks, like Oloroso Sherry and newly-charred, oak barrels. The result is a whisky that combines the coffee, mocha and tiramisu tasting notes, with melting sweetness and explosive spiciness.
The Glenmorangie story, however, is not just about whisky, it’s also about people. The legendary men of Tain form a select group of just 16 local craftsmen, entrusted with the secrets of the distillery. A great deal of the magic is achieved by ‘hand, eye, knack and feel’, meaning that there’s no manual for the way it’s made.
These highly skilled craftsmen simply have to experience the process over and over until they perfect the art; experimenting, tuning and improving their craft, before passing their wisdom on to the next generation, and the next…
Ultimately they are the ones we have to thank for ensuring that Glenmorangie is made in the same unhurried and uncompromising way that it has been for the last 173 years.
GLENMORANGIE GLENMORANGIE DISTILLERY, ROSS- SHIRE IV19 1PZ +44 (0)1862 892477